Celebrate Western Heritage This Weekend

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by Jim Keyworth

roundup staff reporter

The Rim Country Western Heritage Festival and Art in the Park two events that run concurrently this weekend in and around Green Valley Park have grown in both scope and diversity.

In only its second year, the Western Heritage Festival will offer an expanded lineup of noted cowboy poets and musicians from throughout the West, more melodrama performances, and a contingent of respected authors who will appear in person to sign their books.

But the biggest addition to the

event, created to keep the history and heritage of the area alive, is a special Children's Festival on the patio and adjacent grounds of the Rim Country Museum. It will include face painting, candle making, lantern making, games and a teepee where yarn spinning and other activities will take place, Gail Gorry said. Gorry and Julia Randall Elementary teacher Karen Ammann, are organizing the children's event.

"By placing an added emphasis on education this year, we are better fulfilling our goal of presenting our cultural heritage to residents and tourists alike," Sharesse Von Strauss, director of the Northern Gila County Historical Society, said.

The Children's Festival will be open noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Art in the Park features the work of over 20 artists, including such local favorites as Donn Morris, Conrad Okerwall, Jim Hagen, Jackie Bond, Don Harmon, and Rock Newcomb.

"In keeping with the western theme, we'll have rustic creations, antler art and home-craft creations, as well as the traditional art forms," Von Strauss said.

Add in free performances by the cowboy poets, live music by local cowboy band Buckshot and Barb Wire, and a variety of food and beverage offerings, and Saturday and Sunday promise to be activity-packed days. Art in the Park is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

From 11 a.m to noon, Saturday, the poets and musicians will provide a free preview of their work. Then, from noon to 1 p.m., Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sunday, other cowboy poets in attendance will be given the opportunity to read their material at the Poets Open Mike.

Buckshot and Barb Wire, a local cowboy band that comprises Dee Strickland Johnson (aka Buckshot Dot), Chuck and Barbara Casey, and Bob Crose, will perform free concerts from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Concurrently, noted western authors Marguerite Noble, Stan Brown, Marshall Trimble, Janice Coggin, Chris Isaac and Anna Mae Deming will be on hand to sign their books.

The Western Heritage Festival actually gets under way Friday with a 6:30 p.m. melodrama performance at the Payson High School Auditorium.

This year, Duke Spencer and his Laughing Stock Company are presenting three one-act melodramas at each performance, "The Rowdy," "The Recipe or the Ballad of Bell," and "Onion Gold or a Glint in the Mountings." Additional melodrama performances are scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

Formal cowboy poetry and music concerts, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Julia Randall Elementary School gymnasium, will feature Buckshot Dot, female cowboy poet of the year. She will be accompanied by poets Rolf Flake and Steve Lindsey, and musicians/storytellers Ken and Lynne Mikell.

Participating cowboy poets and musicians will also be featured in a Cowboy Church & Hymn Sing, a free event that will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday at the Rim Country Museum's Upstairs Exhibit Hall.

The only events that are not free are the melodrama performances and two cowboy poetry concerts at Julia Randall. Cost for these events is $5 and tickets are available at the door of each event; in advance at the Payson Public Library, Rim Country Museum, and Payson Roundup; and during the festival at the Art-in-the-Park information booth.

The players

Cowboy poets performing at the Western Heritage Festival include:

Buckshot Dot

(Dee Strickland Johnson)

Our hometown cowboy poet, the Mesa del Caballo resident was named "Female Cowboy Poet of the Year" in 1997. A former history and drama teacher, Buckshot Dot grew up on the Navajo and Hualapai Reservations. It's a combination that has served her well in bringing the Old West alive through her poetry and performances.

Rolf Flake

One of the original Snowflake Flakes, Rolf's cowboy roots run deep in Arizona's dusty soil. His great-grandfather drove cattle from Utah to Northern Arizona, where he settled back in 1978. He has written over 200 cowboy poems, many of which are included in his book, "Cowboy Verse or Worse."

Steve Lindsey

A fifth generation rancher, Steve's family has been in the cattle business since the late 1860s. "That," he likes to say, "left him with deep ties to the land, but no money in the bank." He has a working cattle operation in the Huachuca Mountains of southeast Arizona where he and his wife are raising nine children.

Ken and Lynne Mikell

The music of the Old World found a new home at the hearths and campfires of the Old West, and the Mikells utilize folk harp and guitar to perform a wide range of traditional music. Ken employs a unique storytelling style to celebrate our cowboy heritage, while Lynne focuses on the Celtic origin of many cowboy tunes.

Buckshot and Barb Wire

The Western Heritage Festival's official cowboy band features a quartet of locals who are performing together in concert for the first time. In addition to Buckshot Dot, they include Chuck and Barbara Casey and Bob Crose, all Pine residents. The Caseys, who both have classical backgrounds, perform as Trouble in Paradise at Kohl's Ranch and other venues. Crose, an 82-year-old fiddler, didn't take music seriously until he retired. But his family did. His father was one of five boys who came to Arizona from Iowa in the 1890s in two covered wagons one for the family and one to hold their musical instruments.

Melodrama Plus

Western melodrama fans get three for the price of one this year as Duke Spencer's Laughing Stock Company presents a trio of one-act plays:

"The Recipe or the Ballad of Bell!"

In an old book of Faust, a boy discovers a recipe for conjuring up the devil. With the unwitting help of a druggist friend, he concocts a brew that is more than anyone bargained for.

"The Rowdy"

A rough-hewn rancher calls on a refined but overly dramatic widow to collect a debt. When an argument ensues, he finds himself involved in a duel and also in love.

"Onion Gold or A Glint in the Mountings"

A grizzled miner and his daughter become the victims of an unscrupulous villain and his henchman. As the miner is being forced to endorse worthless mine stocks, he is saved in the nick of time by our stalwart hero.

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