Barkerville celebrates cattle-drive culture

Cowboy Drover Festival set for Sept. 9 – 11

From the earliest 19th-century goldfield cattle-drives to the square dance fervor of the 1940s and ‘50s, Barkerville has been proud to play venue to more than 100 years of cowboy culture. Sept. 9 – 11, the historic town honours that century of cowboy music, spoken word and dance at the Barkerville Cowboy and Drover Jubilee.

The weekend-spanning event starts today with registration for the first annual “Northern Star” amateur singing competition (sponsored by Vista Radio’s 97fm The Wolf) available from 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Barkerville’s Visitor Reception Centre, along with general information about Jubilee activities. An informal “welcome” party at the House Hotel Saloon kicks off at 7 p.m., with open mic music and several special guest performances slated until midnight. Admission to the party is free (as is entrance to Barkerville after 3 p.m.) and food and beverage can be purchased at the House Hotel throughout the evening.

Breakfast is served Saturday at a variety of authentic Barkerville eateries. “Northern Star” registration will be available from 9:30 a.m. – noon at the Visitor Reception Centre, and at 10:30 a.m. an official Jubilee opening ceremony takes place under the big canvas tent at the front end of town. Under that same tent at 11a.m. the first round of cowboy poetry holds court until noon, and according to Barkerville’s Visitor Experiences manager, James Douglas, guests are encouraged to take the stage with poems of their own – if the spirit so takes them.

“Cowboy poetry grew out of a tradition of improvised composition carried on by workers on cattle drives and ranches in the mid to late-1800s,” Douglas said.

“After a day of hard work these drovers, or cowboys as we call them, would gather around a campfire and entertain one another with tall tales and folk songs.

“We aim to keep that tradition alive here in Barkerville, and invite our Jubilee guests to help us along.”

From 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday there will be a variety of musical performances by familiar cowboy troubadours like Allen Christie, Ed Wahl, Gordie West, and Budd Webb, as well as entries by the “Northern Star” contestants and a few surprise guests at the Jubilee music stages – Barkerville’s Methodist Church, Kelly Saloon and House Hotel.

A “Cowboy Lunch” fundraiser for the Friends of Barkerville Cariboo Goldfields Historical Society will serve-up at noon, and a second series of cowboy poems is slated between 1p.m. – 2 p.m. at the big canvas tent. Dinner will be served at a number of Barkerville eateries starting in the early afternoon, in anticipation of the “Northern Star” showcase that will take place at Barkerville’s Theatre Royal at 5 p.m.

“We are particularly excited about the Northern Star amateur showcase,” Douglas said.

“This is our first stab at the event and the competition is meant to be more fun than ferocious and the prize package for our winner is pretty amazing.”

The official, adjudicated “Northern Star” showcase, consisting of four contest finalists plus several special guest appearances, takes place onstage at Barkerville’s renowned Theatre Royal, where the ultimate winner of the competition will be invited to perform with Newman & Wright Theatre Company’s 2011 Theatre Royal cast during a special, separately ticketed 7 p.m. performance of its popular Gold Rush Nuggets musical variety show.

Sunday begins with breakfast at various Barkerville establishments and a “Cowboy Church” service at St. Saviour’s, built in 1869, commences at 9 a.m. The Cowboy and Drover Jubilee wraps-up just past noon, as Barkerville wishes “happy trails” to its cowboy visitors until this time next year.

“Whether you ride, play, sing, dance, or just like to whoop it up on the trail from time to time, Barkerville is the place to be Sept. 9 – 11,” Douglas said.

“Thanks in large part to a dedicated group of cowboy culture enthusiasts, as well as financial assistance from BC Hydro and Barkerville Gold Mines, Ltd., the Barkerville Cowboy and Drover Jubilee is a great addition to Barkerville’s 2011 fall season.”


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