The main street in Barkerville. Contributed photo

Cowboy and Drover Jubilee to celebrate Barkerville’s rich cowboy heritage

Cowboy poetry, a singing competition and cowboy church are part of the Sept. 7-9 festivities

Lindsay Chung

Observer Contributor

Ranching troubadours and cowboy poets will help Barkerville Historic Town and Park celebrate its rich cowboy heritage this weekend during the Cowboy and Drover Jubilee.

James Douglas, Barkerville’s public programming and global media development lead, says the Cowboy and Drover Jubilee was the brainchild of Glen Escott, the contractor who does the Barnard’s Express Stage Lines stagecoach rides. Escott is a volunteer driver at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, and Douglas says Escott was always telling him he should check out the Kamloops event because he thought they could do something smaller in Barkerville.

“It fits right in with the tradition of Barkerville as a town because when it was a metropolis in the 1860s and 1870s, they would have big cattle drives,” says Douglas, adding drovers would come along on those cattle drives and share songs and stories, which is where part of the event’s name comes from. “They did depend on the food that was brought in and on the protein from the meat.”

Douglas says Cow Mountain, which is where the majority of Barkerville’s gold came from, was an important place to pasture cattle during the Gold Rush.

“It was an incredibly important part of daily life in Barkerville because they were very dependent on these cattle being brought into Barkerville,” says Douglas, adding these cattle drives during the Gold Rush of the 1860s led to the rich cattle ranching history we have in the Cariboo.

This will be the eighth annual Cowboy and Drover Jubilee at Barkerville. Douglas says they typically get about 500-600 visitors over the weekend.

“It seems like a natural fit,” he says. “It’s been a really great and building tradition at Barkerville now. We’re really happy when this weekend comes around. I’m looking forward to it, for sure.”

The festivities begin Friday night (Sept. 7) with the Cowboy and Drover Jubilee Kick-Off Party from 8-11 p.m. at the House Hotel Saloon.

Douglas says many of the performers will get up to do an acoustic set during the open-mic-style event.

“It’s a great, very intimate place,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun and a great way to kick off the weekend.”

Saturday’s programming features seven different performers in several venues, and there will be old-time cowboy music and cowboy poetry. This year, they are bringing back the Northern Star Singing Competition, as well. Singers can sign up for the competition and sing a couple of songs for the judges in the preliminary rounds in the hopes of advancing. After the final round, the winner gets a chance to perform during that evening’s Cowboy and Drover Showcase. He or she also receives a prize package that includes studio time.

The Cowboy and Drover Jubilee winds up Sunday with Cowboy Church at 11 a.m. at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, the oldest surviving wooden church in B.C. Following the service, there will be a draw for a silver buckle with inset gold nugget, which is valued at $695. Draw tickets are available at the Visitors’ Reception Centre, Eldorado Gold Panning and Gifts, Barnard’s Express Stage Lines, Mason & Daly General Merchants, and the House Hotel Saloon. The belt buckle can be viewed at the House Hotel Saloon.

Admission to most of the Cowboy and Drover Jubilee is included in regular admission to Barkerville, while admission to the Cowboy and Drover Showcase, which starts Saturday at 5:30 p.m., is by donation.

Saturday night also features the Ducks Unlimited Fundraising Banquet and Auction from 6-9 p.m. in the Barkerville Pavillion. The event features a meal, live and silent auctions, raffle package and prizes. Tickets can be reserved by calling 250-994-3242 or emailing rsharpe@netbistro.com.

“Although it’s not officially part of the festival, it makes a really great companion,” says Douglas. “Last year was the first time we did that, and it worked really well.”

As the Cowboy and Drover Jubilee helps kick off Barkerville’s fall programming, the National Historic Site of Canada continues to thrive despite the fires in the Cariboo this summer.

According to a press release from Barkerville, the living history museum “continues to have a beautiful season under mostly clear skies.”

“We’re 80 kilometres from the nearest air quality station and located at 4,000 feet (1300m) in the moist Quesnel Highlands,” Dave Jorgenson, owner of the St. George Hotel on Barkerville’s main street, says in the release. “Our weather is distinctly different from communities like Prince George, Quesnel and Williams Lake … we’ve had good to great air quality, even when other communities are suffering. Now that we’ve had a couple of rinse cycles, it’s even better, and we think Barkerville’s the place to be right through until the end of September.”

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