Cowboy Festival Takes A Trip Back In Time

April 11, 2014

(Photo courtesy of the Cowboy Music Festival Facebook account)
Diana Madaras art.

Ranching, farming and sometimes even riding off into the sunset…it’s all part of a hard day’s work for cowboys and cowgirls in the Southwest. But there is also a distinct music and arts culture that goes along with this type of work, and it will be celebrated this weekend at the Tucson Cowboy Music Festival, featuring musicians like Bill Barwick.

“Folks agree young Billy had it coming. He killed two men when he busted out of the Lincoln County Jail," Barwick sang in the song "Pat Garrett's Regret".

For even more of an old-timey feel, the festival is at Old Tucson Studios, the location for many famous Westerns, like “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold” and “Rio Bravo” starring John Wayne. But Old Tucson’s Rob Jensen said that these days, the park is focusing less on movie-making and more on creating new events for the public.

"A business like this you’ve got to keep kind of reinventing yourself, and we’re getting a lot more into culture and history and heritage," said Jensen.

And since cowboy music attracts people from all over, the music you will hear is not just made by folks who grew up as ranchands. Take the Mountain Saddle Band, a guitar and harmonica duo fronted by Stephen Harrington.

Harrington said he wasn’t born a cowboy, but he was always drawn to the lifestyle. As an adult he left Michigan to live and work in Arizona as a pastor, carpenter, musician, and to live the cowboy lifestyle.

"It’s changed over the years, but it’s still a heritage that’s rich and uniquely American," Harrington said.

The members of the Mountain Saddle Band have been celebrating this heritage at the Cowboy Music Festival since it started four years ago.  Harrington said he loves the atmosphere.

"You can walk down the street and you hear this music wafting through the corridors of the streets," Harrington said. "And when you walk through there you think you’ve just walked back into time."

Besides music there will be an art show by Tucson artist Diana Madaras, staged shoot-outs and even some poetry readings.  You can hear cowboy classics plus original songs all day Saturday and Sunday.