Back in the saddle 

Pemberton gears up for cowboy festival

WHAT: Pemberton Cowboy Festival

WHERE: Pemberton Stables

WHEN: July 27-29

Saddle up the horses and mosey up the trail to Pemberton. There’s a new summer festival this month and it celebrates something just a little different than the area’s traditional sporting and mountain events. The Pemberton Stables will be home to the First Annual Pemberton Cowboy Festival from July 27-29, featuring poets, musicians, yodelers, storytellers and artisans.

"Someone did the statistics and apparently there are more horses per capita in Pemberton than in anywhere else in Canada," says festival co-ordinator, Jan Kennit. "We have a lot of trail riding businesses, a lot of horse people and a lot of young people who are taking lessons and going off to university and studying horsemanship."

For those not schooled in the art of cowboy, Kennit says not to be fooled by the country and western propaganda made popular in American movies and music. This festival will concentrate on the real cowboys who are interested in preserving true traditions and heritage.

Centred around Pemberton’s highly successful annual Barn Dance, the Cowboy Festival features some impressive names from the range.

"Shirley Fields of Alberta is coming. She’s the first Canadian woman to appear at the Grand Ol’ Oprey. She is so good," exclaims Kennit. "She’s older, but boy can she yodel!"

Cowboy poets will spin their tales around a chili cook out and campfire, including one of Canada’s most published, Mike Puhallo. Puhallo hails from Kamloops, where he has been consistently involved with a similar, well-known, festival.

"I was born and raised on a ranch and have been in the cattle business all my life," explains Puhallo. "I’ve also spent 20 odd years rodeoing."

In the concrete jungle, it’s almost difficult to believe that people do get on horses to go to work rather than commuting in our four wheeled gas guzzlers.

"If you don’t look outside of the urban centres, people don’t realize that there’s more horses and cattle in North America now than there ever have been," continues Puhallo.

As a young cowpoke, Puhallo enjoyed writing poetry in his spare time, but it wasn’t until much later that he discovered that his work was on par with that being performed by established cowboy poets.

"Cowboy poetry is very much storytelling put to rhyme. Most of the poems are ballad style," Puhallo says. "It’s like sitting around the campfire telling stories, but the stories are in poetic form."

This week, he’ll be travelling to Texas where he’s nominated for two Academy of Western Artists Awards, also known as the Will Rodgers Awards, the equivalent of a cowboy Emmy. He’s up for Best Cowboy Poet and Best Cowboy Poetry Book.

"The audience has been growing rapidly too. And I think it’s because of a back to basics (trend) for a lot of people. The ideals of the cattle industry and the cowboy appeal to a lot of people. There have been a lot of surveys done over the years where they asked people if they had no other concerns what would you rather be, and cowboy always seems to be at the top of the list," he laughs.

If you’ve got stories to share, or would just like to experience the freedom and the hardships of the cowboy, come out to Pemberton and show your support. Kennit stresses this festival has lots of potential to grow. They’re just waiting for ideas or response from the general public.

If you’d like to be involved in this year’s fun, local musicians, artisans and volunteers can contact Kennit at 604-894-6984.

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