Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 current summer report

Well, things have been going fairly well this summer. I've kept the road warm between Parade Rest Ranch and Virginia City so far, playing Mondays and Fridays at the Parade Rest cookouts and every other possible day at the Virginia City Cafe. I've had lots of fun and met some great people.

I had a special treat this last Saturday (the 24th) as John Westbrook flew out from Virginia to join me at the West Yellowstone Historical Center annual dinner. We had a good crowd early on and then a small group stayed as long as we wanted to play. The event people finally had to throw us all out!!

The first hour we played was during the coctail hour and we did this accoustically in the Firehole Room at the Old UP Dining Hall. There were so many people, all talking and visiting, that after a few minutes Westbrook and I had a hard time even hearing each other, let alone much of the audience being able to hear us. Anyway, John started playing "The Wonderfull Wizard of Oz" and I was the only one who noticed!

After dinner, we plugged into our sound system and stared doing the real show and it was a blast. This is always a good show for me as I get to visit with so many of my ole friends who I rarely see any other time. Speaking of "old", I mentioned to one of my HS classmates that everybody I know in West Yellowstone any more is...old. Doug looked at me and said: "Check your birthdate lately?" Good point.

Westbrook caught a 5AM flight back to Virginia this morning and I headed on home for some catch-up and resupply before I head back to Parade Rest tomorrow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

4th Annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show

By Smoke Wade

Ritzville, WA: Sadly, the train doesn’t stop in Ritzville these days. It has been a number of years since the passenger trains gave up on Ritzville. Established in the 1880’s, Ritzville, Washington was once the largest wheat shipping point in the world. While the wheat industry is still booming, much of the grain is transported by trucks these days. Then the Interstate by-passed the quaint farming town of gracious homes and graceful brick buildings that bear silent witness to the prosperity of times gone by. Slowly, the historic downtown, rich in pioneer heritage, slipped into a slumber brought about by a lack of business and tourism.

But, even though the trains no longer stop in Ritzville, that doesn’t mean She’s not a train town. Over sixty trains a day blow through the heart of town with whistles blowing, and the ground shaking, as long freight trains hurry past to unknown destinations. And it is these very trains and their endless clickety-clack that connects the soul of Ritzville to it’s prosperous past.

It was just a scant one hundred feet from the historic Ritzville train depot that the outdoor main stage was set for the 4th Annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show held May 28 – 30, 2010. As the trains rumbled by, the talented cast of western entertainers that performed over the weekend quickly learned to adapt to the deafening noise. The 2010 Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show was sponsored by the Ritzville Downtown Development Association as a means to help revitalize the historic downtown business district. The three-day event encompassed downtown Ritzville as it featured inside and outside venues including a street fair of over 60 renown artisans - western artists, sculptors and, authors, along with food booths, youth activities and live entertainment.

The performing artists for the 2010 Art show included Cowboy Celtic, Alberta, Canada; Dave Stamey and Sourdough Slim, California; The Rockin HW and Nevada Slim & Cimarron Sue, Washington; Barbara Nelson, Oregon; and The Copper Mountain Band, Montana. The performing cowboy poets included Jessica Hedges, Del Gustafson, Orvil Sears, Robin Dale and Dick Warwick, all from Washington; Van & Kathy Criddle and Duane Nelson of Oregon; and JB Barber, Idaho. Smoke Wade, Nevada, emceed the street festival event.

The festivities got under way on Friday night with an Artists’ Reception at the C. J. Newland American Legion Memorial Hall with musical entertainment provided by Barbara Nelson. Street fair art exhibits, art auctions and cowboy entertainment ran throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday. Up on Main Street, one could here the occasional sounds of gunfire as members of the Ritzville Community Theater troupe staged old west gun battles on a regular schedule. The out-of-town visitors wandered through the art booths sipping from a cold bottle of Sarsaparilla or blowing the steam from a cup of cowboy coffee that was offered for sale from an authentic chuck wagon.

And the music and poetry seemed to waft through the streets in a non-stop fashion. Sourdough Slim was at his best delighting audiences throughout the weekend. Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue wandered the streets on occasions as western singing minstrels. Cowboy Celtic brought their own unique music to the festival – reminding us about the roots of cowboy music. Cowboy poet, Mike Whitaker and musician, Alan Halvorson of the Rockin HW pulled double duty as sound crew and performers. The Copper Mountain Band played country music for a wonderful street dance, and Dave Stamey lived up to his Western Music Association 2009 Entertainer of the Year Award by dazzling the audiences with his music, singing and naturally engaging personality.

Somewhere in the midst of it all some folks spent time at the classic car show up in the park, dining at the local restaurants or attending a special Memorial Day service at the Ritzville Memorial Cemetery. Others scooped up collectable art from the many artists, or toured the museum at the historic Ritzville train depot.

It was perhaps ironic that even though the entire festival was free of admission, the chilly and windy weather kept crowds lighter than the organizers and entertainers would have expected. Still, the event coordinators headed up by the energetic group of Stephen McFadden, Jim Lisk, Lavonne Saunders, Jennifer Larsen and many others, stormed through their duties in a tireless fashion. And the entertainers entertained – and the trains rolled by.

When western art and music festivals come to an end, the organizers, audience and entertainers alike all experience a deal of bittersweet remorse. They are often relieved the event is over and know they can soon journey home, yet they are saddened to part company with new and old friends alike. In Ritzville, they left reluctantly. They left wanting more – more of Dave Stamey’s ballads, more of Van Criddle’s poetry and more of the quick draw artist competitions. They left with memories of a wonderful weekend, of cold sarsaparilla and cowboy coffee – memories of the 4th annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show and Music Festival. But mostly, they will remember the trains – those wonderful trains that no longer stop in Ritzville.

Smoke Wade