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Kamloops (British Columbia) March


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March, 2007
11th Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival   Kamloops, British Columbia



Why Cowboys Come to Kamloops, by Mag Mawhinney

And additional reports by:

Diane Tribitt

Mag Mawhinney

Mike Puhallo

most photos courtesy of Donna Smith

See the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS) web site
for more on the Kamploops Cowboy Festival

  by Mag Mawhinney 

Why Cowboys Come to Kamloops




This year’s Kamloops Cowboy Festival, March 8-ll, kicked up more dust and had more energy than the rankest bull exploding from a bucking chute!  Matter of fact, there was more of everything…more space, more performers, more art and western gear and definitely more than enough food to satisfy the hungriest cowboy at branding time.  The whole event was HUGE, with much of the action taking place at Forsters Convention Centre in the Best Western, as well as at the Calvary Community Church.  BCCHS organizers and volunteers were busier than a stampede bullfighter.


Thursday night’s Meet and Greet in the theatre at Forsters brought in many weekend pass holders, as well as entertainers.  The rustic stage set, left from a summer theatre show, fit right in with the cowboy theme. That is where Allen Christie and Hillbilly Dust lead a list of over 20 performers, who sang and recited poems on into the night.


Out of the 35 main stage performers, there really wasn’t a mediocre one in the whole lot.  Each had a unique quality that I’m sure found a new fan and there were many standing ovations throughout the weekend.  Nine of these poets and pickers were from across the U.S. border and all were FIRST CLASS.  Kent Rollins and Dave McClure had folks rolling in the aisles with some hilarious poetry and story telling…Dave with one about a soft stock (sheep) rodeo contractor and Kent did one about skiing from the roof when he was a kid.  When multi-award-winning singer, Joni Harms, appeared on stage with her daughter and son, it stole the show.  Eleven-year-old Olivia, wearing a very pretty outfit and a French braid in her hair and eight-year-old Luke, dressed in black tails and a newly-shaped cowboy hat, sang and performed like pros.  Folks loved it!


Several open mic performers recited and sang from two stages, one in the Fireside Room at the Church and another in Forsters’ Trade Show area.  They also contributed high caliber talents to the theatre stage after the final features.  Bud Webb had played “Whiskey Pete” from that very set last summer and he got the audience laughing and singing along with “Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beerholder”.


Here are some highlights from main stage: 


Alberta’s Tim Hus, definitely a crowd favorite, sang his own up-tempo tunes about cowboys and the blue-collar worker.  He showed great wit between songs with remarks like, “I’d like to thank my sponsor, the Holiday Inn.  I’ve got a sink and hot water and the whole bit.” B. J. Smith, also from Alberta, told a sidesplitting story about a glass eye and a horse named Earl. Sam Mattise, from Idaho, who was sitting on stage, ready to go on next, doubled over in laughter and slapped his leg with his hat.  At one point, a lady from the first row was laughing so hard, B. J. had to stop and ask if she was going to be all right. Sixteen-year-old Alberta superstar, Brett Kissel, wowed the crowd with his talents.  In his last set, he said, “I’ve got a friend who’s going to come up and do a song with me.”  Gary Fjellgaard walked up over the set’s “mountain” and stopped short when Brett called Tim Hus to the mic.  It was a very funny moment, but Gary did sing with Brett later to a couple of Gary’s songs that Brett and he had recorded together.  Gary didn’t even play his guitar ‘cause Brett picks out “Dance With This Old Cowboy” exactly the way Gary does.  The Les Folles Jambettes can-can troupe were an exciting addition to the festival again this year and they hung around to do some impromptu dancing and shenanigans.  In one set, Allen Christie couldn’t find band member, Riley Tubbs; then out came Riley from the set’s “mill house”, clothes disheveled, wearing lipstick kisses on his face and neck, a garter on his cowboy hat and a big heart on his boot.  Two Jambettes waved to him from the window and one fanned herself in the doorway.  It was wonderful!


This year, there were three buffet dinners at Forsters.  I attended one on Sunday and there was a great variety of food to choose from which I thought was absolutely delicious.  There were $10 beef dinners at the Church on Friday and Saturday, consisting of roast, chili, potato salad, Caesar salad, rolls and apple pie and I attended the Friday’s dish up.  I’m here to say, Linda Puhallo and Girl Guides from the Thompson-Nicola did themselves up proud with that spread and it sold out fast.


I heard from several attendees that having more space for the Western Art and Gear Trade Show at Forsters made a more comfortable area to browse the many booths, displaying a wide variety of artisans’ and business products.  All the products were outstanding: leatherwork, ironwork, bronzes, stained glass, woodwork, boots and hats, jewelry, rope creations, books, plus info on trail rides and horse behavior.


The Invitational Western Art Show, sponsored by Alcan, was well received with over 850 ballots cast for the People’s Choice Awards.  Twenty paintings by 12 artists were displayed and the realism in all was extraordinary!  Arnold Mosley won the Judges’ Choice award for Best of Show with his painting “Cattle Drive-D.L.C.C.” and Shannon Lawlor was Runner-up for “Wind In My Reins.”  For Peoples’ Choice, “Andy and Zeb” by Kim Rose won Best of Show and Shannon Lawlor won Runner-up again for “Wind In My Reins.”  Prizes were $300 and $200 respectively, in each category.


Sunday’s Cowboy Church had wall-to-wall attendance and Abe Zacharias and Sons of the Sage sang wonderful gospel harmony, welcoming everyone.  More than 15 performers graced the stage with up-lifting songs and recitations. Bryn Thiessen made all the intros in his usual inimitable style. Tom King’s personal message about losing faith after the death of his wife, then gaining it back again, was very touching.  He compared it to this year’s poster when he offered words of encouragement to those who have experienced “empty saddles” and told the congregation that he found his new wife at Cowboy Church in Cochrane, Alberta.


After the finals of the Rising Star Showcase on Sunday, were another great buffet and a surprise performance by the award-winning band, Cowboy Celtic.  The festival volunteers had a chance to sit, relax and enjoy this tremendously talented group from Alberta.  They played masterfully on fiddle, harp, flute, Irish drum, guitar and mandolin, bringing the house to their feet more than once.  Bandleader, David Wilkie, took everyone on a historical journey before each song segment and talked about the origins of cowboy music, mostly coming from songs and stories of the Irish drovers and from other parts of the British Isles.  This made a full circle, perfect ending to a very successful cowboy festival.




Dianetribitt2007.jpg (18039 bytes)  report by Diane Tribitt photos courtesy of Donna Smith

I crossed the Canadian border for the first time in my life, arriving in Kamloops (British Columbia) Thursday afternoon.  The evening "Get Acquainted Party" was set up so weekend pass holders could get acquainted with not only each other, but with the festival entertainers as well.  The city is located where the South and North Thompson Rivers meet.  (The Indian word for "meeting of the waters" is "Kahm-o-loops" - hence its name).  It is an authentic community with small-town friendliness, along with a vast, rugged surrounding countryside that consists of desert-like hills, grasslands, and plenty of sky!

Two stages were set up for daytime and evening performances; one at Forster's (in the Best Western Hotel) and one at the Calvary Community Church (across the road).  Each venue also had two stages set up for "Open Mic" performers. The Best Western also had a large area set up for their Western Art and Gear Show that showcased many cowboy craftsmen and artists (I purchased a hand-made wool saddle pad there). This area also had a stage for the Country 103 Radio's "Rising Star Showcase."  They also boasted 13 workshops
and seminars and a Western Film Festival; and a shuttle service between the two venues.

When I boarded the "bunny hop" plane (from Seattle to Kamloops) I couldn't help but chuckle at the pilot's first words over the intercom when he addressed us passengers, "All-righty, then!"  Two things Kamloops was not short on were great entertainers and sensational audiences, I would say it was not unusual to have 500 - 700 people in attendance at a main stage show.

I was kept fairly busy, floating between my main stage performances and my Rising Star performances.  I was totally awed by the friendly people and performers I met in Kamloops, bar none. Fans, volunteers, committee
personnel, entertainers and big smiles seemed to be everywhere!  I was so exhausted Saturday night that I went to my room without supper.  I barely had the door closed when someone knocked, to drop off a fruit basket from a local grocer!  Each entertainer had gotten one, with a little note telling us to enjoy our stay in Kamloops!  What a neat (and wonderful) surprise that was!

The 6 finalists in the Rising Star Showcase were all showcased on main stage Sunday afternoon at the Final Feature Performance.  The 1st place winner was a wonderful young country singer, Chelsea Cunningham from Sundre, AB, Canada, who received a $1500 cash prize.

The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place winners each received $500.  They were:

Diane Tribitt (poet)
            4-Up, The McKelvie Family (singers)
            Susan Gibson (singer)
            Tiffany Dowhan (singer)
            "Camel" Dave Howell (poet)

What an honor it was to be named as one of the 6 finalists!  I would like to extend a special thank you to Country 103 Radio for sponsoring it, and for giving me the opportunity to be part of it.

photo courtesy of Donna Smith
Diane Tribitt

Entertainers and Performers included:

4-Up, The McKelvies, Abe Zacharias, Allen Christie, BJ Bryan Smith, Brett KisselBryn Thiessen"Camel" Dave Howell, Chris & Sharky Schauer,
Diane Tribitt, Dave McClure, Denis Leclerc, Doc Hayes, Fred  Miller, Gary Fjellgaard, Gary and Jean Prescott, Gord Colliar, Gordie West, Hugh McLennan, Jim Reader, Joni Harms, Kent Rollins, Latigo, Les Folles Jambettes, Mag Mawhinney, Mike Dygert, Mag Mawhinney, Patricia Willestoft, Rawling Brothers, Sam Mattise, Shirley Field, Smoke Wade, Susan & Danny Gibson, Tim Hus, and Tom King.

photo courtesy of Donna Smith
Jean and Gary Prescott

photo courtesy of Donna Smith
Joni Harms

I would like to especially thank Smoke Wade, Joni Harms (and Olivia & Luke, of course!), Gary & Jean Prescott, Dave McClure, Kent Rollins and Mag Mawhinney for "taking me under their wings" over the weekend, and making me feel so welcomed.  I had a wonderful time. I loved British Columbia and I made many new friends!

photo courtesy of Donna Smith
Smoke Wade

  report by Mag Mawhinney 

Rising Star Showcase

No doubt about it, folks, the Rising Stars made a dazzling impact at this year's Kamloops Cowboy Festival, held March 8-11.  The debut event, sponsored by Kamloops' newest radio station CKJC - Country 103, partnered
with BCCHS, featured 17 talented performers from north and south of the border.

There was an eclectic mix of poets and singers and the points between the six finalists were very close.  They were judged in three preliminary rounds by a complex marking system that was fair to all the contestants.  On
Sunday, new judges chose the winner from six finalists, who performed on the main stage before a huge crowd in Forsters Convention Centre.  The judges had plenty of time to mark ballots because featured performers entertained between each contestant.  The show had a relaxed atmosphere and the audience showed great appreciation for the wonderful blend of talent on stage.

Some of the Rising Star entrants were: singer Blake Candy (Abbotsford, BC), poet Cary Treasure (Edmonton, AB), poet Mereline Griffith (north-east AB), singers Clint Giesbrecht and Kent Lessing (Fort St. John, BC), poet
Jim Cardwell (Oroville, CA), singer Jeremy Willis (Kamloops, BC), poet Lyn Melnechenko (Princeton, BC), singer Jessica Noad (Mission, BC), singer Juanita Brandt (Calgary, AB), poet Susan O'Connell (Dillon, MT), and singer Patricia Willestoft (Port Townsend, WA).

The five finalists received $500 each from the very generous sponsor, Country 103.  Coming all the way from Prince George, BC, 4-Up the McKelvie Family, sang their humourous song "Bumble Boogie," revealing their playful side and camaraderie with each other.  A real crowd pleaser was "Silver  Sage," which highlighted their wonderful harmony. 
Diane Tribitt, from Hillman, MN, brought a tear to the eye with her poem "Tribute To a Cowboy," in memory of her husband who was killed in a rodeo accident.  She also showed great diversity in her very humourous poem "You Can Squat With Your Spurs On."  "Camel" Dave Howell from Clinton, BC, brought forth peals of laughter with his poems "Ranch With Four Women" and "My Hat." Dave's clear voice and tongue-in-cheek humour made him a crowd favourite.  From Leslieville, AB, Susan Gibson's soft, gentle voice, accompanied by the Hillbilly Dust band, sang "I'm Always Wearing A Cowboy Hat" and folks didn't hold back on the applause.  When vivacious Tiffany Dowhan from Bonnyville, AB, sang "Tryin' To Rope the Wind" and one about an ex-boyfriend, "Rodeo Cowboy," it became apparent why she has been compared to Dolly Parton.  She hammed it up with young superstar, Brett Kissel, accompanying her on guitar.

When Chelsea Cunningham from Sundre, AB, backed up by Latigo, sang her own composition "A Cowgirl's Life", it was obvious why she had won the hearts of the judges.  Her voice and stage presence were very appealing and the lyrics and melody were superb.  Louis McIvor, from Country 103, announced the judges' decision that she was the $1,500 grand prize Rising Star winner.

A big thank you goes out to Platinum Sponsor, Country 103, BCCHS and to all the talented Rising Star performers for a very successful contest.

  report by Mike Puhallo


First Ever CJKC Country 103 Rising Star Showcase Winner,
Chelsea Cunningham

A love of singing has been trailing this girl around from the start. "Where did that come from!" has been a common comment after hearing her perform. She could usually be found singing with a horse brush in her hand or bellerin' it out in the barn with her older sister. Her love of classic country, a certain farrier, ranch roping and longhorn cows has been a big influence in her songwriting, as new as she is to it! Originally born in small town Agassiz, BC, Chelsea got wind of Alberta and off she went. Luckily, she had her eye on a gifted horseman from a previous visit and a few months after her sixteenth birthday she and her honey hitched up and headed south for a honeymoon. Aaron and Chelsea now have two great little buckaroos, Jesse and Jake, and live a little south of Sundre, AB training ranch

She intends to use the $1500 prize money to record a demo CD. She has been invited back here to perform on mainstage at next years Kamloops Cowboy Festival. This young lady has a  wonderful voice, stage presence and style, she writes, she sings, she is a genuine cowgirl and not real hard to look at.

So add another rising star to our Western Sky!

On behalf of everyone involved in the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, I want to thank Robbie Dunn owner of CJKC Country 103 for providing $4,000 in Sponsorship for The CJKC Country 103 Rising Star Showcase and another $2000 for our professional development workshops. Country 103FM  and their sister station Radio NL 610  also provided thousands of dollars worth of free airtime and promotional support for this years festival.

The Spirit of the West is alive and well in Canada's Original Cowtown, airing twice a week on CJKC Country 103, and every Friday morning starts off with a fresh batch of Mike's Meadow Muffins!

PS:  Talented youngsters like: Chelsea, Brett Kissel, Ginny Mack, Jesse Fowler, Tammy Gislason... make me feel pretty darn good about the future of Western entertainment.  

See the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS) web site
for more on the Kamploops Cowboy Festival


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