Well, folks, it was the best Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering in 17 years!
Circlin' the wagons...
George Parsons and Patrick Goodnight rolled in Friday with their wagon train and circled the wagons in front of the Danny & Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center, near Denny and Donna Williams’ chuck wagon.
RFD-TV’s Best of America by Horseback hosted and filmed one of their rides at the ranch of Echoes of the Trail President Diann Tucker and hubby Raymond, and with the help of the whole Tucker family, filmed a fun, two-day ride right here in Bourbon County, Kansas!
Tom Seay (left) and Del Shields (right) of
Best of America by Horseback
The riders were a wonderful, friendly bunch, and many of them arrived on Thursday, June 6th. Due to the rainfall here, camping had to be improvised in neighbor Maxine Burke’s driveways, and in those of the Rural Water District. We thank those generous people for allowing these large live-in horse trailers to camp on their property. We also thank Diann Tucker for hosting a weiner roast in her back yard for the trail riders.
After Friday’s trail ride led by Del Shields and Tom Seay of Best of America by Horseback, more than 50 riders, the Best of America producers, and Echoes of the Trail committee enjoyed a delicious banquet in the Fine Arts Center, catered by FSCC’s food service people. Then everyone enjoyed browsing all the fine western art, home décor made of Watusi cow horns, metal art, rope art, and much much more in the Fine Arts Center lobby.
Ron Wilson performs Friday night.
At 7:30 Friday evening, Del Shields opened the show, and then 12 cowboy poets and singers competed to be among the five finalists to perform on Saturday night’s show. They were selected from about 20 hopefuls who sent in recordings of their performances. They were Gail Burton, Harold Carpenter, Jeff Davidson, C.W. Harris, George Parsons, Steve Porter, Ron Ratliff, Max Ryan, Royce Smithey, John Sweem, John VanLeeuwen, and Ron Wilson. The audience whooped and hollered at all the touching and some humorous tales, many of which were original. Judges Judy Coder and Mike Shaw used a score sheet and pondered. The cowboys sweated. Later, a sign out in front named the finalists: Gail Burton, C.W. Harris, Steve Porter, John Sweem, and Ron Wilson!
Cowboy Poet and contestant C.W. Harris auctioning off
winning pies. Del Shields in Center, Judy Howser
holding the pie.
Saturday morning began bright and early as hopeful area bakers brought in their homemade fruit pies for the first annual Echoes of the Trail Pie Contest. Eighteen entries came in, with one by an Echoes of the Trail long-time fan and donor, and another one by a lady visiting from Florida! Chairpersons Cynthia McFarlin of Life+Style and Ann Ludlum of the Southwind Extension District thought the turnout was very good for our first contest. They very efficiently received and marked each pie with a number so the judges wouldn’t know which pie was baked by whom. Judges Cindy Bartelsmeyer and Jackie Prettyman very meticulously tasted and compared tiny slices of each pie. After much deliberation, they declared the winners as Sidney McClendon of McPherson, KS, first place for her strawberry rhubarb pie, Lauren Madison, age 11, Fort Scott, second place for her peach pie, and Michelle McClendon, McPherson, for her apple pie. Congratulations, ladies! Each received a lovely gift basket from Life+Style kitchen shop on Main in Fort Scott, and a large trophy by JW Trophies on Main in Fort Scott! Those three winning pies earned $140 for 4-H when they were auctioned off Saturday night! And what of the other 15 pies, you may ask? Well, they were sold by volunteers at $2 a slice until gone, earning another $172 for the local 4-H clubs!
Judy Howser presents a check for $312 to local 4-H Council members.
The money is from the sale of pie slices during the pie baking
contest June 8th, and proceeds from the auction of the three
winning pies. The event was the 4-H Fashion Show during the Bo. Co. Fair.
Saturday brought a full day of cowboy music and poetry by Gail Burton, Harold Carpenter, Judy Coder, Richard Dunlap & D. J. Fry, Johnny Kendrick, Steve Porter, Ron Ratliff, Cliff Sexton, Del Shields, Royce Smithey, Steven Spalding, and Bill White. One of the highlights and real treats was hearing Judy Coder, whose range and ability to yodel are phenomenal. She even does bird calls and they sound real. Judy was kind enough to come to Echoes of the Trail this year and grace us with her lovely, haunting voice, her western swing music, and her sense of humor. Another surprise was Bill White, who was on the old “Jubilee” show in Fort Scott in years past. You can hear him on U-Tube, and he is terrific! Thanks Bill!
Judy Coder & Del Shields
At noon, there were so many hungry cowpokes wanted to be fed, the chuck wagon ran out of grub, which has never happened in the history of Echoes of the Trail! An estimated 121 people turned out to fill up on beef pot pie and corn bread pudding! We think the wagon train, Best of America by Horseback, and the great newspaper and TV and radio coverage brought out more people this year. If y’all come out next year, we’ll make sure we don’t run out of beef stew or whatever hearty meal Denny and Donna cook up!
Performer Steven Spalding displays
his Arts and Crafts
The vendors of all the fine western things were happy also, this year, as the fans really liked their products. We thank everyone who supported our vendors. They really add to the event, and sit there all Friday evening and Saturday day and night, displaying their goods. Even Judy Renard, who is still recuperating from an illness, sat there with her wonderful western things from Main Street’s Country Cupboard.
Then there was the silent auction. Many vendors donated excellent western things, as did the Tucker family, Echoes of the Trail committee members, and downtown merchants. There were wonderful silver buckles by Montana Silversmiths donated by Brad Tucker, Justin Boots donated by Keith Proctor, a rough hewn cedar wood clock engraved with Echoes of the Trail made and donated by Charles Howser, a walking stick hand carved and engraved with Echoes of the Trail made and donated by Robyn Yeager (who is a Best of America trail rider), and much more. Thank you to all who donated and all who placed bids!
Arnold Schofield (left) and Johnny Kendrick (right)
open Saturday night performances.
Saturday night was a real treat, when Johnny Kendrick sang the theme song he wrote for us titled “Echoes of the Trail,” and co-founder Arnold Schofield read some touching cowboy poetry. Then Del Shields, Gail Burton, Harold Carpenter, and Judy Coder gave their usual fabulous performances, and it was time to find a grand prize winner among the Five Cowboy Poet Finalists!
After a rousing performance by each contestant, the judges went off to tally their score sheets while C.W. Harris auctioned the three winning pies! Proceeds will be presented to the local 4-H, and bidders were generous! The First Prize strawberry-rhubarb pie went to Arnold and Clara Schofield for $55! The Second Prize peach pie went to trail rider Terri Tunison for $65! The third prize apple pie went to trail rider Kathy Baldwin for $20. Added to the proceeds from the sale of slices of the other pies during the day, Echoes of the Trail will present Ann Ludlum and the local 4-H organization a check for $312!
2013 Winning Cowboy Poet John Sween
with his "Champion" belt buckle
Next, fans rushed out to make their final bids on silent auction items, then back to the auditorium to see the winning cowboy poets receive their prizes! The First Place silver, Montana Silversmith’s custom “Champion” buckle went to trail rider John Sweem of Sheridan, Wyoming. Sweem’s performance also will appear on a future RFD-TV Best of America by Horseback show. Second Place went to long time Echoes of the Trail cowboy poet Gail T. Burton, Benton, Arkansas, and Third Place went to relatively new Echoes poet Steven Porter, Fountain Inn, S.C. All three winners received special Montana Silversmith buckles. The First Place buckle was donated by Brad Tucker; the others by Echoes of the Trail through Brad. In addition, all three poets qualify for the Western Music Association (WMA) of Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest the weekend of June 14th in Alma, Kansas. In the case that any of the winners are unable to compete in Alma, one of the other high scoring contestants will be asked to enter the WMA contest.
Saturday night, as many of us made our way home, tired and happy, we passed the wagon circle and noticed that the “pioneers” were enjoying a campfire, and who but Del Shields was sitting with them, telling tales and singin’ the way they did on Kansas trails in the 1800’s.
Royce Smithey offers praise at Cowboy Church
Up to this point, Echoes of the Trail had been blessed with sunny skies. Good ol’ Kansas weather is subject to change, however, and Sunday morning brought rain. That didn’t deter Rev. Steven Spalding and the faithful folks who came out for Cowboy Church at 9 a.m. They took the service indoors to the classroom area of the Fine Arts Center, and had to get out extra chairs! Rev. Spalding gave a meaningful sermon, some great gospel singing, and called up cowboy poets and singers such as Harold Carpenter, Royce Smithey, D. J. Fry, and others to sing and give inspirational poems and messages. Trail rider Robyn Yeager got up to singer and recite as well!
Then, lo and behold, the sun appeared, and Denny and Donna and helpers Louise and Jimmy Campbell had a delicious scrambled egg and sausage, biscuit and gravy breakfast awaiting us outdoors! Lloyd Howser and Ginger Thomas provided the makings and paper products, and added in mango and orange juice for an extra treat. Jimmy kept the good, hot campfire coffee comin’ too.
So the wagons rolled off into the sunset, the trail riders off to other states, and the happy fans to their homes in Fort Scott and many surrounding towns, cities, and states. And the tired committee members started planning next year’s event! The second weekend in June, folks, 2014 – the weekend following Fort Scott's Good Ol' Days.