Bandera’s celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy is ready to get back in the saddle this weekend on a somewhat restricted basis while realizing that we’re in the midst of a health crisis that could create new roadblocks.
Cindy Beckham, president of the Bandera Business Association that puts on the Old West-flavored extravaganza honoring the town’s cowboy traditions on the Bandera County Courthouse lawn, said earlier in the week that preliminary authorization for the celebration had been approved, but additional restrictions could arise if the COVID-19 outbreak continues to accelerate that could make it hard for the celebration to proceed.
As always, stormy weather may also roll through that could hamper the celebration on its own.
“If you see activities on the courthouse lawn (on Saturday, July 25), be happy. It’s a go,” said Beckham.
But she also acknowledged that “nothing is an absolute” as officials react to the unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic, and that staying flexible has become the norm for event planners.
The pandemic already has cost the annual celebration one of the activities that typically is held during the Day of the American Cowboy festivities.
The Frontier Times Museum is home to the Texas Heroes Hall of Honor, and in 2009 the museum started inducting heralded Texans who have exemplified the state’s independent spirit on Friday nights before the courthouse grounds celebration on Saturday.
Instead of having an induction ceremony this year, the museum planned to hold an outdoor reunion honoring past Hall of Honor inductees this Friday, July 24, but cancelled the event as the COVID-19 outbreak in Bandera grew and safety regulations intensified, said museum Executive Director Rebecca Norton.
She expects the Hall of Honor induction ceremony to return next year.
This year’s free daytime celebration on Saturday is again expected to fill the Bandera County Courthouse grounds, at 500 Main Street, with western themed activities, challenges and exhibitions, along with a vendor’s fair for shoppers to browse through.
It all is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.
Visitors from around the world have flocked to Bandera for past celebrations that makes them feel like they are in the Old West, complete with recreations of old-fashioned shootouts (using blanks) between outlaws and lawmen.
Other activities scheduled for the afternoon include a rodeo event for little wranglers, Native American exhibits, a blacksmith and Western craftsmen, storytellers, a pickers’ circle and activities for youngsters including a plastic chicken ropin’ competition.
Beckham said organizers will have signs up urging visitors to follow the safety guidelines recommended by COVID-19 experts, like wearing facemasks if they can’t keep enough space between themselves and other visitors, washing their hands regularly and staying in groups of less than 10 whenever possible.
The business association has presented a safety plan for the celebration to Bandera City Council to review. Topping off the day’s activities will be a Five-Minute Ranch Rodeo Challenge sponsored by the Ridin’ the River Cowboy Fellowship at Mansfield Park, which is at 2886 Highway 16 North outside of Bandera, starting at 7:30 p.m.
One of the organizers for the church, Troy Crow, said admission is $10 per car to watch teams of four, including at least one youth under 16 or a female, compete in a timed event involving three everyday rodeo tasks, like trailer loading and penning.
It costs $500 per team to enter and 85 percent of the money goes as a prize payback.
The top six teams will advance to a second round with added prize money. An additional cash prize will be handed out to the event’s top horse and top hand.
For more information about the rodeo, call 970-371-9943 or 830-446-9284, or email sponsors at RRCFArenaconTeam@gmail.com or ridintheriver.com.