"Since I've been knee high to a duck, I've loved cowboys," said Jerry Titlow, one of the festival's many visitors. He came dressed in western attire with leather cuffs, mull ears boots, and the traditional cowboy hat. "This is one of the best cowboy exhibitions this side of the Mississippi."
Visitors saw a variety of Native American dances, gun-wielding action, elaborate tricks, and musical numbers while learning about America's early history.
At the Native American Show and Dance, the speakers discussed language, songs, lifestyles, and misconceptions -- such as saying "how" and raising your hand to say 'hello.' According to the speakers, different tribes have different words for hello so "how" is not necessarily correct. But the raising of the hand is correct: "Throwing your hand up meant you had no weapon," one speaker said. The Native American dances at the festival were filled with an array of yellows, reds, blacks and pinks.
A fast draw exhibition presented different shooting techniques such as fanning and twist fanning. The audience learned how speed is everything in a fast draw competition. While twist fanning gives the shooter speed, fanning gives much better accuracy -- one of the most important components of a fast draw competition. The festival put on a reenactment of the gunfight at O.K. Corral, where visitors could see the need for speed of such gunfights.
For those less interested in gun fights -- as well as those interested -- there was Doc John's Medicine Show. A white-headed man with a top hat and glasses demonstrated a variety of tricks and told several elaborate, comical stories to an audience of "friends and neighbors." The man seemly performed magic tricks while also peddling a fictional elixir of life he claimed in one story that his grandfather had discovered.
"It's the use of terminology and manipulation," said Mike Turner, discussing the performance. According to him, wording was critical to medicine men's success back in the 19th century. "Its reminiscent to what you would have seen in the 1800s." Turner also enjoyed the show because it often involved the audience. One boy joined "Doc" on stage for several tricks that did not work as well for the boy as it did for "Doc."
One of the music groups for the day was "Sound of Appalachia," a bluegrass group using instruments such as fiddles, guitars mandolin, banjo and upright bass. While many of the musicians had played with other members of the group separately, Saturday was their first time playing together as a group.
"That's the fun thing about bluegrass," said upright bass player Terry Lee. "We know the same songs so we sound like a band when we get together."
Students from Mission Road Elementary School's 4th and 5th grade chorus performed as well. The students, dressed in white shirts and blue jeans, sang western songs such as "Old Man Tucker" along with many dance steps and claps. Performing alongside the chorus was the school's Tinikling team.
Tinikling is the native dance of the Philippine Islands where two students beat, tap, and slide bamboo poles on the ground while the dancers step over and dance between the poles. The Tinikling Team performed to "Cotton-Eyed Joe" as well as other numbers.
Young children had a variety of activities specific for them. Besides the Native American dances, gunfights and music, the children had "Cow-Poke Corner" where they could test their lasso-throwing ability, ride ponies or create art with sand painting which, according Assistant Museum Educator Peggy Cline, is something Native Americans in New Mexico and Arizona did for healing and ceremonial services. However, unlike the Native America's sand painting, which was only kept for a day, these kids could take their paintings with them. Cline has been involved with this festival for over seven years. Her favorite aspect of the festival is working with the kids.
According to Tara Currier -- the Director of Marketing for the Booth Museum -- the event took over six months to plan and line up entertainers and speakers. She estimated that at least 5,000 people will have visited by the end of the event, although Currier said there may be even more. "Its an event unlike any other," she said. "There's something for everyone."
The ninth annual Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium continues today beginning with Cowboy Church at 11 a.m. The Cowboy Festival will be open from noon to 5 p.m. For more information and to learn about Sunday's events, go to boothmuseum.org/events/cowboy_festival.htm.