Chasing cows, penning sheep, riding horses and rounding up livestock was as much a part of the Cariboo gold rush as prospecting and claim staking. Ranching and farming also have their own traditions across the region, with a colourful local history that is still being written today.
The Cowboy and Drover Jubilee is Barkerville's annual way of celebrating the dusty trails of the region's past.
"From the earliest 19th-century goldfield cattle-drives to the square dance fervor of the 1940s and 50s, Barkerville has been proud to play venue to more than 100 years of cowboy culture," said Fairlith Harvey, Barkerville's special events co-ordinator. "[All this weekend] the historic town will honour that century of cowboy music, spoken word, and dance."
The weekend-spanning jubilee starts today with registration (9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Barkervilles Visitor Reception Centre) for the second annual Northern Star amateur singing competition. Registration also happens Saturday until high noon.
An informal welcome party at the House Hotel Saloon kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. with open-mic music and several special guest performances slated throughout the evening.
Official opening ceremonies take place Saturday at 11 a.m. at the canvas tent set up at the front end of town. In the same tent, a round of cowboy poetry will be performed at noon. There are scheduled recitals but also open mic slots for any bards of the bush who take the notion.
Cowboy poetry grew out of a tradition of improvised composition carried on by workers on cattle drives and ranches in the mid- to late-1800s, said Harvey. After a hard days work these drovers, or cowboys as we now call them, would gather around campfires and entertain one another with stories and folk songs. Were aiming to keep that tradition alive here in Barkerville, and invite our guests to join in the fun.
Following the opening ceremonies, Saturday events will also spotlight a variety of musical cowboy troubadours like Allen Christie, Ed Wahl, and Gordie West, as well as entries by the Northern Star contestants and a few surprise guests at three Jubilee music stages - Barkervilles Methodist Church, Kelly Saloon, and the House Hotel.
The official finals of the Northern Star competition will take place at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday at the Methodist Church, and the winner will be invited to participate in a Cowboy and Drover Showcase revue, featuring all of Barkervilles musical guests, at 4:30 p.m. on the stage of the Theatre Royal.
Saturday night at 9 p.m. there will be a boot-stompin cowboy dance at the Community Hall in nearby Wells, featuring Allen Christie and his band
On Sunday, the drover theme continues with cowboy church at 11 a.m. hosted by Gordie West in the St. Saviour's Church built in 1869.
For more information about Barkervilles Cowboy and Drover Jubilee, or any of the National Historic Sites 150th anniversary special events, visit www.barkerville.ca.