Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival Celebrates 20 Years

Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival Celebrates 20 Years

flyer 2021The Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival held this Saturday and Sunday, November 6 and 7, 2021, in Santa Cruz County is the Empire Ranch Foundation’s annual public event celebrating Arizona’s Western history and culture. The Cowboy Festival also showcases the BLM and the Foundation’s efforts to preserve the Empire Ranch for future generations. Each year more than 2,000 visitors come to the ranch to enjoy Western heritage demonstrations, arena and livestock exhibits, cowboy cooking and Western entertainment. 

This family event features Western music and entertainment, history and culture demonstrations, ranch life exhibits, activities for children, along with numerous skilled artisans and speakers. A $20 parking donation per vehicle is requested.

Be cowboy/cowgirl ready
Horse-loving visitors may choose to book a 45-minute trail ride for $30. Riders must be age 8 or older. The first ride on both Saturday and Sunday begins at 10:30 am, with the last ride starting at 2:30 pm.

Think about dressing for success as you get ready to visit the vast Arizona outdoors of the Empire Ranch. It’s a good time to choose cowboy or riding boots over sandals, or at least close-toed shoes over flip-flops. Exposed human tootsies are no match for the rock-hard hooves of a horse that does not mean to (but could) step on you. 

The weekend weather forecast is beautiful for early November. Add sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to your ranch-visiting gear too – that way you only return home with horse kisses, myriad cellphone pics, and happy memories, versus a sunburn, dry eyeballs, and a wind-chapped face. 

Trail ride spaces are limited and may not be available the day of the event. Visit this link to reserve your space now.


Saturday, November 6

10 am – B Troop Color Guard Presentation

10:15 am — B Troop 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial)

11 am — Lanny Leach Horsemanship

11:30 am — BLM Wild Mustangs & Burro Demo

12:15 pm — Spanish Barb Horses

12:30 pm –Joel Eliot Cattle Demo

1:30 pm — BLM Wild Mustangs & Burro Demo

2:15 pm — Sarah Ogilvie Cowdog Demo

3:00 pm — B Troop 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial)

Sunday, November 7

10 am – B Troop Color Guard Presentation

10:15 am — Joel Eliot Cattle Demo

11 am — Copper State Renegades Drill Team

 11:15 am — B Troop 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial)

12:15 pm — Charros y Modelos de Tucson

12:45 pm — Sarah Ogilvie Cowdog Demonstrations

1:15 pm — Joel Eliot Cattle Demo

2 pm — Spanish Barb Horses

2:30 pm –Charros y Modelos de Tucson

3 pm — Copper State Renegades Drill Team


Saturday, November 6

10:00 am – Dan McCorison

11:00 am – Broken Chair Band

12:00 pm – Randy Huston

1:00 pm – Dan McCorison

2:00 pm – Randy Huston

3:00 pm – Dan McCorison

Sunday, November 7

10 am – Jon Messenger

10:50 am – Dance Group of Tucson

11:20 am – Jon Messenger

12:10 pm – Way Out West

1:20 pm – Dance Group of Tucson

1:50 pm – Jon Messenger

2:40 pm – Dance Group of Tucson

3:10 pm – Way Out West


Saturday, November 6

10:30 am – “These is my Words & Music” by Nancy Turner & Janice Deardorff

12 noon – “In Front & Behind the Camera” by Bunker DeFrance, Marty Freese, Gene Freese

1 pm – “Cowboy Up” by H. Alan Day & Russell True

2 pm – “The Buffalo Soldiers” by Charles Hancock

3 pm – “Movies In/Around the Empire” by Marty Freese

Sunday, November 7

10:30 am – “Ranching on the Empire Today” by Ian & Addie Tomlinson

11:30 am –“The Boice Family Legacy” by Faith Boice

12:30 pm – “The Story of Vail, Arizona” by JJ Lamb

1:30 pm – “Workin’ on the Railroad – Train Robberies on the Southern Corridor” by Doug Hocking


Bootmaking – Osuna Boots

Branding – Bill Schock

Chuckwagon cooking – EZ Cattle Company Cow Camp Café & Chuckwagon

Leatherworking — Phil Parks

Reata Braiding — Dick Schorr

Saddlemaking — Brad Faulkner

Silversmithing — Byrd Moss

Vintage Engines — Jeff Eppley

Yoeme Wood Carving — Luis David Valenzuela


John Buzzard

Gail Corkill

Alan Day

Doug Hocking

Robert Kimball

Nancy E. Turner


Arizona Ghost Riders

Dinky Donkeys

Horse’n Around Rescue Ranch  – Theresa Warrell & Steve Boice

Susan Shea’s mini horses


Forever Home Donkey Rescue & Sanctuary

Greater Southern Arizona Area Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Mounted Color Guard

Hot Rods for Hunger

Patagonia Museum

Old Pueblo Archeology Center

Reach for the Stars Charity

Sahuarita 4-H Club 

Santa Cruz County Cowbelles

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas

Southern Arizona Animal Foodbank

Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers

Spanish Barb Horse Association

Therapeutic Riding of Tucson (TROT)

Tucson Amateur Astronomy Asssociation

Tucson Rodeo–La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros

Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee, Inc.

Tumacacori National Historic Park

University of Arizona Poetry Center


Stop by the Silent Auction/Raffle Tent and bid on the special items donated by ERF supporters.


Las Vigas Steak Ranch (BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs)

Montaño’s Chili and More (tacos, rice & beans)

Wrapido (Grilled chicken wraps, sweet potato fries, and chips)

STEAK FRY (Saturday, 4:30 to 7 pm) cowboy lunch

EZ Cattle Company Cow Camp Café & Chuckwagon is serving up an 8 oz. Strip Steak OR Portobello Mushroom with small potatoes, beans & coleslaw. $20/plate. Live music will accompany your meal. TICKETS ARE LIMITED. Follow this LINK for more information.

COWBOY CHURCH (Sunday, 8:15 am to 9:30 am)

Pastor Larry Whitney, Mustang Mountain Cowboy Church, will lead the service.  Music provided by the Broken Chair Band.


Black Jack Citrus Infusions

D&S Custom Leather

Desert Owl Forge

DML Designs

Giselle Billeaudeau (handmade soaps, bags)

Heart of a Cowgirl (western jewelry)

Kathie’s Fire (pottery)

Kettlelicious Kettle Corn

Little Green Bags (bags, purses)

The Mad Cow Company (turquoise jewelry)

Mescal Movie Set

Native American Cooperative (turquoise)

Nature Healthier Alternatives (essential oils and supplements)

San Pedro River Valley Salsa

Top Notch Pistachios

Udderly Natural Products (goat milk products)

Untamed Confections (candy)

Windsor Hat Shoppe (hats, hair accessories)

Directions from Tucson
Go east on I-10 and exit at Route 83 (scenic highway)

Proceed south on Route 83 approximately 18 miles to the paved road on your left between mile post 40 and 39. Watch for the brown Historic Empire Ranch sign on the right side of the highway.

Turn east (left) onto paved road and follow for 3 miles to the Empire Ranch House on your left.

Directions from Sonoita
Go north on Route 83 for 6.6 miles, to the paved road on your right between milepost 39 and 40. Watch for the brown Historic Empire Ranch sign on the right side of the highway.

Turn east (right) onto the paved road and follow for 3 miles to the Empire Ranch House on your left.

Its history
The historic Empire Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for 140 years. Its rich history includes successive ownership by two prominent ranching families, two corporations, and finally by the federal government on behalf of the general public. Its history is briefly summarized in this 18-minute video:  Arizona’s Empire Ranch: A Prominent Past and Promising Future on the history of the Empire Ranch from its founding in 1876 to present day efforts by the Empire Ranch Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management to protect and preserve the historic buildings.

Its mission
In 1988 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired for public use and preservation the lands that now form Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, including the intact buildings and much of the land holdings of the historic Empire Ranch whose founding dates to the 1870s.

In 1997, a group of private citizens formed the Empire Ranch Foundation as a volunteer 501(c)(3) charitable organization. 

Working in partnership with the BLM, the mission of the Foundation is “To protect, restore and sustain the Empire Ranch historical buildings and landscape as an outstanding western heritage education center.”

The Foundation, in partnership with the BLM, provides funds and organizes volunteers to support and complete numerous preservation projects and educational activities at Empire Ranch.

The Empire Ranch Foundation is managed by a 15-member volunteer Board of Directors. Its 2020-2021 leadership include: Faith Boice, president, Raymond Patrone, vice president, Marti Conroy, secretary, and Christine Haaksma, treasurer

Get social
The Empire Ranch Foundation has many events and volunteer opportunities during the year. Be sure to follow its activities on Facebook and sign up for its informative newsletter at the website.