You don’t have to be a cowboy to party like one. All you have to do is attend the annual Antelope Island’s Cowboy Legends over Memorial Day weekend.
Beginning Friday and continuing through Monday, the yearly event brings together some of the area’s best western entertainers for four days of cowboy poetry and music at Fielding Garr Ranch at Antelope Island State Park. Food, vendors, activities and more will be featured during the weekend.
Sam DeLeeuw, a cowboy poet from Roy who is also one of the organizers, said the event is now in its 14th year.
“It grew from just an afternoon of poetry and music on Memorial Day itself to a four-day event,” she said.
DeLeeuw said the annual bash has been a bit of a well-kept secret over the years. She said they still have people who come out to the island on Memorial Day weekend, see the festival and say, “We had no idea this was going on out here.”
Antelope Island’s Cowboy Legends kicks off at noon Friday with a performance of cowboy songs by Chris Mortensen, of Paradise. Free music and poetry then continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through Monday, with entertainment on two stages — the indoor Barn Stage and the outdoor Park Stage.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, evening performances will be held on the Barn Stage beginning at 6 p.m. Cost for these evening shows is $5 per person, $15 for a family of four. The event is a fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, according to DeLeeuw.
Additional entertainment on Saturday, Sunday and Monday will include a Kids Stage, where performers will gear their music and poetry to children; and an Open Mic Stage, where newcomers can jam musically or try out poems on an audience.
Nine cowboy poets and 17 musical groups will be featured throughout the weekend. Among the poets will be DeLeeuw, Thatch Elmer and Colt Blankman; musicians will include Saddle Strings, Many Strings, In Cahoots, and David Anderson, among others.
“We’ll have a bunch of cowboy poets and western musicians — big names in the cowboy poetry world,” said Carl Aldrich, manager of the historic Fielding Garr Ranch on the island. “We have some pretty world class entertainment lined up here.”
About two dozen vendors will set up booths during the weekend, selling everything from kettle corn to jewelry and woodworking. Rollin’ West BBQ will offer food and beverages throughout the event.
Children’s activities are also planned, and wagon rides will be available for $20 per family.
At 9 a.m. Sunday, a nondenominational cowboy church service will be held, according to DeLeeuw.
“It’s such a neat thing to be in that barn and have cowboy church — I can’t tell you how special that is,” she said.
Another special moment during the weekend will be a patriotic hour at noon Monday, in honor of Memorial Day. An auction will follow, with proceeds going to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Credit cards are accepted during the weekend, according to organizers.
DeLeeuw said the annual event is a labor of love, with everyone donating their time.
“Not one person is receiving a dime,” she said. “We will have books and CDs and such for sale, but that’s the only thing performers will take home with them besides the applause.”
DeLeeuw said most of the performers and volunteers will be camping at the Fielding Garr Ranch for the weekend; Aldrich says it’s one of only two times during the year that camping is allowed at the ranch (the annual bison roundup being the other).
“Come on out and camp with us,” DeLeeuw said. “We’ll have little groups of people singing and jamming all weekend.”
Cost for camping is $15 per night, according to Aldrich.
Although the Cowboy Legends event is free, there is an entrance fee to Antelope Island State Park.
“Obviously, the location is huge,” Aldrich said of the Cowboy Legends weekend. “This is one of the best places to have cowboy music and poetry, since it’s one of the oldest pioneer homes in Utah that is still standing. The setting is amazing — Antelope Island is such a special place.”
Although the weather hasn’t always been cooperative in the past — and the current forecast calls for some rain over Memorial Day weekend — DeLeeuw disputes this year’s forecast.
“It’s going to be wonderful, and it’s not going to rain,” a hopeful DeLeeuw predicted. “It’s not. I’ve had a serious talk with The Man, and it will be beautiful weather.”
For more information, visit the Antelope Island’s Cowboy Legends Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AntelopeIslandCowboyLegends, or call 801-927-0545.