Vaquero Days Western Heritage Festival has grown so much in its 17 years that it may not fit its two-day format for much longer. Slated for Oct. 17-18 at the Granville Martin Ranch and Museum in San Diego County’s Descanso, the event is jam packed with events ranging from barbecues and barrel racing to music, poetry and horsemanship demonstrations. Already, the organizers have had to stretch the celebration to incorporate a Fri. Oct. 16 concert at the Descanso Town Hall.
Organizer Skip Good acknowledges that Vaquero Days is well known throughout California, but because of its size and scope, many mistakenly assume that it’s a for-profit endeavor. Instead, the festival continues to be an all-volunteer effort, with proceeds going to the Californios Heritage Association, Granville Martin Museum and several organizations aimed at helping youth in rural areas. These include the Alpine Amigos 4 H, Mountain Empire 4 H, Mountain Empire FFA, Descanso Town Hall Association and the L.C.H.A. Scholarship Fund. All admission fee proceeds go to these charities.
The initial mission of the event was to promote and preserve the ways of California’s original horsemen, the Vaqueros, as epitomized by Granny Martin. A classic example of a self-sufficient rancher, Martin made reatas, bits and spurs, was a silversmith and blacksmith, horse trainer and shoer: basically anything and everything that needed to be done on a cattle ranch, he could do it. The knowledge and skills of the late Martin remain the inspiration fueling attempts to keep alive some vestige of that way of life.
The band Trails & Rails kicks off the Western Heritage Festival with the Friday night concert. Trails & Rails combines their Western historical interests with their love of cowboy and train songs to bring listeners the best of both. Ken Graydon and John Bergstrom are also on the weekend’s musical bill, while Graydon and J.D. Seibert will perform poetry recitals.
Action oriented Western Heritage buffs, both spectators and participants, have several activities to choose from. New this year is the event’s hosting of a running of Craig Cameron’s Extreme Cowboy Race on both days. The event consists of a series of obstacles requiring both horsemanship and speed. Contestants will vie for prize saddles, cash and other prizes in pro and non-pro divisions. Saturday will feature a gymkhana for open, 14 & under and walk/trot/lope riders, and Sunday there’s a National Barrel Racing Association-sanctioned competition. Horsemanship demonstrations will be presented both Saturday and Sunday by well-known clinicians and trainers.
Check the www.vaquerodays.org site for the latest news about this fun family event for horse and California history enthusiasts of all stripes. Admission is $10 a day, and kids accompanied by a parent are free. Camping is available in the ranch’s meadow.