The organizers of the Kamloops Cowboy Festival are calling it a day.
Mark McMillan and his wife Kathy, who have been involved in the festival since 1998, said they had always planned to retire from the festival on its 25th anniversary. The couple last year held a final yeehaw for the 100 Mile House Cowboy Concert, which featured Gary Fjellgaard, Bruce Rolph and Jeremy Willis.
Although this year’s Kamloops Cowboy Festival was cancelled due to COVID, no one was willing to take up the reins for the future.
“Our best and closest volunteers are over 80 years old, we just don’t have any young blood,” McMillan, 64, said. “There wasn’t a lot of people jumping up and down to take it up.”
The McMillans, who live in 76 Mile House, were first drawn to the festival, put on by the BC Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS), after a friend gave them a cassette tape of the music in 1997. Two years later they were on the board.
“I just loved it,” McMillan said.
For the past 24 years, McMillan has been involved in the event, booking singers and poets for both the Kamloops Festival and 100 Mile Cowboy concert.
The festival was part of BCCHS’s efforts to promote cowboy heritage, with songs about the life of a cowboy. There’s a difference, he said, between cowboy music and western.
“Most were true working cowboys or are involved in working in the industry, or lifestyle somehow,” McMillan said. “We never had trouble getting entertainers, the harder job was culling the list.”
The Kamloops festival had 30 performers, while the 100 Mile concert featured only four.
McMillan said they would like to see the continuation of the BCCHS, which operates the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame out of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin in Williams Lake and offers several scholarships.
While his wife continues to work, McMillan plans to spend more time on the range.