Cowboys and Cornbread

CONTESTANTS IN THE Hangtown Harmonica Championship competition wow the audience and judges. The competition this year is on the Main Stage at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 21. File photo by Kathy Durrett


Corral the family for a day of old-fashioned fun

By From page B2 | July 17, 2013

What: Cowboys and Cornbread

Who: El Dorado County Fairgrounds

Where: Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville

When: Sunday, 11 a.m to 5 p.m.

Cost: $2 walk in fee or $10 per carload of six

Information: 530-621-5860 or go to

Butter up that prize-winning batch of cornbread and head for the El Dorado County Fairgrounds Sunday, joining a happy crowd as a daylong celebration of America’s icon, the cowboy, promises plenty of horsin’ around.

Cowboys and Cornbread, in its third year, for the first time is being held at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville, and the place is all spiffed up in anticipation of the family oriented fun.

After dropping off your creation for the cornbread contest, stroll on over and butter up a cowboy — maybe he’ll treat you to a recitation of his cowboy poetry or a few licks on a harmonica.

Chaps and 10-gallon hats are the order of the day July 21, with plenty of challenging competitions, exhibitions and activities for young and old.

The cornbread contest is new this year, and that old family recipe could result in a $50 cash prize for the first-place winner. The competition begins at high noon, and the entries, which are prepared off-site in advance, must be at the judges table by 11:30 a.m.

Pros will participate in another event that’s new this year, ranch sorting, where teams of two horseback riders work against the clock to cut out the correct cattle — critters that are usually fairly unwilling to play along — and drive them to a pen while keeping the wrong cattle back.

This spectator delight begins at 9 a.m. in the Henningsen Indoor Arena at the fairgrounds. A cash purse is involved in the nationally sanctioned ranch sorting event, along with prize buckles.

Call 530-621-5860 for more information.

While the ranch sorting is geared toward the accomplished rider, a crowd-pleasing and popular event that has been added this year is mutton bustin’, where fearless kids climb aboard a wooly sheep and either go for a ride or hang on for dear life — sometimes both.

Lil busters are age 4 to 5 years old, while those in the busters category are 6 and 7 years old. There is a 60 pound weight limit. Mutton busters will need to ask their kinfolk for the $35 entry fee, but the winner in each division will receive a shiny silver buckle.

The mutton bustin’ is limited to 36 participants, with 18 slots reserved for El Dorado County residents. Entry forms must be received prior to the date of the event, and check-in is set for 2:30 p.m., with the hilarious action beginning at 3.

The youngsters will wear their toughest western wear and looks of fierce determination as they try to show the sheep who’s boss.


History lesson

While fun is the catch word Sunday, Cowboys and Cornbread also features an historically accurate recreation of the Civil War era’s 2nd Cavalry Company F, which originated in the Sacramento area and was known as the Sacramento Rangers.

The group performs authentic cavalry exhibitions, maneuvers and drills including “Running at the Heads,” involving pistols and sabers.

All horse equipment, tack, uniforms and arms are true to the Civil War period. Make sure the young buckaroos get a chance to catch this learning experience.

As you wander about the fairgrounds, you’ll hear the clop-thud-clop of horseshoes as event-goers take advantage of the view from aboard a stagecoach. The delightful Davey Wiser and his cowboy crew are offering free stagecoach rides throughout the day.

Horseshoes, minus the horse this time, take center stage as eagle-eyed contestants try to wrap the iron arches around the metal peg to take home their share of the winnings in the horseshoe tournament, with 75 percent of the entry fees going to the winning team.

The contest is limited to 30 participants, and players must be at least 18 years old. Call 530-621-5860 for more information.


Play that tune

What would a cowboy campfire be like without the plaintiff notes of a harmonica drifting through the night? We don’t want to know, because the musical instrument also known as a mouth harp is featured as a highlight of the day at Cowboys and Cornbread.

The Hangtown Harmonica Championship competition is set for 1 p.m. on the Main Stage at the fairgrounds. Play is limited to five minutes per contestant, so arrive early to make sure you don’t miss your favorite.

And as for the Cowboy Poetry? Well, that’s also a must on the list, featuring such artists as Rescue’s own Hatch and Taylor Graham. Both poets will be on hand to offer clever and nostalgic verse that will make you think, again, of that cozy campfire.

Hatch, 84, wrote one award-winning poem about his old horse, Blaze, who wasn’t much to look at but found his way into his owner’s heart:

“Gone now, but we all know the answer — you weren’t no Native Dancer, but with me you win the race, my Good Ol’ Blaze.”

That’s merely a portion of the poem by Hatch Graham, who has been published in “Song of the San Joaquin” and the “Rattlesnake Review.”


Vittles and more

All the entertainment will surely cause a cowboy to hanker for some grub, of which there is plenty. You won’t need a dinner bell to clang once you get a whiff of the Smokin’ for Gold Kansas City BBQ, or the steaming bowls of hot chili, both of which feature competing cooks hoping for a prize. Other venues will offer up plenty of vittles for the cowboy crowd.

Gold-panning and blacksmithing demonstrations also will highlight the day, and bring an extra buck or two to spend at the Cowboy Culture Trade Show, where unique western merchandise will tempt you to open up the wallet.

The kids can stay busy in the Kids Corral with face painting, roping and a hay maze, while adults won’t want to miss Margaritaville to keep that whistle wet. Live music by Halie O’Ryan and Johnny D. in the afternoon will have the toes tapping.

Cost to enter the fairgrounds for Cowboys and Cornbread is $2 a head, but that’s only for lone rangers. Grab the family and friends and load up the wagon — at $10 for the entire carload, it’s a real bargain.

Proceeds support the programs of El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, El Dorado County Visitors Authority and El Dorado County Fairgrounds.

Gates open at 11 a.m. and Cowboys and Cornbread runs until 5 p.m.

Call 530-621-5860 to enter any of the cowboy and cooking contests, or for any other information.

Pat Lakey

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