Normally, the first thing anyone thinks of when they hear the city “Temecula” is wine country, and wine tasting. Temecula has become a southern california destination for many wine connoisseurs. But, that isn’t the only thing Temecula is known for. Sprawling ranches, horse property, and the cowboy way of life is what this booming city evolved from. These days, the ranches arent owned by just the Vail family anymore, but rather the thousands of people who still live the western way of life. This was evident by the crowd that attended the two-day event held in Old Town over the weekend.
Our team had the pleasure of attending the event on both Saturday and Sunday. A quick glance at the schedule showed that one day wasn’t going to be enough. Saturdays event nearly got cancelled due to drift smoke from the Camp Pendleton fires, but thankfully a light wind and cooler weather got the fires under control and pushed the grey ash elsewhere.
Saturdays events featured pony rides for the kids, roping demonstrations, multiple food and merchandise vendors, and of course, The Old Town Temecula Gunfighters.
The Gunfighters represent the post-Civil War era from about the 1870’s to about the 1890’s. The era of the Wild West was hustled in as a result of the Gold Rush, the end of the Civil War, the eastern cities need for meat from the cattle industry, and the United States desire to sew this continent together with railroads.
The west was first filled by men looking to get rich and men just looking to have a piece of land they could call their own. Those first men to travel west where tough and lawless, they made their own justice. Next came saloon keepers, Soiled Doves and gamblers. When the merchants started arriving they brought their wives and the wives said there will be law and order. Enter the town marshal the county sheriff and the circuit judge.
In all of the cow towns of the old west there was a line through the town. The good folks on one side and the cowboys, ruffians and ladies of the evening on the other. No where in history have elements such as these come together to create such a unique and interesting time.
The group is led by Dynamite Dick who has been leading the gunfighters for over 20 years.
On the corner of fourth and front street, the gunfighters had a mock town set up where they performed comedic and dramatic skits throughout the day. In addition to the Temecula Gunfighting group, they were joined by at least four other groups. All of which were equally as entertaining, and their group names should matching creativity. With names like “Code of the West”, Guns of the round table, and Spurs and Satin these actors travelled from near and far in full period attired to entertain the folks at this event. Some other actors who weren’t even performing showed up in full attire just to support the event. The camaraderie was admirable. There were approximately 75 actors who participated in the weekends events.
The most thrilling part of the presentation was the bank robbery at high noon.”The Bank” is currently a restaurant in Old Town Temecula that used to be the actual town bank. The building itself turns 100 years old this year (2014). In an epic battle, two different groups attempt to rob the bank and it ends in an all out shoot out that can be heard at the other end of town. Police rope of the street to make sure that no one is injured in the shootout, even though the guns are only shooting “blanks”.
Even shooting just blanks, the guns can do some damage. This was demonstrated in a portion of the show which also spoke to children about gun safety. A Pepsi can was placed on a stump, and the gunfighters took turns on showing just what their guns can do even loaded with a blank. Some of the rifles used were the 22 Derringer, a 45 Colt, a 44 Remington that was a 1958 civil war piece, a 12 gauge Winchester Shot Gun, and a 50 caliber Buffalo Rifle. The costumes were true to the period, and the details were amazing. Even the knives had character.
Sundays events featured the gunfighters again, with similar routines and new ones. The main difference is the amount of people who came to the event to watch. Sunday featured a livelier schedule complete with a chili cookoff, car show and live entertainment.
The Chili Cookoff, is an International Chili Society regional qualifier and provided the opportunity to taste some of the best chili. This event ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There were two categories for chili, red and green. The winners will advance to the International Chili Society’s world championships.
If that wasn’t enough to keep our interest, we walked over to Madeline’s and Texas Lil’s for the Car show. At least 150 vehicles were on display in addition to contests for raffle prizes, live music and custom-made bikes. Check out the photos below of the many different vehicles featured. There really is nothing like the sound of an old car engine.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend of so many different things to do. Families of all ages showed up sporting cowboy hats, and cowboy boots if only for this event to jump right in to the heritage that the city of Temecula had to offer. Each year, the event continues to grow despite the city’s rapid growth to becoming more of a suburban housing area than a ranching town. Even with these changes, it’s refreshing to see that the city has held on to its roots and continues to promote its history and foundation with its residents.
Here in Temecula the west may have indeed become more civilized, but it is definitely not forgotten.
To learn more about the western days events, or Temecula in general, please visit their website.