ABILENE, KANSAS – Cowboys will drive Texas longhorns to the stockyard and then into a rail car that will be pulled out of town by a steam engine during Trails, Rails and Tales, an event marking the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail, on Sept. 1-3 in Abilene.
On Friday, a free Showdown at the Alamo Saloon in Old Abilene Town will feature two bands, Hi-Way 99 playing classic country music and Lucas Maddy and The Kansas Cartel performing modern red dirt country.
Kicking off Saturday’s activities will be a parade of longhorns, horses, horse-drawn wagons, cowboys and Native Americans through the streets of Abilene. The event’s lineup includes Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, Western music artists, cowboy poets, storytellers, re-enactors, trick riders, authors, a Buckaroo Camp for children, and rides on a steam engine-pulled train, stagecoach, carriage, and wagon. Blacksmiths, wood carvers, hat makers, buffalo soldiers, gunfighters, can-can dancers, and Native Americans also will share their heritage and skills, all on the grounds of Old Abilene Town and the Heritage Center.
Joining an array of Western musicians performing throughout both days are nationally-known performers Red Steagall, the headliner act on Saturday night, and the Sons of the Pioneers and Michael Martin Murphey on Sunday.
A free Old West ‘mooovie marathon’ will be inside the Visitors Center at the nearby Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home campus where there will be two Chisholm Trail exhibits. Additionally, the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard demonstration team from Ft. Riley will perform and set up a United States Cavalry Civil War Encampment.
Trails, Rails, and Tales celebrates Abilene’s heritage as an Old West cattle town, with the first shipment of longhorns sent east by rail on Sept. 5, 1867. To combat low cattle prices in Texas, Joseph McCoy chose Abilene as a cattle shipping railhead, encouraging Texas ranchers to drive their longhorns through Oklahoma and into Kansas via the Chisholm Trail. Abilene became an active cowtown, with entrepreneurs like T.C. McInerney creating the pointed-toe cowboy boot preferred by drovers, and marshals named Wild Bill Hickok and Tom ‘Bear River’ Smith keeping the peace in the saloon district. Abilene and the Chisholm Trail became famous through dime novels, campfire stories, cowboy songs and, eventually, movies and television.
“To celebrate the anniversary of the Chisholm Trail and Abilene’s role in our cowboy heritage, we are offering the best entertainment, the best educators, and the best possible experience at a price that is affordable for families,” says Michael Hook, event coordinator and director of the Dickinson County Historical Society.
Tickets are available in advance at a number of area retailers including Rittel’s Western Wear, UMB Bank, Abilene Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Pinnacle Bank, and First Bank Kansas. Tickets for adults cost $10/day or $15 for two days. The cost for youth ages 6-16 is $5 per day or $8 for two days. Children ages 5 and under receive free admission. Tickets may be purchased at the gate or in advance at www.chisholmtrt.com or by calling the Dickinson County Heritage Center at 785.263.2681.
For more information about Abilene, the Chisholm Trail Celebration, or for assistance planning your trip, please contact the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau at 785.263.2231 or 800.569.5915.