Meet our entertainers for 2017! From Michael Martin Murphey to Red Steagall to Native American Spirit Dancers and more, you’ll find something for the whole family!
As a singer, songwriter, and producer, Michael Martin Murphey has contributed some of the most beloved songs of his generation, recording more than 35 albums in a four-decade career. Murphey remains a passionate and outspoken advocate of the American West, chronicling the lifestyle in both his music and personal life. He celebrates the men and women who love dirt, grass, and water-those who love the land responsibly and ensure its health for generations to come.
Murphey’s desire to protect the American West led him to create the Murphey Western Institute, whose goal is to protect the life sustaining mountain, prairie, and plains landscapes that continue to inspire his music.
The entertainment career of Red Steagall has covered a period of over 45 years and has spanned the globe from Australia to the Middle East, to South America, and to the Far East. He has performed for heads of state including a special party for President Reagan at the White House in l983, plus three overseas tours to the Middle East, the Far East, Europe, Australia, and South America. As a native Texan, Red Steagall enjoyed a career in Agricultural Chemistry after graduating from West Texas A&M University with a degree in Animal Science and Agronomy. He then spent eight years as a music industry executive in Hollywood, California and has spent the last thirty-seven years as a recording artist, songwriter, and television and motion picture personality. He currently ranches outside of Fort Worth, Texas where in addition to his entertainment activities; he is involved in numerous horse related activities.
An American original, one that has become synonymous with the American West and Cowboy and one which keeps enthralling generations of audiences. Although others have followed, although others have openly emulated them and although others have subsequently added to the genre of Western music, the Pioneers were the first and the best. They rightfully hold a legendary place in Americana. For over 75 years, the Sons of the Pioneers have been proud to perform the music of the American West celebrating the West, its awesome landscape, its people, its culture and the American Cowboy. Songs like Tumbling Tumbleweed, Cool Water and Ghost Riders in the Sky have forever entwined into the very fabric of the West.
Celebrated Diné (Navajo) artist and multicultural educator, Dennis Rogers has traveled the world sharing his knowledge and talents. He teaches, entertains, encourages and enlightens audiences. He’s performed at Farm Aid with Willie Nelson, he tours with Blackhawk, the multi-platinum album selling country band, and he is one of the busiest entertainers on the Great Plains.
The longhorns make their triumphant return to Abilene, along with the American Indians, Buffalo Soldiers, Mounted Shooters, Buckle Clubs, Joseph McCoy, and much more to kick off Saturday’s spectacular lineup. The parade route will start the Dickinson County Fairgrounds, continue along NW 3rd Street then turn south on the historic Cedar St. route, then turn east on SW 5th Street and cross Buckeye into Old Abilene Town.
Jesse Chisholm, half Scot, half Cherokee grew up in the Cherokee Nation near Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma, and learned to speak 14 different Native dialects. He was a trader, hunter, scout, and guide that set up trading posts along the trail bearing his name today. He was instrumental in setting meetings with the Indian Council and the government representatives. Though Chisholm rarely used his trail for cattle, he did help forge the path that would be followed by thousands of Texas cattleman throughout the 1860s and 1870s.
Jeff Davidson is a man of many hats. Jeff is a cowboy, musician, poet, historian, watershed specialist, rangeland plant identification expert, and a former extension educator. Another hat which he wears is the past president of the Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association. He has performed music for over 30 years, taking western music combined with Kansas history to communities throughout the state from Kansas City to Elkhart and from St. Francis to Columbus. A 2013 winner of the Kansas Cowboy Poetry contest, Davidson is a singer/songwriter and uses his original works as well as vintage songs of old to lead audiences through the history of winnin’ of the west.
Geff Dawson was born and raised on the rural outskirts of Abilene, as he competed in Kansas High School Rodeo preparing him for a lifetime of cowboy interests. Geff holds membership in the Western Music Association, and the Academy of Western Artists Association, he is a founding member of Cowboypoetry.com. In 2005, he was chosen as the performer from Kansas to appear on Best of America on Horseback. In 2006, He won both the People’s Choice Award and the Champion Cowboy Poet at the Colorado State Fair and Nation Champion Poet in Utah.
One of the finest Western Music groups in the country makes their home in Kansas. The Diamond W (formerly the Prairie Rose Wranglers) have taken their band across the globe. This is music that every age enjoys. From the oldest ballads like “Streets of Laredo” to the thundering “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, the Diamond W brings people to their feet with their inspiring harmonies, quirky humor, and galloping guitars.
A Brass band in the style of a small Civil War brigade band, performing historical music of the 19th century for historical Balls and concerts.
An All-Star band of Western Musicians from the great state of Kansas fill the stage in a Grand ‘Ol Opry style show with Diamond W Wranglers, 3 Trails West, Annie Wilson, Jeff Davidson, Ed LaValley, Ron Wilson, and many others play the stage with an incredible show paying homage to the great drovers of the Chisholm Trail.
Joseph McCoy will kick off the events of the sesquicentennial celebration with a speech that helped make Abilene the best advertised small town in America. See the Real McCoy in action as he takes the stage for a celebration paying homage to the brave men and women that made the Chisholm Trail possible. Joining Nolan is his wife, Monica, who will be portraying Joseph’s wife, Sarah Epler McCoy.
In addition to his concert and festival outings, Kelly has spent over 25 years playing in schools and historical sites throughout the Midwest. He has been part of many artist-in-residencies and individual assemblies in Kansas and Missouri schools, in addition to appearances at historical events. His guitar work is often augmented by spoons, jawbone and cigar box fiddle, and always includes audience participation. Kelly enjoys a chance to sing for children, as well as their parents, grandparents, and teachers, and those old familiar songs strike a chord with people of all ages.
As a part of the Tallgrass String Band, Annie Wilson has been named the “Flint Hills Balladeer” by the Kansas Dept of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. She takes her music to a world of stunning landscapes, western romance and humor, skilled cowboys and spunky cowgirls, runaway horses, Indian buffalo hunts, and lovely prairie walk among native birds and grasses.
The Wild Women of the Frontier re-enact the frontier life from the perspective of the heroic women. They provide education, demonstrations and even a hold-up on the railroad. The Wild Women along with the Kansas River Gang have been entertaining audiences all over the state.
Possessing a twinkle in her eye and a tantalizing sense of humor, Matkin as the Contessa is in rare form as she deftly transports you to the frontier of cow towns, painted ladies and the riveting characters that strode the streets and rode the range. It’s the Victorian Era on the wild side.
Texas cattle drover Georgiana Jackson took over the drive when her father became ill and her brother was in the war. But when she returned home her family thought that she should give up her outdoor life and become a lady. Instead, she bought pastureland up north. Now the bank is threatening her hold on the land.
Joyce Archibald Holmes traveled the Santa Fe Trail in 1858, becoming in the process the first woman to climb to the top of Pike’s Peak. She did her hiking in a (scandalous!) bloomer outfit. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Julia and her husband left Santa Fe, dropped their two-year-old off with her parents in Lawrence, and went to DC to offer their services, returning with Henry’s appointment as Secretary of the Territory of New Mexico. Julia’s letters and those of men who wrote complaining that Captain Holmes was not controlling his young wife are among Ann’s sources for this fascinating woman who knew Susan B. Anthony and John Brown, taught her brother to speak Spanish, was divorced in 1870, had four children, wrote poetry, and worked for the Bureau of Education in Washington, DC at the time the typewriter was coming into being.
Since 1967, Gary and Margaret Kraisinger have had one mission in their research: to tell readers exactly where the Western Cattle Trail was located and its role in the history of the American West. Through maps and in-depth research they have documented the location of the largest cattle trail system to come out of Texas to deliver longhorns to the north from 1874 to 1897. They are both descendants of homesteaders, meeting at Fort Hays State University and were married in 1963. Both were teachers, but became interested in the trails, and have lived the trail life ever since.
James Sherow, a professor of history who has taught and researched at Kansas State University for more than 20 years, is the author of five books, the last, “Railroad Empire Across the Grasslands” (2014), written with photographer John Charlton, has received two book awards: A 2015 Kansas Notable Book award, and the 2016 Midwestern History Association’s Hamlin Garland prize, which recognizes the best popular book that increases public awareness of and reflection upon the Midwest. He won the Westerners International Phi Alpha Theta Award for the best dissertation in Western history. Sherow is the author of five books, and has an upcoming release on a book focusing on the Chisholm Trail and Joseph McCoy.
Re-enactors from Pawnee, OK, present the historic Wild West show that captivated audiences for years. Trick riders, shooters, stagecoaches, and chariots are just a few of the attractions of the hour long show placed at the Rodeo Arena. Gordon W. Lilly started a Wild West Show and brought the story of the West to the captivated audiences of the East.
Established in 1992, the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard provides a link to Fort Riley’s historic past. Troopers and horses of this unit are outfitted in the uniforms, accoutrements, and equipment of the Civil War period. Soldiers are detailed from the ranks of units assigned to Fort Riley and receive instruction from manuals used by Civil War cavalrymen. From privates to officers, these men and women recreate the colorful spectacle of the American Horse Soldier. They demonstrate their horsemanship for professional rodeos and community events.
Buffalo Soldiers were formed in 1866 at Ft. Leavenworth and were originally members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment. Today, John Bruce preserves and re-enacts that prideful division of the U.S. Cavalry with an hour long show that features posting colors, a Cathey Williams monologue, and the Fiddlers’ Green recitation.
The MSC Silver Buckle Drill Team is a group of talented riders that perform different routines to music in various rodeos and equine events.
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Using his fists instead of a pistol, a professional boxer turned frontier lawman Tom Smith is determined to clean up ‘Hell on Earth.’ This is the little-known story of one of the greatest lawmen of the Wild West.
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak
In the years following the Civil War, the town of Abilene, Kansas, is poised on the brink of an explosive confrontation. A line has been drawn down the center of town where the homesteaders and the cattlemen have come to a very uneasy truce.
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Johnny Mack Brown, Mady Correll, Tex Ritter
Dusty Gardner, bringing a herd up the Chisholm Trail, is looking for water. Belle Turner has water but wants an exorbitant price for it. When Dusty and his men start a well, Belle and her men set out to stop them.
Sunday, High Noon
Charles Starrett, Nancy Saunders
When the ranchers of Bearcat are plagued by rustlers, Big Jim Grady offers to buy their herds at low-ball prices. Steve Haley suggests that they band together and drive their herds to Abilene and get full price.
Sunday, 2 p.m.
Jack Mahoney, Martha Hyer
Jim Trask, a former sheriff of Abilene, returns to the town after fighting for the Confederacy to find everyone thought he was dead. His old friend, Dave Mosely, is now engaged to Trask’s former sweetheart and is one of the cattlemen increasingly feuding with the original farmers.