Classic Western film fest rides into town


Dust off your hat and shine up those spurs. On the weekend of November 8-9, Three Rivers will host the first installment of an annual film festival devoted to classic Westerns. 

Fun for all ages, the Three Rivers Western Film Festival will include not just two nights of double features under the stars, but also Old West storefronts, live equestrian events, western merchandise, kids’ crafts, a costume contest, wagon rides, barbecue, and more.

Live-action demonstrations will recreate the sounds and smells and feel of a western town. Take a ride in an old covered wagon, mosey on up to Scruffy McG’s Tradin’ Post or watch world-famous Riata Ranch demonstrate thrilling trick-riding at its finest. 

Riata was invited by the Queen of England to perform at the Jubilee Anniversary celebrating her 50th year on the throne. Their roping and riding skills are breathtaking and will be on full view in the Roping Arena adjacent to the covered outdoor theater. 

For kids, there will be a chance to make and decorate western costumes, do art projects, sing western songs, and more.

The films for this year’s Festival are on just about every western movie lover’s Top 10 list: Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Once Upon a Time in the West, and High Noon, considered by many to be the greatest of them all. The acting talent is a Who’s Who from the golden age of the western film — Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Henry Fonda, and Claudia Cardinale.

Featured speakers will include Arlene Bogna, a young independent director who had her short western film accepted to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last summer. She will show her film and talk about making modern-day westerns. 

For those curious why these films are as great as they are — what it was about them that launched them into cinematic immortality — western film authority Courtney Joyner will present valuable, behind-the-scenes and beneath-the-surface insights. He’ll be signing copies of his new western novel, Shotgun

Screenwriter John Brancato (The Game, The Net, Terminator 3 and 4) is among the experts providing introductions to the films themselves.

The setting for the Film Festival could not be better: the Lions Roping Arena on North Fork Drive. There are acres of parking, the screen is big with a cover in case of rain, the sound system is state of the art, and the famous western barbecue served by the Lions Club is priced way too low for such great food. 

The Film Festival will span two days over Veterans Day weekend: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 8 and 9. Gates open at 1 p.m. both days. 

Tickets and schedule are available online at or find the link on Facebook. 

Tickets are limited and selling fast. The cost is $15 for one day; $25 for both days (children under 12 are free). No outside food or drink will be allowed and do dress warmly as it gets chilly at night!

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