Spurs click as the brown leather boots stamp on the wooden stage. With his Wrangler jeans covered by leather chaps, heavy white shirt with sleeves tucked into roping cuffs, his black silken bandana, and off-white cowboy hat, Rob Dinwoodie is the embodiment of a true cowboy.
With a crowd supported “yee-haw,” Dinwoodie’s western music trio Open Range took the O’Keefe Ranch stage July 7 to kick off the opening night of the ranch’s 9th annual Cowboy Dinner Show.
The audience nearly filled the pavilion at O’Keefe Ranch, and after a brief introduction by Dinwoodie, patrons lined up for the buffet-style steak dinner, served by Cattlemen’s Club Restaurant.
Dinwoodie is an energetic and commanding stage presence as the trio sings and tells tales of the cowboy way of life, with poetry readings by the ever popular historian, author, and cowboy poet Ken Mather weaved throughout the performance.
Open Range educates while on stage, with Dinwoodie’s tracks based on historical events as the formation of the North West Mounted Police and Gabriel Dumont, who Dinwoodie says was instrumental in cultivating modern-day Canada.
“When you start talking about Canada and the stories that made it, it’s intriguing,” Dinwoodie said.
Prior to dinner, guests had the opportunity to ride in the horse drawn BC Express stagecoach, a replica of the stagecoaches that travelled the Cariboo road during the gold rush era. Dinwoodie also taught guests the fine art of roping, culminating in a fun competition.
To honour his victory, the lucky competition winner was called to the stage.
“Does he look like a cowboy?” Dinwoodie asked the crowd.
The answer was a unanimous no, but within minutes, the roping champion was dressed in full cowboy attire, fuzzy leather chaps and all. Once he was appropriately suited up, Dinwoodie and Mather taught him to dance like a cowboy before he was released back to the crowd.
Jason and Christian Armstrong played the roles of Thomas Wood and Cornelius O’Keefe as they acted out the formation of the ranch, adding both humour and authenticity to the evening.
After dinner, Dinwoodie invited guests to sit outside under the stars to sing classic, country campfire ditties, including You Are My Sunshine and Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues.
As the trio sang, the sun dipped behind the western hills, casting a faint orange glow over the trees and fields. The intimate, outdoor show in the serene ranch setting was easily the highlight of the show, and was a lovely way to spend a Friday evening.
The Cowboy Dinner Show runs every Friday night until Sept. 1. Doors open at 5 p.m.,dinner, at 6:30 p.m., campfire session from 8-9 p.m. Tickets are $52.45 for adults, $37.75 for children 12 and under. Cash bar available. To purchase tickets, visit www.okeeferanch.ca, 250-542-7868.