WILLIAMSBURG — Festival organizers have announced a casting call and dates for this year’s Old West Festival, which will take place every Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 6 to Oct. 12.
The auditions will take place noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at the Clermont County Library Union Township Branch located 4450 Glen Este-Withamsville Road.
Organizers are looking to cast all ages, both male and female, to fill a selection of roles including gunslingers, city slickers, outlaws, and cowboys, among others. There is no fee to audition and no experience is necessary, but interested applicants should be available to work weekends from Sept. 6 through Oct. 12.
There will also be auditions held July 19 and Aug. 9.
The fun-filled and history-oriented family event returns again this fall, transforming Brown County’s countryside into an authentic “Dodge City” Wild West town, time-warping visitors back to life in 1878.
This will be the seventh year for what has become Brown County’s biggest history-related festival in terms of length and attendance.
Visitors can watch Old West gun fights break out in the streets of Dodge City, or watch as authentically dressed sheriffs and outlaws brawl in the middle of town when the outlaws try to free prisoners. The performances contain smoke, gunshots, and climactic moments that keep onlookers on the edge of their seats and children wide-eyed to see more. Performances like these are just some examples of those to take place during the festival and will be performed four times a day.
And each performance has a back story, enabling visitors to follow along.
“In Dodge City, by the spring of 1876 the cattle trade had shifted west from Ellsworth and Wichita, Kansas, to Dodge City as the Longhorn cattle from Texas were driven up the western branch of the Chisholm Trail to the railroad at Dodge City,” reads a story on the festival website. “But the cowboys brought even more lawlessness to Dodge City and by 1878 the mayor contacted Wyatt Earp, who was working as a Wichita lawman. Pleading for Earp’s help, he offered Wyatt the position of Chief Deputy Marshal with unheard of salary of $250 per month.
“The city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried north of the ‘deadline’ which was the railroad tracks. The south side where ‘anything went’ was wide open. The gun-toting rule was in effect around the clock and anyone wearing a gun was immediately jailed. Soon, Dodge City’s jail was filled.”
Several fun activities will also be available for children every weekend: they can get sworn in as deputies, pan for gold, watch magic shows, saloon shows, and learn about the life of a cowhand.
They can also see puppet shows, participate in sing-a-longs, and even travel the “frontier” in covered wagons or on ponies. A 19th century steam locomotive will also be available to ride.
Bluegrass acts and musical shows will also play throughout the festival.
A big crowd-drawer — and back for his third year — will be Rider Kiesner, a Wild West Performing Arts Society World Champion Trick Roper. Kiesner will perform multiple times a day in the Long Branch Saloon.
Visitors are encouraged to dress in their best period attire as they walk through Dodge City. Period interpreters will roam the streets to pose for photos, and a variety of old-time stores will be open to sell western-themed goods, antiques, handmade crafts, and food and drinks — including ice cold beer — will be served at the Long Branch Saloon, which will also feature Miss Melody Star and her Dancing Girls. The saloon, like the gunfights, is also based on true events.
“It was during [the 1870s] that the famous Long Branch Saloon was built, and even that was an Old West tale, in and of itself,” the website reads. “It all began when a bunch of men were playing ball on the hot dry Kansas plains. Side wagers began as the cowboys played against the soldiers. Soon a much bigger wager was made that if the soldiers lost, they would provide the building materials to construct a saloon. Lucky for all, the soldiers lost the game and the building materials promptly showed up. Before long, the Long Branch Saloon was born.”
Purchased by Chalkley Beeson and William Harris in 1878, the saloon quickly became a popular establishment for the cattlemen of Dodge City.
As the organization has done in the past, each weekend of the festival will have a theme with the first weekend’s theme, Sept. 6-7, being “Cowboy Hero Weekend.” The first 1,000 children under the age of 12 receive a free cowboy hat and festival badge to help keep the peace, organizers said.
“Villains Weekend” will be the theme for the weekend of Sept. 13-14, “Romance Weekend” for Sept. 20-21, “America’s Pasttime Weekend” for Sept. 27-28, “Steam Punk Weekend” for Oct. 4-5, and “Halloween Weekend” for Oct. 11-12.
The festival Is located 1449 Greenbush Cobb Road, between Mt. Orab and Williamsburg, just off state Route 32.
General admission for the event is $12 for adults; $6 for children, six -12; and children under five are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased online. Parking is also free.
Remember to leave firearms and pets at home. The festival will be open rain or shine.
For more information or updates on this event, visit oldwestfestival.com.