Saddle up: Cowboy Day returns to Columbiana Feb. 19

Published 1:05 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Whether you’re a cowboy, cowgirl or just want to play one for a few hours, there’s something for you at Cowboy Day on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Several new and significant additions have been made for the third annual event, which started as a way to promote the Shelby County Rodeo the following weekend.

“We started out with a cowboy parade, but it has evolved into so much more than that,” said Dr. Stancil Handley, who is organizing the downtown Columbiana event. “Now, the parade is just a small part of the day’s festivities.”

The festivities run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The parade starts at noon. An overnight option for riders only is available. Everyone is encouraged to wear cowboy or cowgirl attire.

Vendors will set up at the former Summer Classics property, selling everything from food to cowboy-themed merchandise.

More live music has been added this year. Four bands, including the Montevallo FFA String Band and Randy Glenn’s county band, will perform throughout the day beneath the pavilion at the old Summer Classic property.

“We think that’s going to be a big addition,” Handley said of the music, adding that he hopes it keeps people around all day, instead of leaving after the parade.

Several demonstrations will be presented. The Alabama Fair Association is sending blacksmiths and farriers – and yes, Handley said, there is a difference between the two.

“They actually set up the forges and make horse shoes and such on the spot,” Handley said. “They demonstrate how to work with red-hot metal and usually shoe a horse or two.”

There will also be a natural hoof care demonstration, roping dummies for kids and adults to learn to build loops and rope calves, and a herding dog demonstration, complete with goats and sheep inside fences built by Shelby County’s FFA program.

The mechanical bull and chili-eating contest, both big hits in the past, will return.

There is no entry fee for the Wild West Chili Cook-off. Chili can be prepared onsite or beforehand at home. Judging begins about 2 p.m. Leftover chili will be served afterward, with cups and spoons provided.

A grit-eating contest has been added this year.

The parade begins at noon and is open to anything animal-driven. No motor vehicles. Last year, the parade included 181 horses and some wagons.

“I would love to have more wagons and buggies and horse-drawn vehicles in this parade,” Handley said.

There is no entry form or fee for the parade. Just show up and gather at the Baptist Association building (Dr. Nolen’s old office). Horse parking will be available downtown.

In addition to local riders, the parade has also drawn riders from several neighboring states. Organizers are making it more rider-friendly.

Four to five miles of riding trails, all accessible from downtown, have been added. Interested riders have the option of camping out overnight around a fire. Beef stew will be served, and riders can ride the trails again Sunday morning.

“We feel like we’ll draw more riders from farther distances if there’s something for them to do when they get here,” Handley said.

The 24th annual Shelby County Rodeo is the following weekend, Feb. 25-26. It serves as the primary fundraiser for the Shelby County Cattlemen’s Association.

Three years ago, Cowboy Day started as a little more than a cowboy parade to promote the rodeo. Last year, it evolved to include vendors and demonstrations. Handley said he hopes the event continues to grow and improve for years to come.

“The sky is the limit,” Handley said. “This will grow as big as we let it grow.”

For more information on Cowboy Day, contact Handley at 669-4131.