Festival at Empire Ranch, Sonoita, Arizona — Part 1

Saturday, November 3

“You be good boys.  I’ll be back later.”

Reggie and Roger good-naturedly receive their goodbye pats at the gate of our chain-link fence.  They are accustomed to taking on the responsibility of guarding our home while I’m away.

Reg and Rog know I will return.

Their comfy dog beds are set in the sunshine at the end of the covered patio.  A bowl with fresh water is nearby.  This is their favorite spot for soaking up the rays and also for “keeping a look-out.”

With a final wave to the boys from the Perfect Tow Vehicle, I set off for . . .

The Cowboy Festival!

This is going to be fun!  It’s perfect fall festival weather. . . cool but not chilly, no wind, clear, blue sky, lots of sunshine. . . . I want to take lots of pics of horses . . . .  

The PTV carries me across the familiar, golden grasslands of Cochise County in southeastern Arizona.  Beyond Sonoita, I turn at the blue festival sign, entering Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.  (You may recall that the crew and I camped here last winter and previously.)

Smiling volunteers direct vehicles toward the ranch entrance.

There’s no charge for the festival, but a donation of $10 is expected at the parking lot. Once the PTV is settled into her place, I grab my camera and set out across the field that is already well filled  with vehicles at 10 a.m.

I anticipate a long walk.

At the very moment I reach the dirt lane that goes to the ranch, a free ride appears and I climb aboard.  (No, that’s not me in the photo.  I’m behind the camera!)

What a great beginning!

Disembarking at the entrance, another smiling volunteer welcomes me and hands me a program of the days events and sponsors.

After taking the above photo, I make a short detour before walking under the welcome banner to the festival grounds.

I see something interesting going on over by the horse trailers . . .

Oh, the horses are practicing their dance steps!

What a treat to watch them and away from the crowd!

Absolutely gorgeous. 

With no instruction apparent from the rider, the horse practices the dance routine.

What a delight to watch this magnificent animal move!

An announcer from the festival grounds gives the word the show is about to begin.  The dancing horses and their riders respond to their cue.

Away they go!

I gotta’ tell you . . .

The young woman in the photo above — the one in blue — has the most engaging smile. Later, during their performance, that smile lights up the arena!

Of course, I follow the horses through the entrance and hurry to find a vantage point from which to take more pictures.

Glancing at my program, I see the group listed as “Charros y Modelos de Tucson.”

The U.S. flag  and the Arizona state flag . . .

. . . and the flag of Mexico.

See what I mean about her smile?  

Radiant!  So is the horse!

Leaning on the corral fence along with the crowd I watch and photograph the dancing horses and the young caballero who shows us his lassoing skill.  I have a bunch of pics of that which I’ll publish in the next post.

Let’s wander around the festival!

First thing I come upon is the adoption display for wild horses and burros.

I learn that the Bureau of Land Management partners with the Arizona Department of Corrections to ready the animals for adoption and to involve the inmates.  Many of the inmates have no experience with horses or burros.  They are trained how to train the animals.

As anyone who has developed a loving relationship with an animal knows, the daily care and interaction can have a positive and profound influence on one’s life.

Next is Horsen Around Rescue . . .

Also known as Horse’n Around Rescue Ranch:  “Where Horses Can Be Horses.”

And where burros can be burros, too.

I overhear the woman tell a festival-goer that this type of burro is the largest type.  This burro IS big.

Aww, don’t be shy . . . 

“It’s okay.  You can open your eyes now.”

The Horse ‘n Around Rescue display illustrates a few of the success stories.

People and animals are here from Coronado National Forest to give a demonstration of “Mule Packing/Crosscut Saw.”

I don’t catch the demo.  Stuff happens simultaneously at the festival.  I also miss Ballet Folklorico (darnit).  I hope to catch their performance at next year’s festival (if I can pull myself away from the horses and burros!).

Vendor booths are always fun to browse.

Boots for the stylin’ cowboy and cowgirl:

A good hat is required:

Tooled leather accessories:

Ooh, I’d love to take one of these pots home, but how could I choose?

Won’t find a dish like this one down at the thrift shop!

Good ol’ Raggedy Ann.  She never gets old.

Here’s a unique piece of fabric art:

There are more booths, including food, of course — Mexican and barbeque choices, kettle corn, dutch oven cobbler . . . .

You can grab a kiss here:

The folks from Tombstone!

(That corset is a marvel of engineering.  Goll-ee.  Scary.)

Of course, the Tombstone bunch can’t resist a few, good hangings.

That’s all for now . . . I’ve gone on too long already.

More festival fun in the next post!



The links below will take you to products that readers recently ordered from Amazon.

You can also use these links to enter Amazon to browse and do your own shopping. Thank you!  — Sue

Men’s Watch Hat
Solar Pathway Lights
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Solar Bird Bath Fountain Pump
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Junior Space Explorer Inflatable Space Shuttle

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45 Responses to Festival at Empire Ranch, Sonoita, Arizona — Part 1

  1. Annette says:

    Hi there!

  2. Anne says:


  3. Marilu in Northern California says:

    Hi Sue,
    What a fun day! Thanks for taking us along.

  4. Nora now in Dauphin Island AL says:

    What fun!!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, lots to see…the pottery is very pretty!! NC had lots of that and we went to some places every so often and got a few small pieces. I think the ones you showed here are very well done!!

  6. laura says:

    I love your posts……….and I love that you are happy and have a home base from which to explore. Looking forward to the next series of photos. Hugs to dogs too.

  7. Kat and Cookie Dog in NYState says:

    We are still following you RVSue and Crew. Kat and CookieDog from NYState

  8. Julie Green says:

    This is awesome!!! Great post and photos.
    Jool from N.Tx

  9. Renee from Idaho says:

    Wow, Sue. You’ve been busy here with your blog! Thank you! I love reading your postings and seeing all the wonderful photos.

  10. Pat in R\ says:

    Now this post makes me miss AZ a little. I have a few pieces of pottery I’ve collected over the years. Some from AZ, from OK, and even some from a rez near Rochester. Also some silver Hopi overlay bracelets. I love the artwork, wish I could have afforded a couple of Navajo woven blankets when I lived in AZ.

  11. Dawn in NC says:

    The horses 🐎 and the arts and crafts are beautiful! What a wonderful festival! The dogs are happy, lying in the sun and guarding home. You’re happy, going to a festival with lots to see and do. It looks like a lot of fun. My personal weakness would be the pottery. It’s hard for me to pass up beautiful hand crafted pottery. Almost all my coffee mugs are hand crafted. It’s a small piece of art that I can afford. Can’t wait to see/hear the next edition!

  12. weather says:

    That sounds like a festival I would really enjoy, too, Sue. You must have had a great time there, what a fun day(and post)! The horses, burros, costumes, performances, vendors booths, food, really just all of it, Wow! I already have boots, leather goods, and a few pieces of pottery and art pieces I like, so I could resist the ones you showed in your photos. But Raggedy Ann would have probably ridden in the jeep’s front seat on our way home from there 🙂

  13. Pam and Maya in Ajo for the winter! says:

    I love, love, love all these beautiful horse photos! Thank you Sue!

  14. Linda in NE says:

    The same thought about the engineering of that corset was running through my head. 🙂
    That black horse with the rider carrying the Arizona flag is simply spectacular!
    Did you end up buying one of those pots? It took me about five seconds to pick mine! Too bad I wasn’t actually there.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Linda… No pots for me. I appreciate the artwork, but too much for me to spend and feel comfortable about it. 🙂

  15. Marcia GB in MA says:

    What a perfect way to spend the day. I love seeing all the horses and craft tables. Wish I could see the horse dancing. I hope you have a video of them!

  16. Barb George says:

    Wow! That looks so fun!

    Happy in Hoquiam,

  17. Kaye says:

    Kaye from Oregon
    Thank you for sharing your day with us at the festival !!! I loved the pictures !!! Felt like I was there enjoying it too.

    When you are gone do the doggies have a small doggie door they can escape & get inside the house if a coyote or some javelinas confronted them ?? Up here people have been confronted by coyotes in residential areas ( outer Portland & surrounding areas) when walking their dogs. I have to watch my dog whenever she is outside in the yard (it backs up to a greenspace) after reading on a web site covering our area of some peoples little dogs getting taken in their own backyards. Enjoy the rest of your weekend Sue !!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Kaye,

      The crew has access to the house. I’d rather not describe it on the internet. 🙂 Thanks for caring…

      • Lucy says:

        Hi RVSue, I was also concerned about your boys been outside the’ house alone, for i figure coyotes may be in those areas where U live. My home is in southern California & is in a gated community, we are close to the mountains & during the dry months of summer & fall they come down the mountains in packs searching for din-din. When they are hungry they jump the fences, walls, barrieres and they parade across the village looking for food in the form of our kitties & doggies…we all are very careful & supervise are pets closely. Nice outing you had, love the pictures of the horses, love the black horse, I had one exactly alike when I was a kid. My regards, Lucy. Keep on having fun !

  18. Gingerita says:

    Great pics! Looks like a fun day out with gorgeous weather!! Thanks for sharing:)

  19. Rover Ronda says:

    Beautiful! I love horses! Great pictures Sue! So colorful and you captured the fun.

  20. Columbus Calvin says:

    Hi, Sue! Thanks for the reminder about Las Cienegas (and, by extension, Buenos Aires NWR). I’d like to go back to Buenos Aires and see Las Cienegas one day when the Border Patrol is less scary.

    I’m going to contradict one thing you said. “Won’t see a dish like this one down at the thrift shop!” After you found that pretty and valuable swan, you ought not to say that. I’ve seen a couple of those.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Maybe you’re right, Calvin, about what is at the thrift store. I have a story to tell relating to that. 🙂

      Don’t let uneasiness about the Border Patrol hold you back. The individuals I’ve met have been regular folk just trying to make a living like anyone else. As for the drug runners, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. The danger, as I see it and which statistics reveal as minimal, is encountering a drug deal in process and that can happen anywhere.

      • Columbus Calvin says:

        Ordinary people don’t bother me, whether or not they’re different from me. I used to hitchhike a lot, for example. No real problem but one in hundreds of rides, and that one didn’t develop into any drama. I live in a low-income neighborhood that is very diverse, and I have never been robbed or whatever it would be. I’ve had a brush with the Border Patrol. Nothing harmful happened, but I know dangerous people when I encounter them.

  21. Denise - Richmond VA says:

    “That’s enough for now…I’ve gone on too long already.” Never!!

    Hi, Sue,

    Thank you for sharing your photos and description of the Cowboy Festival! It is easy to see how one may miss seeing parts of the festival, with so many shows/displays going on at the same time. So much to experience! It looked like fun! Next year maybe you will be able to see some of the events you missed this time. It would be hard to get past just enjoying the beauty of the horses, burros, and costumes. Horses….horses dancing….crafts…food…oh, my! Where to look first?! I am glad you had an enjoyable afternoon. I look forward to your next post with more pictures and details! I wonder if you chose to bring one of the beautiful pottery pieces home. 🙂

    Have a good evening, Sue! We “fell back” with the time change last night. The extra hour of rest was welcome! Gracie was wanting her dinner an hour early – it may take her a few days to get acclimated. Right now, she is snuggled on my lap snoozing. One of the best feelings in the world! All is well! Sending you, Reggie, and Roger lots of love and hugs from me and Gracie pup! 🙂 xo

    • Denise - Richmond VA says:

      I collect Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls. Finding lovingly handmade versions is like finding treasure! At least one of those dollies would have been coming home with me! 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Denise and Gracie pup!

      No, I didn’t bring any pottery home. $50 a pot and up is out of my range. 🙂

  22. What great fun!! I love spending time with horses and burros and you really saw some beauties. I agree her smile is very engaging. Love seeing young people embracing their culture and being part of something creative. Also good to see all the adoption and rescue efforts being included. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your fun day.

  23. Becky in NJ says:

    Hi Sue- what a fun day you had at the festival!
    I spent some years riding and training horses in dressage, so I have a real appreciation for the “dancing” horses you enjoyed. It is a combination of hours of training and practice, combined with very subtle signals from the rider that should be invisible to the observer.
    Also nice to see that the BLM wild horse adoption program was represented. Just recently there has been talk of destroying many of the wild horses if the adoptions are not successful. So I really hope people will step up!
    Looking forward to your next installment-

  24. Paula in Indiana says:

    What beautiful horses and crafts! This festival looks like so much fun. I’m looking forward to seeing more!

  25. Barbara (Nashville) says:

    The cowboy festival looked fun. You were right about the young lady carrying the Mexican flag, she has a beautiful smile. I love handmade pottery, but is it just too expensive for me. I would have liked the fabric art more, I think, being a quilter. Can’t wait to make the new curtains for my redone kitchen.
    Glad you enjoyed your day.

  26. Oh Sue, you knew I would LOVE this one….. Thanks, Chuck……

  27. Don in Alaska says:

    Thanks for the bringing back some fun memories of SoAz. Of course, this property only came into the public domain in 1988.
    My memories are of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, a bit further north in Tuscon…

    I still have my Arizona Hatters “rop’n hat” I purchased in 1970. Quality products.

    What a fun party…

    If folks are interested in watching the performance as you did, several videos are found on the web. Use the same title of this post.

    Thanks again!

  28. MB Dillard says:

    OMG! What fun! I love going to events like this. And I would have had a hard time choosing a piece of pottery too! I can look at those kinds of things for hours…………

  29. Sandi Stewart says:

    What a great post. As always, you post such insightful stories that one feels they were actually with you. I must ask though if you splurged on what had to be fabulous barbecue, cobbler, or yummy kettle corn? I would not be able to resist the temptation 😁 hugs

  30. Terri in Tx., for now says:

    What great photos! Love the horses, too! I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but I have my doubts as to whether any if that pottery was actual Indian pottery. If it was, it was awfully cheap! Probably from Mexico. But, it was pretty. That is one wildlife refuge I plan on visiting when we move further west! Take care, RV Sue!

  31. Cynthia in San Clemente says:

    Loved these photos of the festival – you made it feel almost like being there! So glad you got out and had some fun – I bet the boys were excited when you got back home. I got my own dose of horses this last weekend – we were finally able to take our RV out for 4 days and went to Pala in San Diego county. There is a boys farm of some type next to the RV park and they had bison and horses in pastures next door – not in the same field! I went through 3 large bags of carrots feeding the horses each day. On the first day, Lucy and Sam made fools of themselves barking at the “big dogs” but by the third day they had calmed down and were just curious.

    I went back and read your Halloween post … I hate to say it but I think Shakespeare was right when he said, “First thing, let’s kill all the lawyers” in Henry VI (and I’m a lawyer!) They have contributed to the ridiculous and incessant litigation that has eliminated a lot of the childhood fun we used to enjoy, and the lessons we learned while having that fun. My mom was a bit like yours – although we did have bandaids, one of her constant sayings was, “Don’t give it a voice” whenever we whined or complained or blamed. That motto has served me pretty well into my 60s!

    Looking forward to the next installment of the Festival!!

  32. jazzlover says:

    What a great change of pace Sue! One of my favorite things to do when we were living there was experience the fairs and festivals of this area. The Pima County Fair is a prime one, but my favorite was the spring and fall festivals at the Monastery in St David. Such a nice venue, beautiful crafts, good food. Not too big, just right for some of us. There was another one just outside of Benson in the woods so to speak whose name escapes me at the moment. It was in a small area of artist type folks who opened their homes to show their crafts. Remember there was this wicked neat house that had been built/added on to over the years by those who lived in it or stopped by to visit those folks. If anyone remembers the name of this festival please jump in. The name was, I believe of the area itself but I could be mistaken. Great animal shots and the burros are neat. Thanks for mixing it up.

  33. Janet says:

    For some reason, I have started receiving your blog and I am sooooooooo happy. Thank you for sharing your adventures and all of the other things that create them. And Rog and Reg are perfect companions.

  34. Denise - Richmond VA says:

    Hello, fellow blogorinos!

    Just wanted to share…

    Amazon has temporarily dropped the $25 minimum purchase required for free shipping. By using one of Sue’s Amazon links, she will earn a small commission on your purchase at no extra cost to you! How is this done? Access Amazon by clicking on one of the recent purchases that Sue lists in blue at the bottom of each blog entry. Order as usual, and Sue will get credit for your purchase. Win-win! 🙂

    Amazon has some early Black Friday sales listed on their home page. I don’t necessarily need to order Christmas presents, but plan to take advantage of the free shipping to order some necessities, like socks. 🙂

    Not to stress anyone, but do you realize Thanksgiving is two weeks away?! 🦃

  35. Rhodium in SW VA says:

    I love your pictures of the burros. They always seem so calming. I feel I can’t appreciate the horse shows because I don’t know how hard it is to train them. Maybe when people are not looking they naturally prance around, although I doubt it.

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