Spanish Fork brings the wild west to life

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Strap up them boots because Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill are passing through town this weekend, along with cowboys, Indians, mountain men and much more.

Visitors can take a walk through the legendary Wild West today and Saturday at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds, where a host of activities and exhibitions will capture the aura of the Western culture.

The Wild West Days event will include uniquely Western activities including mustang auctions and trainings, fiddling and clogging contests, cowboy songs, poetry and sheep herding demonstrations. Visitors can also test their endurance on a mechanical bull and accuracy at the shooting gallery while Dutch oven dinners can be enjoyed around a campfire. Covered wagons are also available for families or groups to ride around the grounds.

Seth Perrins, assistant city manager for Spanish Fork, said while the final show is particularly exciting, the smaller events will be just as entertaining.

“My kids will love the pig races,” he said, referring to the Swifty Swine piglet racing from Texas.

Children can also enjoy riding ponies and romping around an animal exhibit.

“The whole day has me excited,” Perrins said. “If it was in the West, it’ll be there.”

A Western Heritage Exhibit provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the history of the West.

“This is a great summer family event,” Perrins said. “Kids from zero on up will be amazed and enjoy what’s going on … and without knowing it, they’ll be educated, too.”

A Spanish Trail Mountain Man Rendezvous will feature trading tents and demonstrations for visitors to walk through and witness authentic Native American Powwow celebrations, cowboys, blacksmiths and more as they share their trades.

The rugged fun will finish off each night with the Great American Wild West Show, featuring legendary westerners Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. The performance will include stagecoach robberies, miniature mule teams, trick riders and ropers, daring cowboys and world renowned Native American dancing.

“The show will have you off your seat,” Perrins said. “It’ll be worth your time.”

Based in Branson, Mo., the Great American Wild West Show is a collaboration of talent that travels across the nation.

“It’s the best celebration of the West in the United States and it’s come to Spanish Fork,” said events coordinator Elaine Hansen. “It’s very exciting.”

The show will be led by R.D. Melfi and Barb Melfi, Colorado’s official Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley performers. The couple’s costumes are exact replicas made from referring to patterns and photographs. For 15 years, the Melfis have traveled across the country, performing and explaining the true stories behind the Western legends.

“I always loved Western history,” Barb Melfi said. “I studied and read a lot and luckily my father taught me to shoot when I was just about 7-years-old.”

The Melfis agreed the most rewarding part of performing is seeing the awestruck reactions of their audience, especially children.

“The Old West is a dying breed in most places,” R.D. Melfi said. “People are often more interested in Birkenstock sandals and Starbucks cappuccinos than history. So it’s important to show how it was back then. History should coexist with modern times.”

Tickets for the Wild West Show, which takes place at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, can be purchased at $12 for grandstand seats, $10 for adults or $7 for children. Buying a ticket for the show includes access to the event both days. Admission per day without the show is $4 for adults and $3 for children. More information about the Wild West Days event and ticket purchasing can be found at spanishfork.org.

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