As part of the Willcox centennial celebration, six chuck wagon teams from across the southwest will bring their old fashioned cooking techniques and tasty grub to the Willcox West Fest & Chuck Wagon Cook-Off at Willcox’s Quail Park , May 1-3, 2015.
The West Fest & Chuck Wagon Cook-off will take visitors back in time to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of historic cooking methods of authentic 1880s-style chuck wagons and to experience life in the Old West.
Did You Know?
Willcox was called the “Cattle Capital of the Country” from the 1880s to 1930s, shipping more cattle directly from the range than any other place. In keeping with its sense of place, a fun-filled family weekend is planned with lots of events highlighting the Old West lifestyle including demonstrations, exhibits, entertainment and vendors.
Friday, May 1
On Friday, May1, the gates open at 1 p.m., and visitors can meet the wagon team members and get a close-up look at the daily life of a cowboy cook as they prepare for Saturday’s competition. There will be Dutch oven cooking demonstrations starting at 3 p.m. on Friday, but chuck wagon food will not be available for sale at that time. However, food will be available for purchase from on-site vendors. Wagon displays will be judged for authenticity between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Friday.
Then, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, park visitors can enjoy each team’s roaring camp fire, relax under the stars, listen to campfire singing and storytelling, drink hot chocolate, and roast marshmallows to make s’mores. S’more fixin’s can be purchased at the park, or families can bring their own marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. Cowboy singers and storytellers will perform throughout the evening.
The cooking competition is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 2. The teams will prepare their foods from their authentic chuck wagons and use cooking methods and utensils in the style of those used in 1880s cattle drives. Chuck wagon meals of beef, potatoes, beans, bread and dessert will be available for purchase.
Each wagon will be provided with enough food to prepare meals for 40 people.
The public can purchase a plate of chuck wagon food for $12, and the meals will be served at noon. Tickets are available from the Willcox Chamber of Commerce by calling 800-200-2272.
The main event on Saturday, May 2, is from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and in addition to the cook-off, will feature toe-tappin’ music, demonstrations and unique exhibits of Western lore such as blacksmithing, horseshoeing, branding, Dutch oven cooking, gunfight reenactments, wagon rides, and many vendors of western-type merchandise and information.
The Buffalo Soldiers will be on hand representing those African American soldiers from Fort Huachuca of the 10th Cavalry who were stationed in the area during the Apache Wars. The Tombstone Vigilantes and Marshal Bo’s Gunfighters will conduct reenactments of famous shoot-outs of Cochise County. The Mormon Battalion Encampment will have activity stations to provide hands-on, educational activity/displays to share contributions of the Battalion to the history and culture of southern Arizona.
Things To Do With Young Children
If you want to test your cowboy skills you can see how you measure up at roping a dummy steer. Activities for the kids include pony rides, wagon rides, dummy roping, face painting, and western-themed games. A ranch rodeo will also be held at the adjacent rodeo arena on Saturday of the event followed by a steak fry and dance.
Sunday, May 3
Activities conclude on Sunday, May 3 with Cowboy Church at 9 a.m. and Western Gospel Music. Following church a Chuck Wagon Breakfast will be served by the wagon teams for $10. Tickets for the breakfast can be purchased in advance at the Willcox Chamber or at the ticket booth at the event.
Several vendors will also be selling food, beverages and merchandise throughout the event, including Old Fashion Chuckwagon Soda, Ace Hardware, Old-Fashion Soda, Sanchez Horseshoe Art, Gizelle’s Soaps and Lotions, Little War Feather Indian Jewelry, High Desert Wood & Art, Rag Rugs by Rena and much more. Vendor space is still available and vendor applications can be obtained by contacting the Willcox Chamber or by downloading the application at www.cityofwillcox.org/100 and click on West Fest.
Admission, parking and most activities are free; however there are fees for all food and beverages and some of the activities.
Quail Park is located at 801 N. Quail Drive, just off I- 10 exit 340 in Willcox, AZ. Hope we see you there.