Here's an opportunity to wake up and get your yee-haw on. On the fourth Saturday in July, the Empire Ranch Foundation celebrates the National Day of the Cowboy at the historic Empire Ranch in Sonoita, Arizona. This year’s celebration is Saturday morning, July 23, from 8-noon. It’s a free, fun family event.
One of the three 2021 Cowboy Keepers Award Recipients, Arizona's Mr. Jim Liles will be a special guest at this year’s National Day of the Cowboy celebration. Liles curates the National Bareback Riding Hall of Fame and Museum in Congress, Arizona. The National Day of the Cowboy’s Cowboy Keeper Award was created to recognize those who demonstrate a substantial contribution to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture.
Here’s a video interview with Jim Liles.
Art for the 2021 Cowboy Keeper Awards was donated by self-taught artist, Linda Carter Holman. Ms. Carter Holman provided, “Question,” her bright, whimsical image of a cowgirl and her horse, as the eye-catching backdrop for the 2021 award.
Free, docent-led walking tours of the Empire Ranch House start Saturday morning at 9, 10, and 11. The ranch house is a 22-room adobe and wood frame building, which dates to 1870 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re interested in taking one of these fact-filled tours, meet at the Visitor Contact Station Porch. Please be aware that the terrain around the Empire Ranch headquarters is primarily dirt with uneven surfaces that can be challenging for walkers, wheelchairs, and some mobility scooters. Most of the rooms at the historic Empire Ranch headquarters are wheelchair accessible through the front breezeway entrance; the public restrooms are wheelchair accessible.
Dressing for success
Think about dressing for success as you get ready to visit the Empire Ranch and its vast Arizona outdoors. It’s a good time to choose cowboy boots or close-toed shoes over sandals and flip-flops. Exposed human tootsies are no match for the rock-hard hooves of an equine that does not mean to (but could) step on you.
The weekend weather forecast is beautiful and hot in late July. Add sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to your ranch-visiting gear too - that way you only return home with horse kisses, appreciation for many cowboy-related skills, myriad cellphone pics, and happy memories, versus a sunburn, dry eyeballs, and a wind-chapped face.
To learn more about the Empire Ranch Foundation, be sure to visit the ERF Outreach table.
- Ranching tools by Bill Schock
- Reata making by Dick Schorr
- Saddle-making by Brad Faulkner
- Horse’n Around Rescue Ranch
- Groundwork horse training by Regi Richter, Arizona Horseman’s Challenge Participant
Food, Drink & Shopping:
A food truck will be onsite serving breakfast burritos, tacos, and more.
BlackJack Citrus Infusions will be serving ice-cold lemonade
The Gift Shop will be open with lots of new items to purchase.
Here's a list of the vendors & nonprofits:
Buckland Abbey L.L.C.—Author Doug Hocking
Directions from Tucson
Go east on I-10 and exit at Route 83 (scenic highway)
Proceed south on Route 83 approximately 18 miles to the paved road on your left between milepost 40 and 39. Watch for the brown Historic Empire Ranch sign on the right side of the highway.
Turn east (left) onto the paved road and follow for 3 miles to the Empire Ranch House on your left.
Directions from Sonoita
Go north on Route 83 for 6.6 miles, to the paved road on your right between milepost 39 and 40. Watch for the brown Historic Empire Ranch sign on the right side of the highway.
Turn east (right) onto the paved road and follow for 3 miles to the Empire Ranch House on your left.
The historic Empire Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for more than 140 years. Its rich history includes successive ownership by two prominent ranching families, two corporations, and finally the federal government on behalf of the general public. Arizona’s Empire Ranch: A Prominent Past and Promising Future is an 18-minute video presentation on the history of the Empire Ranch from its founding in 1876 to present-day efforts by the Empire Ranch Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management to protect and preserve historic buildings.
In 1988 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired for public use and preservation the lands that now form Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, including the intact buildings and much of the land holdings of the historic Empire Ranch whose founding dates to the 1870s.
In 1997, a group of private citizens formed the Empire Ranch Foundation as a volunteer 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Working in partnership with the BLM, the mission of the Foundation is “To protect, restore and sustain the Empire Ranch historical buildings and landscape as an outstanding western heritage education center.”
The Foundation, in partnership with the BLM, provides funds and organizes volunteers to support and complete numerous preservation projects and educational activities at Empire Ranch.
The Empire Ranch Foundation is managed by a 15-member volunteer Board of Directors. Its 2021-2022 leadership includes: Faith Boice, president, Marti Conroy, vice president, Jean Olmsted, secretary, and Christine Haaksma, treasurer
The Empire Ranch Foundation has many events and volunteer opportunities during the year. Be sure to follow its activities on Facebook, tag them there with your National Day of the Cowboy photos and sign up for its informative newsletter on the website.