Sonoita, AZ

Come to the Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival in Sonoita

Janet de Acevedo Macdonald

The Empire Ranch Foundation (ERF) Cowboy Festival held Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6, 2022, in Sonoita, Arizona, is the Empire Ranch Foundation’s annual public event celebrating Arizona’s Western history and culture. The Cowboy Festival celebrates 21 years in 2022. More than 3,000 visitors come to the ranch yearly for this rain-or-shine event. Guests enjoy history and culture demonstrations, ranch life exhibits, and activities for children, along with numerous skilled artisans and speakers Western heritage demonstrations, arena and livestock exhibits, cowboy cooking, and Western music and entertainment. A $20 parking donation per vehicle is requested.
2022 ERF Cowboy FestivalPHOTO CREDIT: Empire Ranch Foundation
B Troop at the ERF Cowboy FestivalPHOTO CREDIT: Nichole Damian Photography

Be cowboy/cowgirl ready
Horse-loving visitors may choose to book a 45-minute trail ride for $40. Riders must be age 8 or older. The first ride on both Saturday and Sunday begins at 10:30 am, with the last ride starting at 2:30 pm.

Dress 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 or riding boots over sandals and sneakers or at least close-toed, leather shoes over soft slip-ons, or flip-flops. Exposed human tootsies are no match for the rock-hard hooves of a horse that does not mean to (but could) step on you.

Fingers crossed for a weekend weather forecast of beautiful temps for early November. Dress in layers, drink water regularly, and add sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to your ranch-visiting gear too - that way you only return home with horse kisses, myriad cellphone pics, and happy memories, versus a sunburn, dry eyeballs, and a wind-chapped face and a dehydrated body.

Trail ride spaces are limited and may not be available on the day of the event. Visit this link to reserve your space now.
Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival B Troop demonstrationPHOTO CREDIT: Nichole Damian Photography
Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival roping demonstrationPHOTO CREDIT: Lori Faith

Stop by the Silent Auction/Raffle Tent and bid on the special items donated by ERF supporters.

GREAT LUNCH GRUB is brought to you by:
Fiesta Filipina (Filipino & Asian Cuisine)

Las Vigas Steak Ranch (Burgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Fries)

Lazy KJ Ranch/Bisbee’s Homegrown Barbecue (Ribs, BBQ pork sandwich, BBQ quesadilla, BBQ nachos)

Montano’s Chili and more (Carne Asada tacos, Birria tacos)

STEAK FRY (Saturday, 5:30 to 7 pm)
EZ Cattle Company Cow Camp Café & Chuckwagon is serving up an 8 oz. Strip Steak OR Portobello Mushroom with small potatoes, beans & coleslaw. $25/plate. Live music will accompany your meal. TICKETS ARE LIMITED. Follow this LINK for more information.
Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival Dia de Lost Muertos tributePHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Hooper

Demonstrations, Conversations & Music
There will be many performances during the weekend. See the Empire Ranch website for complete information:

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 mileposts 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.

Its history
The historic Empire Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for 140+ years. Its rich history includes successive ownership by two prominent ranching families, two corporations, and finally by the federal government on behalf of the general public. Its history is briefly summarized below by ownership era. 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.

Its mission
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 historic Empire Ranch land holdings 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 McCabe, president, Marti Conroy, vice president, Jean Olmsted, secretary, and Christine Haaksma, treasurer.

Get Social
The Empire Ranch Foundation has many events and volunteer opportunities during the year. Be sure to follow its activities on Facebook and sign up for its informative newsletter on the website.
Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival wagon & hitched pair at watering tankPHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Hooper

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I am continually fascinated by all there is to do, see, eat & drink in Arizona, especially in Cochise County.

Hereford, AZ

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