Don’t be surprised if you see people dressed up in mountain man clothing and Native American garb this weekend. It’s September and in Tooele County that means the return of the Festival of the Old West.
The festival will be held Sept. 25- 27 at the Tooele City Complex. It will include the 16th annual Mountain Man Rendezvous and a gem show, as well as some Native American dancing.
Mountain Man Rendezvous organizer Blair Hope said it’s going to be a big event this year.
“This is basically a community event to share the reauthentication and the reenactment of a traditional mountain man rendezvous,” Hope said. “Our goal is to share with people how our ancestors lived. It teaches our children the history of our ancestors, and what’s happened in our country. That’s the goal and the objective and the second is to have fun. It’s a great family event.”
As part of the festival, Native American dancing will make a comeback this year, after being absent from last year’s festival. “We’re not doing a full-fledged powwow, but we’ll have Native American dancing demonstrations,” Hope said.
The dancing will be available Saturday and Sunday.
Also as part of the rendezvous, there will be kids games and activities, candy cannons, period-correct authentic trade goods, a Dutch-oven contest, frying pan toss, a primitive dress contest, knife and hawk throw, couples skill competition and primitive camp contest.
The black powder shoots will be ongoing throughout the weekend as well, which is the primitive way of having a shooting competition, Hope said. Four different rifles will be the prizes for that competition. Roughly 40 vendors will be on hand this weekend, including mountain man traders, food and crafters.
There will be a trader’s row, in addition to plenty of food vendors offering Dutch-oven cooking, Navajo tacos, barbecue and more.
On Friday morning, elementary students from schools in the area will be visiting different stations at the rendezvous to learn about different trades. During the rendezvous there will also be trade blankets for kids and adults, which Hope described as probably the most authentic and primitive way to trade goods.
“Back in the day nobody spoke the same language and the currency wasn’t the same, so what they did is the trade blanket,” he said.
He explained people would sit around the blanket and one person would throw in an item they wanted to trade. If someone else was interested in a trade, they would put an item on the blanket they thought was worth that value. When the person who threw in the first item has selected what they desired, the two would shake hands and the deal would be done.
Hope said the public is invited to come to the event, which is free and includes all demonstrations, kids and adult games.
Rendezvous participants will be decked out in authentic pre- 1840s dress, and while festivalgoers can dress up as well, they are welcome to wear regular clothing.
People come to participate in the event from all over Utah and the West, including from Oregon, California, Wyoming and Idaho.
“We try to put a great event on for the whole family,” Hope said, “but we’re also a close group of friends and it’s the last one of the year in this area. So it’s time to say goodbye until we start up again in the spring. Because of the camaraderie that we really have with them we draw a lot of people.”
Hope expects anywhere from 3,500 to 5,000 people to attend the festival this weekend.
“Come one, come all,” Hope said. “It’ll be big, big this year.”