What began as a small film festival has evolved into one of Scottsdale's signature events, drawing tens of thousands of people each year to experience the Western lifestyle.
The Bison Communities National Festival of the West begins 10 a.m. today at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road. It continues through Sunday.
The festival features Western music, mock gunfights, cowboy poetry and storytelling, and more than 250 vendors of Old West items.
"This event is very rich in Western culture," said Mary Brown of Scottsdale, who founded the festival in 1991. "My original concept was a film festival for Westerns, but it has just grown to all sorts of things since then."
New to this year's festival is a Western fashion show, Native American Experience and a log home show.
In addition to four stages of continuous live Western music, the festival includes a concert by Michael Martin Murphey at 8 p.m. Saturday at Brett’s Barn at WestWorld. Tickets are $25.
Academy Award-winning actor Jack Palance, known for his role in "City Slickers," will receive the 2004 Cowboy Spirit Award during a ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday in recognition of his work in Western films.
This year's festival will also have a major emphasis on food with three cook-offs and dozens of vendors, Brown said.
"We are going to have a lot of cooking going on. Come hungry because it's going to be food galore," she said
The festival annually attracts about 60,000 people from around the world, Brown said, and is ranked on lists for the Top 100 Events in North America and Top 100 Events in the Country.