Ben Johnson Days to bring events aplenty to Pawhuska

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

If you think Pawhuska has been lively this spring, just wait until next week. In addition to locals and visitors trying to get a look at the handiwork of moviemakers, it will be Cattlemen’s Week.

Cattlemen’s Week is built around the annual convention of the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association, so it will come as no surprise that events such as the Cattlemen’s Association Luncheon on Friday, June 18, at the Fairgounds, the Cattlemen’s Association ranch tour on Saturday morning, and the fabled Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping on Sunday (Father’s Day) will continue to be core elements of the schedule.

The Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping is named in honor of Ben Johnson Sr., a champion rodeo cowboy and highly regarded Osage County cattleman who died of cancer at the age of 56. The steer roping is an annual anti-cancer benefit, and has become a Father’s Day treat for families.

Cattlemen’s Week has been rebranded this year as Ben Johnson Days, honoring both Ben Johnson Sr. and his son, Ben “Son” Johnson Jr., who was a champion rodeo cowboy and had a Hollywood movie career. He won an academy award for Best Supporting Actor in “The Last Picture Show.” He remained actively involved in ranching during his movie career.

Not only will there be demonstrably more happening next week in Pawhuska, there are likely to be more people participating in and watching it all. A flyer showing the Ben Johnson Days schedule lists no fewer than 15 different opportunities for Pawhuskans and visitors to town to do something stimulating that has nothing to do with the movie adaptation of David Grann’s bestselling book, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Cody Garnett, owner and developer of the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum, located at 6th and Leahy, has also been a key organizer for the rebranding of Cattlemen’s Week. The name of the museum is meant to refer to both Ben Johnsons. Garnett said last week that he has observed a surge in the flow of visitors and is convinced the summer traveling season has begun in earnest.

“We’re seeing more people every day than we’ve ever seen,” Garnett said Wednesday, June 2. The museum is also continuing to add to its holdings at a steady pace, he said. For instance, the original winner’s trophy for the Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping recently became available for display. A champion cowboy named Shoat Webster won the trophy enough times to retire it from circulation.

“We’re adding new stuff every week,” Garnett said.

The museum also continues to do podcast interviews with persons of interest – most recently with Reride Smith, an animal wrangler and stuntman for the movie that director Martin Scorsese has been filming.

Garnett had a visit on Wednesday of last week at the museum from actor Barry Corbin, who was a friend and movie colleague of the late Ben “Son” Johnson Jr. Corbin is scheduled to participate in some events at the Constantine Theater during Ben Johnson Days. He also has a role – that of an undertaker – in the “Killers of the Flower Moon” movie. Garnett took Corbin on a tour of the museum.

Among the new events being offered to the public during Ben Johnson Days will be two days of a John Israel Cowboy Trade Show. The trade show is to open at 1 p.m. Friday, June 18, at the Fairgounds. It will reopen at 9 a.m. Saturday. The show is named for the acclaimed spur and bit maker John David Israel, who hails from Wynona.

Also on Friday and Saturday, June 18 and 19, there are to be two Working Ranch Cowboys Association ranch rodeo performances at the Fairgrounds. There is to be a Rodeo Dance following each rodeo performance. The entertainment for the Friday night dance is to be the Trent Criswell Band. The entertainment on Saturday night will be country singer Luke Christenson.

Another event that is fast becoming a Cattlemen’s Week (now Ben Johnson Days) tradition is the “Uncorked” party that the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce throws. The party is set for the late afternoon and evening of Thursday, June 17.

Kelly Bland, the new executive director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce (she also continues as executive director of Osage County Tourism), said the committee making plans for the party has things firmly under control.

The event is to take place outside the Chamber of Commerce building at 210 West Main, Pawhuska. It is to begin at 5 p.m. with a mixer and art show. Dinner is to be at 7 p.m., with food prepared by the Painted Horse Saloon. Dancing is to follow. Tickets may be purchased through the Chamber of Commerce (918-287-1208). Prices will be $45 for advance tickets and $55 for those purchased on the day of the event.

The art show is to feature the creations of bootmaker Bo Lockhart, painter Cameron Free, silversmith John Knotts and painter Cristine Sundquist. For more details about each artist, visit the Facebook page of Arts & Preservation of Osage County.

So saddle up, because next week Pawhuska will be so busy you may have trouble figuring out what’s a part of the movie and what’s not.