Since the holiday’s creation, Bandera has adopted a celebration that appropriately honors the day while vindicating its title as the Cowboy Capital of the World. Not that the town needs any help proving its cowboy cred. After all, the instrumental “Bandera” from Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger captures the rustic romance surrounding the city; the now out-of-print western history magazine Frontier Times was started in Bandera; and Texas music legend Robert Earl Keen used to call the town home. The daily staged shootouts, the small-town feel, and the lively honky-tonks have established an Old West charm, but the surrounding dude and working ranches and a full summer of rodeos have helped preserve a genuine cowboy pulse at the heart of Bandera.
The weekend celebrations kicked off with one such rodeo — the Frontier Times Museum Ranch Rodeo. A few Lone Star beers and a front row view of rough-riding cowboy action got me fueled up for a saloon crawl of all the colorful watering holes that Bandera has to offer: Longhorn Saloon, Bandera Saloon, (the famous) Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon, and 11th Street Cowboy Bar, to name my favorites. If you’re new to town you might think the Wild West names are borderline kitsch, until you realize that those hitching posts out front aren’t just for show — you’re about to rub elbows with some cowboys.
Red Stegall was inducted into the Frontier Times Museum Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.