Wild West comes to Ironton

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2003

Many young boys and girls dream of growing up to be cowboys or cowgirls. Steven and Caitlin Wall and the rest of the Wyndham Mountain Ranch group live that dream.

The Walls, hailing from Kissimmee, Fla., are part of the traveling Wild West show from the Catskill Mountains in New York. The group uses a combination of props, horses, a Texas longhorn bull, American black bears and mountain lions to educate people about animals and a forgotten way of life.

"We are probably the last age of kids growing up playing cowboys and Indians before video games came around," bull rider Steven Wall said. "I always wanted to be a cowboy."

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The group traveled 800 miles to be a part of the Tri-State Mega Festival & Fair, the first stop on their three-month summer tour. As soon as the Ironton event is over, they will hit the trail for Bridgeport, Conn.

For Caitlin, a trick rider with the 13-member troop, rodeos and the cowboy lifestyle "runs in the family." Her father worked with the Wild West show for years, and she got her first taste at age 13.

"It is an educational show that is trying to teach people about cowboys," Caitlin said. "It is all educationally based around real history."

The traveling group, which they all agree is more like a family, focuses on teaching children about the importance of animals and how to treat them.

"America was built on teamwork with animals," said Michael Sandlofer, director of the Wyndham Mountain Ranch. "Agriculture, civilization and transportation all owe so much to the animals that made it


Four-year-old Austin Gibbs of Ironton took his first ride on a horse at the Wild West show. He said horses was his favorite part of the Mega Fest, and that maybe he would like to be a cowboy one day, too.

Austin's father, Dan Gibbs, said that they came Wednesday night as well and enjoyed the music and the attractions for all ages.

"I think there is plenty here for kids," he said. "Hopefully, they will start doing this every year."

Unlike Steven Wall and Austin Gibbs, not everyone in the group grew up wanting to be a cowboy. Joe Farrell went to college just like many other youth, except Farrell went to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Venice, Fla.

For the past eight years he has used his background as a clown to perform comedy routines with the group.

"The Wyndham Ranch is neat because it is like the old days of the 1800s," he said. "People take a lot of stuff for granted. It is good for kids to realize that life was a lot harder then."