Joyce Faust Vassar had not been to a Stagecoach Days festival since 1976.
On what seemed to be a hot and lazy Saturday afternoon, she returned to check things out.
Vassar, who now lives in San Bernardino, grew up in Banning, and was excited to be at Dysart Park with her husband Edward.
“This used to be huge,” she recalled. Pointing to the vendors, she said, “Even at this time of day, there would have been lines for all of those.”
Pointing to wild west encampments down the hill where members of the Guns of the Round Table were preparing for an hourly old west reenactment, she said, “See how they’re dressed. Everyone — all the merchants in town leading up to Stagecoach Days — would have been dressed like that, promoting this event.”
She had been looking forward to returning to Stagecoach Days “all year long.”
The Vassars happened to be hanging out during the slowest part of the early afternoon, as attendance had not picked up yet for the evening’s rodeo.
They bought some food from Pitmaster’s Outdoor Barbecue and drinks from the beer garden and sat and listened to Ricky Diaz, a musician who performs with the band Troubled Minority.
More than a dozen members of Diaz’s family were on hand to support him.
Vassar fondly recalled that her brother Larry Faust, who used to deliver papers for the Record Gazette, used to work the rides for Stagecoach Days.
Willy Boatwright and his girlfriend Andrea Likins, recent transplants to Banning, also enjoyed a late lunch and sat down to listen to Troubled Minority before sitting through a couple of Guns of the Round Table shows.
“Now that we live here, we’ve been seeing advertisements everywhere, so we thought we’d check it out,” Likins said. “It seems like a fun way to spend a Saturday.”
Fishing buddies Karen Johnson of Riverside and Charlene Youngren of Cherry Valley were also out on Saturday afternoon, waiting for the wild west reenactments to begin.
“This is our first rodeo,” Johnson said. “Well, it’s our first rodeo together. I’ve been saying that I want to go for years” to check out the rodeo at Stagecoach Days.
While it was a few hours out, she and Youngren were looking forward to it — and the dance that would follow.
Gabrielle Campbell, co-vice chairwoman of the Stagecoach Days Committee, was pleased with turnout throughout the weekend.
This year, rather than charge general admission, the committee simply charged for parking, and separate admission for the rodeo, and visitors paid for carnival rides à la carte.
The Inland Empire-based country band Shotgun Jefferson was a huge draw, according to Campbell, drawing in fans Thursday through Saturday evening.
About a dozen spectators watched members of three wild west reenactment teams Saturday afternoon perform little skits, including shenanigans from a group called Guns & Garters, the local Border Renegades, and the Deguello Gunslingers, who came out from Yuma, Ariz. to participate in the pioneer reenactments.
Those shows were coordinated by Guns of the Round Table.
Saturday morning close to 100 entries were signed up to wind their way down Ramsey Street, featuring grand marshal Bill Ruehle.
Thursday evening events officially kicked off with the changing of the guard for the Stagecoach Days queen and court, and the competition for the Whiskerino and Hatterino contests.
Recent Banning transplant Lisa Schulze was winner of the three Hatterino contestants.
For the Whiskerino, the winners out of more than 20 contestants who had signed up for the event to grow out their beards in a two-month timeframe: Butch Tamulonis, who won a tie-breaker with Chad Brinton, was deemed “The Scruffiest”; Juan De La Fuente grew out “The Longest”; Brody Pippenger gently grew “The Softest”; Banning City Manager Doug Schulze’s beard was declared “The Sexiest”; first place for Team effort went to the Banning Sportsman Club; and Chris Carper earned the title of “Mr. Whiskerino” for 2019.
Wednesday evening Habitat For Humanity and the San Gorgonio Pass Rotary Club honored Norma Thomson of Banning as Grandparent of the Year, treating her and her immediate family to a spaghetti fundraising dinner at the community center; and Tuesday night festivities kicked off with the 1st Street Dance.
Sunday morning Cowboy Church was led by Hope Unlimited Church pastors Jerrid Hermann and his son Blake.
Co-vice chairwoman Campbell was impressed with the city’s willingness to step up and help out with the festival this year.
The city kicks in in-kind services, with a strong police and Citizen Volunteer Patrols, and provided additional bleachers and budgeted wrought iron fencing to Dysart Park, a commitment for naming Banning Stagecoach Days a “signature event.”
She complimented the contributions of City Manager Doug Schulze, who she credited for having been “out there three weekends in a row doing heavy labor to help putting things in and installing things for six hours a day” prior to Stagecoach Days weekend, Campbell said. “He worked his butt off to help us out and really stepped up.”
Committee Chairwoman Amy Pippenger told the Record Gazette that the festivities went well, and that they are still assessing numbers of visitors, and decisions for 2021 will not be made until later in the fall (plans for 2020 have already been made, Pippenger said).
Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at email@example.com , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.