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This weekend, hundreds watched as gunfire erupted in Uptown. Men got shot, women screamed, lawmen made sure justice was served and the audiences applauded.National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the Cowboy, sponsored by Sedona businesses and hosted by the Sedona Main Street Program, brought tourists and locals to Uptown for a celebration of cowboy culture and the Wild West with skits, old-timey country music, cowboy poetry, storytelling, giveaways and activities for children.

Sedona residents don’t often come to Uptown except for festivals like the St. Patrick’s Parade, Halloween trick-or-treating and National Day of the Cowboy, and this weekend I saw plenty of fellow West Sedona residents enjoying bratwursts, burgers, fudge samples and a few minutes watching the shoot-’em skits at the Cowboy Arena off State Route 89A.

I mused with a friend of mine from Flagstaff that I can only imagine what some tourists may have thought if they strolled through Uptown this weekend not realizing it was National Day of Cowboy, instead thinking we normally have dozens of cowboys in 19th century outfits armed with six-shooters strolling our streets on horseback.

So be it — the Wild West is still deep in Arizona’s bones, perhaps more so than any other state in the Southwest.

Sedona is the birthplace of the Cowboy Artists of America, after all, and long before Sedona became a haven for young artists, retirees and New Age spiritualists, our city was a cowboy town and known worldwide as the backdrop for scores of Western films. It’s healthy to celebrate our roots as a community.

Although I feel like an Arizonan at my core, my family is originally from Montana. It is only through a fluke of my parents’ employment that we wound up in Arizona when I was a toddler, otherwise I would likely be a cowboy or rancher like my 20 or so cousins, nearly all of whom grew up around rodeos and work jobs riding horses and wearing cowboy hats as necessities rather than accessories. I don’t get back to Montana as often as I would like, but National Day of Cowboy gives me a brief taste of my own heritage.

As a state, Arizona is a jumbled collision of American, Mexican and American Indian cultures, a place where cowboys, ranchers, farmers, miners and cityfolk still pit their competing interests against each other and work to find common ground out of necessity. Life was never easy in Wild West, but the cowboy ethics of fair play, personal honor and keeping one’s word are still the best way for us all to survive and thrive in the desert of the American Southwest.

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