File photo by Darla Hussey

Three days of activities celebrate the town’s heritage

By Don Nelson

The theme of the 73rd annual Winthrop ’49er Days celebration is “Wild Ride,” which is somewhat metaphorical in that you don’t really have to ride anything to enjoy the three days of events that begin on Friday (May 11) and continue through Sunday.

But you can if you like. This year, the celebration offers horseback rides and a mechanical bull to test your saddle-staying power. Or you may already be part of the Ride to Rendezvous, the annual trail adventure that concludes Friday morning with riders and wagons making their way down Riverside Avenue.

But walking, spectating and relaxing are all that’s really required to enjoy Winthrop’s reflection on its Western heritage. Sampling a variety of dining options, listening to live music, doing a little dancing, and watching real backcountry packers at work are also encouraged. Activities are either in downtown or at nearby Mack Lloyd Park.

There are costs associated with the horseback and mechanical bull rides, with the meals offered and with Saturday night events at the Winthrop Barn, but everything else is free.

At noon on Friday, the 20th annual Ride to Rendezvous wagon train arrives in downtown Winthrop. Ride participants will be finishing five days of horseback travel and old-fashioned camping in the valley’s backcountry trails.

Ride to Rendezvous is sponsored by the Washington Outfitters and Guides Association (WOGA). Members of the guide association will have informational displays set up in Mack Lloyd Park on Saturday and Sunday, if you are looking to book your own dream adventure.

At 7 p.m. Friday, the action moves inside to the Winthrop Barn for the coronation of ’49er Days Grand Marshal and Grand Lady, Don and Sara Ashford, and the event’s junior royalty, Queen Isabel Salas and Princess Katie Labanauskas. Local music legend Hank Cramer will emcee the goings-on, and the West Coast Country Heat Line Dancers will offer free line dancing lessons. There will also be a best-beard contest.

Arrive early Saturday to take in the West Coast Country Heat Line Dancers showing off their best moves on Riverside Avenue, starting at 10:30 a.m. The Vigilantes will also entertain with their hilarious wild western shoot-out scenarios. Don’t worry about stray shots, it’s all in fun.

The annual parade begins at 11 a.m., with more wagons, horses and mules joining floats, bands and other eclectic participants. Who knows what you’ll see? The horseback and mechanical bull rides begin after the parade. Proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warriors organization.

Also after the parade, Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe will sponsor games including an egg toss, gummy bear spitting contest and the always-entertaining pie eating contest.

Beginning at noon, WOGA members will gather for their 30th annual Packer’s Rendezvous at Mack Lloyd Park. There will be crafts and merchandise vendors, packing displays, and opportunities to test your skills at tomahawk throwing and old-fashioned archery. The Methow Valley Snowmobile Association and the Winthrop Kiwanis will offer brats, dogs and barbeque pulled pork sandwiches until 2 p.m. or until they sell out.

In the band shell, award-winning western music artist Lauralee Northcott will emcee a talented line-up of performers who will entertain with cowboy songs, western music and poetry beginning at 1 p.m. Button prize winners will be selected by the junior royalty at 5 p.m.

WOGA’s outfitter dinner, featuring a taste of Dutch oven mountain cooking and a steak barbecue, will start at 5 in the park. Cowboy music, poetry and campfire stories will follow in the Winthrop Barn at 7 p.m. The day’s events conclude with a western dance in the barn, beginning at 9:30 p.m.

On Sunday, WOGA hosts a Mother’s Day breakfast from 8-10 a.m. in the park. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors are invited to participate in a western auction and cheer on the professional outfitters competing in the State Packing Competition. You won’t believe how quickly and efficiently these packing pros can wrap up a campsite’s worth of gear and load it on a mule.

For information, call 996-2125, email, or visit or

The 2018 ’49er Days celebration is presented by the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Outfitters and Guides Association. Sponsors include Aspen Grove, Blue Sky Real Estate, Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty, Confluence Health, Freestone Inn, KOZI Radio, Methow River Lodge and Cabins, KTRT The Root, Pardners Mini Mart, River’s Edge Resort, Ryan & Kuehler Attorneys at Law, Three Rivers Hospital, Thunderfoot Riding & Training, Miss Kitty’s Old Time Photo and Donna Martin Dressmaker.


For more on this year’s ’49er days festivities, check out these related stories:

2018 ’49er Days Schedule of Events

’49er Days logistics: getting there, getting around

’49er Grand Marshal & Lady put down roots in the Methow

Crowning achievement: The story of this year’s ’49er Days Junior Royalty