Wild West City may be located in the East, but has been recognized as a place that preserves Western heritage.
The Western-themed amusement park, a staple in Byram Township for more than six decades, was recently just one of three recipients in the country to receive a 2021 Cowboy Keepers Award from the National Day of the Cowboy Board of Directors.
The National Day of the Cowboy is a non-profit organization that works to preserve America’s cowboy culture and pioneer heritage through education, the arts, literature, celebrations, gatherings, rodeos, and other community activities.
The Fourth Saturday in July has been designated the National Day of the Cowboy.
In the words of former President Bush, “We celebrate the Cowboy as a symbol of the grand history of the American West. The Cowboy’s love of the land and love of the country are examples for all Americans.”
The Cowboy Keeper Award recognizes those who contribute substantially to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture. In addition to Wild West City, recipients this year included Jim Liles of Arizona and The STAND Foundation in Washington, D.C.
“We are thrilled to be recognized with the Cowboy Keeper award,” said Mary Benson, whose family has owned the park since the 1960s. “This is a great honor for us and is an affirmation that we are doing a good job of keeping the spirit of cowboys, pioneer heritage, and the Wild West alive and well.”
The directors noted that Wild West City is a frontier-themed, family-friendly park based on a true-to-life model of 1880s Dodge City, Kansas.
The park opened its doors in the spring of 1957, creating a Western experience for thousands of visitors over the decades. The “short-term investment” was a project built in 1956 by the American Foundation for the Preservation of the Old West. And still today, grownups who visited Wild West City as a child are delighted to bring their own children to experience the same shows and history they remember enjoying in their youth.
Among the main attractions are live action shows with reenactments continuing throughout each day, a train held up by outlaws, a frontier-style school, a horse-drawn stagecoach, and a mountain man’s camp.
The showcases a vast collection of authentic period memorabilia, including an extensive collection of Native American art and artifacts. Attendees also learn about late 19th-century farming tools, period dressmaking, blacksmithing, and more. If you break the law, you may end up in one of their circa-1890 jail cells.
Once you step inside the gates and onto the Main Street, you’re walking around a town very much like the set of “Gunsmoke,” complete with a full service saloon, candy shop, a blacksmith, and a working printing press.
For more about Wild West City, visit wildwestcity.com.
“We are thrilled to be recognized with the Cowboy Keeper Award. This is a great honor for us and is an affirmation that we are doing a good job of keeping the spirit of cowboys, pioneer heritage, and the Wild West alive and well.” Mary Benson