Horses join the party at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Ariz. (Erin Thorburn/TNS)

Whether you’re a fan of classic John Wayne Westerns or prefer more contemporary favorites like “Tombstone,” “Wyatt Earp” or HBO’s popular “Westworld,” there’s a little something for every cowboy and cowgirl when it comes to Old West entertaining.

What better time to embrace the sticky, sweaty and wild nuances of Western-style entertaining than the summer? Find out how to lasso yourself the ultimate cowboy cookout, line-dancing bonanza, gold-panning experience and more.


There are plenty of ways to pull off an Old West, ranch-style event. One of the easiest ways to host is by inviting guests to a cowboy cookout. Take the lead from Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Ariz. Twice a week, guests can attend a cookout in the Cotton Woods camp area, complete with barbecue favorites, live music and even javelina sightings.

To host a cowboy cookout from home or a nearby open space such as a community park, Tanque Verde Ranch Sales Manager Sarah Lee recommends starting with the bar.

“You’ll want to provide beer, margaritas, and depending on what region you’re in, wine.”

One way to spice things up in the beverage department is to mimic the Tanque Verde Ranch Salsa Margarita Challenge.

“Break your guests up into teams, each at a separate table,” Lee explains. “Set the team tables around one central ingredients table placed in the middle. Provide both salsa and margarita staples such as stewed whole tomatoes, strawberries, limes, peppers and a variety of hot sauces.”

To make things interesting, Lee suggests including a “secret ingredient basket.”

“One time we provided a raw egg, Rice Krispies and a beet as mystery ingredients.”

Teams that use one of the secret ingredients receive an extra point. As the judge, you determine who wins and what the prize is.

Feeding hungry ranch goers can be fairly simple, provided that you have access to a barbecue.

“Steak, ribs, brisket and fish can all be thrown on the grill,” Lee says. “Be sure to stock a potato bar with all the fixings, alongside red-pepper mac ‘n’ cheese, ranch-style baked beans, cornbread and plenty of hot sauces.”

And of course, nothing quite says cowboy dessert like cobbler.

Although live country music is a nice touch, additional entertainment ideas for Old West cookouts can include a horseshoe-toss pit, cornhole or a carnival booth.

Booths can be constructed out of old wooden pallets or even large cardboard boxes. Several projects on Pinterest show the materials combined with red-and-white-striped fabric.

The makeshift booths can host various games, such as a goldfish bowl ball toss. Or, think about creating an Old West backdrop for selfies, complete with costumes and props.

Additional decor ideas: picnic tables and hay bales. Lee says blue-and-white checkered tablecloths are trending. Lanterns, string lights, wagon wheels and galvanized tubs are perfect additions for an authentic western ambiance.


If herding up hay bales, constructing carnival booths and gathering other Old West essentials are too much to handle on your own, consider hiring a little (or a lot) of help. Greenlight Booking in Utah helps guests by offering a whole heap of Western-themed party activities. From a rentable mechanical bull to an authentic gold miner to assist partygoers in how to pan for gold, there are a number of fun ways to bring the Old West to you.

Similarly, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas-based Lagniappe Productions provides offsite fortune telling, target shooting, line dance instruction and more for hosts seeking to upsell the Old West entertainment experience to guests.

A simple Google search will help yield a number of Western, ranch-style companies specifically suited for providing traveling entertainment in your area.

Another option is to consider a half-hosted, half-destination Western event. Perhaps you can begin by hosting an afternoon cookout, followed by a trip to a nearby horseback riding venue for a sunset ride. Or, start with a sunrise horse ride, followed by a pancake, bacon and ranch egg breakfast at your cozy ranch.

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