Western Women Shined in the Arts and Arena at the Sixth Annual Art of the Cowgirl Main Event

Hundreds of people funneled into the Merck Animal Health Arena at Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre in Queen Creek, Arizona, after the Art of the Cowgirl main event on January 21. They sat in rows of white chairs set up before a stage. Photos of the event’s founder, Tammy Pate, reeled on the big screen, awakening memories of friendships, family and horses. After five days of festivities, the friends and family of Pate, who passed away less than a month before the event from cancer, gathered to celebrate through stories, photos, songs and fellowship her vision, passion for the Western lifestyle, and a life well-lived.

“Every time I look at [this photo of Tammy], it’s like that girl is saying, ‘Come on, let’s go, we’ve got dreams to dream, we’ve got work to do,’” Judy Wagner addressed the crowd. A longtime family friend, Montana Silversmiths’ Brand and Western Lifestyle Advocate, and emcee at the celebration, Wagner pointed to an image of Pate riding her great red roan horse “Smoke” with the big Montana sky and mountains in the background. “Anybody who knew that girl, [she] was a worker. Not only that, but she was a big dreamer. She taught us the power of a dream.”

Pate spent a decade forming her vision and assembling her team for Art of the Cowgirl. The event debuted in 2019 and has grown exponentially in activities and participation since then. This year’s schedule offered full days of education and entertainment, from hands-on workshops and riding clinics, to horsemanship demonstrations and exciting competitions, including the Wrangler All Women’s Ranch Rodeo, presented by COWGIRL Magazine; the Kimes Ranch World’s Greatest Horsewoman, presented by Western Horseman; and the Merck Animal Health Breakaway Roping, presented by Kimes Ranch. Spectators had a unique opportunity to watch the handiest horses, horsewomen and stock dogs in action, while also observing makers practicing their trades and artists painting pieces in the Quick Draw competition, sponsored by Cowgirl Artists of America, to be auctioned off with other donated items to benefit the Art of the Cowgirl Foundation, which raises funds for the fellowship program.

The fellowship program was Pate’s purpose for creating Art of the Cowgirl, explains her daughter, Mesa, who serves as the horse sale and competitions director. She envisioned connecting aspiring artists, makers, ranchers and horsewomen with masters in their trades for one-on-one instruction without barriers such as geography, finances and family responsibilities. Proceeds from Art of the Cowgirl functions and private donations make it possible to award a handful of fellowships each year.

This year’s event had a few new elements, including an art installation; painted canvas range tipis sponsored by RA Brown Ranch; the Cowgirl Fiesta with food, fellowship and live music; and the Maker Experience, sponsored by Rio Grande Jewelry Supply in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the latter, approximately 100 participants, ages 5 to 70, with little to no experience, tried their hands at leathercraft, painting and drawing, stamping a copper bracelet and creating permanent jewelry.

“The Maker Experience achieved what I hoped it would,” says coordinator Savanna Simmons. “People got the chance to create art at Art of the Cowgirl, regardless of their skill level or experience. It allowed them to hammer, paint and visit, which was an enriching communal experience for the instructors and participants.”

The Art of the Cowgirl Elite Horse Sale, presented by Western Horseman, was held on January 20. The invitational sale featured 29 versatile horses and prospects, including consignments from handy youth, 8 to 16 years old. The sale totaled $679,900 and averaged $30,904.50. The high seller in the Cow kid Select was Kickapoo Spirit Of A Warrior, or “Mango,” a 2017 Welsh gelding consigned by Haddie Clark. Onetime Prescription, a 2020 Quarter Horse gelding consigned by Lisa Kittel of Syringa Bend Stock Horses, topped the Select Prospects at $17,000, and Kelsey Love Thomas had the high-selling Elite Horse, Thunderbird Love, a 2017 American Paint Horse Association gelding that brought $82,000.

Love had another reason to celebrate, winning her third World’s Greatest Horsewoman title aboard Kit Kat Jerrie. The win secured her an entry in the National Reined Cow Horse Association World’s Greatest Horseman™ competition being held February 24 at the Kalpowar Quarter Horses Celebration of Champions in Fort Worth, Texas. She was also on the champion ranch rodeo team, Espuela, with Kylie Carter, Whitney Hall and Stormy Sill.

Filled with memorable moments, this year’s event, more than ever, reflected Pate’s dream and honored her vision and legacy. Moreover, Jaimie Stoltzfus, COO and Executive Director of the Art of the Cowgirl Foundation, says it was a gathering of a community Tammy had created throughout her life, and each person brought something unique to her life and the event.

“What stood out to me was everyone coming together and bringing their best selves to compete, participate as a vendor, musician or presenter, or come as spectators. There was a feeling of community and camaraderie and truly enjoying all parts of the event and supporting the mission,” says Stoltzfus. “It’s the people that come and inspire and encourage others—that’s what it is all about, and this year it was more tangible than ever.”

With the 2024 main event in the books, the Art of the Cowgirl team has already started planning for 2025. Before that, however, they will hold a special gathering October 13-15 at the Cross Bell Ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, offering various workshops and riding clinics that benefit the Art of the Cowgirl Foundation.

“Tammy brought in the most amazing people to her team to help execute her vision,” says Stoltzfus. “It’s going to be our honor to continue it, build and enhance it, and make her proud.”

For forthcoming details on the January 2025 main event, fellowship applications and the Oklahoma Gathering, visit www.ArtoftheCowgirl.com. If you’d like to honor Pate’s memory, her family asks that donations be made to the Art of the Cowgirl Foundation at https://artofthecowgirl.com/about-the-fellowship/.

About Art of the Cowgirl

Founded by Montana horsewoman Tammy Pate in 2018, Art of the Cowgirl is a five-day gathering that celebrates cowgirl artisans and their contributions to the Western lifestyle and culture through educational workshops, discussions and demonstrations, ranch rodeo and the World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition, a trade show and the Elite Horse Sale. Proceeds from the event fund educational fellowships that unite emerging artists with masters in their respective fields.