Western Heritage Award winners wrangled top honors in Oklahoma City Saturday at the 53rd anniversary celebration. Hosted by superstar singer and songwriter Toby Keith, the nearly sold-out event was held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Coveted bronze sculptures of a cowboy on horseback called “Wranglers” were presented in literature, music, film and television, with multiple categories in each division.
First presented in 1961, the Western Heritage Awards are given to honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works represent the significant stories of the American West.
“These awards help preserve our heritage. It brings people from all over the nation together here in Oklahoma. We’ve seen a growing appreciation for Western art ... it really is an expanding genre with a lot of sophisticated collectors,” explained Wyatt McCrea, museum board member.
McCrea is carrying on a long tradition, as he is the grandson of Joel McCrea, actor of great renown and board member for 20-plus years.
Celebrity presenters included Lynn Anderson, Michael Martin Murphey, Dean Smith, Red Steagall and Anita La Cava Swift, John Wayne’s granddaughter, to name a few.
The seven categories in the literary competition included Western novel, nonfiction book, art book, photography book, juvenile book, magazine article and poetry book.
Outstanding Western Novel was “The Son” by Philipp Meyer, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Outstanding Nonfiction Book was “Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression” published by University of New Mexico Press.
Outstanding Art Book went to Karl Bodmer’s “America Revisited: Landscape Views Across Time,” co-authored by Robert M. Lindholm and W. Raymond Wood, published by University of Oklahoma Press.
Outstanding Photography Book was awarded to Andy Wilkinson, of London, author of “A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette,” published by University of Oklahoma Press.
“It was so great working with University of Oklahoma Press,” said Wilkinson, who was promoting Guy Gillette’s photography when he was asked to write the book himself.
Outstanding Juvenile Book was written by Nasario Garcia, author of “Grandma’s Santo on Its Head/El Santo Patas Arriba de me Abuelita: Stories of Days Gone By in Hispanic Villages of New Mexico,” published by University of New Mexico Press.
Outstanding Magazine Article was written by Western historian Dan Flores and titled “Coyote: An American Original” published in Wild West Magazine, April 2013. This was part of a book proposal that was recently signed and will be coming out in 2016 titled “Coyote America.”
Outstanding Poetry Book was “Brushstrokes and Balladeers: Painters and Poets of the American West,” edited and published by Caroline Joy “CJ” Hadley of Range Magazine and Range Conservation Foundation.
The Western music awards were divided into three categories: new horizons, original composition and traditional Western album.
Mikki Daniel, age 17, is the youngest person ever to be awarded a Wrangler. She is the New Horizons winner for her entry, “Gotta Be A Cowgirl,” produced by Marvin O’Dell.
Canadian recording artist Eli Barsi won Outstanding Original Western Composition entitled “Portrait of a Cowgirl.”
Don Edwards won Traditional Western Album for “Just Me and My Guitar.”
Film and television
The six categories for film and television are theatrical motion picture, television feature film, docudrama, documentary, television news feature and fictional drama. Only theatrical motion picture, documentary and fictional drama were awarded this year.
The Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture award went to “The Cherokee Word for Water,” inspired by the true story of a rural Cherokee community trying to bring running water to their families. The feature-length film was produced by Paul Heller, Laurene Powell, Kristina Kiehl and Charlie Soap, directed by Charlie Soap and Tim Kelly, and written by Louis Rubacky, Tim Kelly and Garry Miranda.
An examination of the horse racing industry took the Outstanding Documentary Award with “Behind the Gate.” This film was produced by Mark and Daryle Ann Lindley Giardino, directed by Mark Giardino and Jack Lucarelli, and narrated by Joe Pesci. In appreciation, Daryle Ann Lindley Giardino said, “You can never take the cowgirl out of the girl.”
The Outstanding Fictional Drama award honored “Hell on Wheels — One Less Mule,” an American Western television series on AMC telling the story of the Union Pacific Railroad and its mobile encampment as it moved across the Great Plains. This drama was produced by John Wirth, Mark Richard, Chad Oakes and Mike Frislev.
Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award
Linda Davis, ranch owner and board member presented the Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award. Named in honor of the museum’s founder with the criteria for dedication to the ideals of individualism, honesty, humility and integrity, the award went to B. Byron Price. Price, who holds the Charles Marion Russell Memorial Chair, is Director of the University of Oklahoma Press and is the Director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma.
Hall of Great Western Performers inducted included Katharine Ross, an actress best known for her roles in “The Graduate” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
“It’s an incredible honor to be included. I’m the ninth woman to be inducted to the Hall of Great Western Performers,” Ross said. Her marriage to Sam Elliott makes them the only married couple to both be inducted to the Hall of Great Western Performers.
Doug McClure was also inducted to the Hall of Great Western Performers as the “cowboy” in the NBC Western television series, “The Virginian,” as was Jean Arthur, a major film actress in the 1930s and ’40s.
Lt. General Charles W. Brown, dubbed the “cowboy general,” Robert C. Norris, the original “Marlboro Man” and long-time museum board member, and John Goodman were inducted into The Hall of Great Westerners, a unique and enduring national memorial that recognizes the heart and spirit of our Western heritage.
Dedicated to the ideals of individualism, honesty, humility and integrity, the awards bear witness to an evolving American West.