CANYON CITY – With guns slung low around their hips, several competitors rode into town ready for a showdown.
It felt like Canyon City’s 1862 gold rush days, but it was just a bunch of friendly folks gathering for the July 11-13 Cowboy Fast Draw Association’s Oregon State Championship.
This is the fifth time the competition has been held in Canyon City.
“It’s a fun event, and I think everyone enjoys it,” said city recorder Corey Rider. He said several residents who hadn’t attended the event before made it down to the city park to see it.
“It was a busy time downtown,” he said.
Hosting the competition were the Idaho Shootists and Great Western Fast Draw Club, with Canyon City resident Ray Thielke heading up the event.
Using single-action .45 caliber guns with wax bullets and primer as propellant, competitors line up side by side, as many as eight at a time.
When a red light flashes on, shooters grab their guns, aiming at metal targets which record the shooters’ times.
Kicking off the Wild West-style event were local shooters in a “celebrity” competition held last Thursday.
Hands on their holstered guns, six in the local lineup included John Day Mayor Ron Lundbom, Deputy District Attorney Matt Ipson, Undersheriff Todd McKinley, Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett, John Day Police Officer Mike Durr and School District 3 official Karla Averett.
Surviving the first elimination rounds were Lundbom, first place; Ipson, second; and McKinley, third.
Lundbom, a lefty, took home a trophy with a best time of .781 in the local celebrity rounds.
The Oregon State Championship drew 63 shootists from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Nevada, California and Canada.
Three of the shooters were local residents, including Thielke aka “Oregon Drifter” and Dan Vandehey, “Man from Canyon City.”
The winners of the state competition were Marshall Cooper of California in the men’s division; “Miss B. Haven” of Caldwell, Idaho, in the women’s division; and “Spud” – Haven’s son – in the youth division.
Next up for shooting events is the Oct. 2-5 World Championships of Cowboy Fast Draw in Fallon, Nev.
Thielke said that while the Canyon City event was a success, numbers participating in the various shoots statewide and nationwide are down.
He hopes to generate more interest in the sport, and is willing to introduce the sport to others.
The local event is “a lot of work, but I enjoy doing it,” Thielke said. “The shooters enjoy it, and I know it helps the John Day area.”