Western cowboy myth and reality converge in music and film in Torrington

Bright Frontier Films shooting projects with Rex Allen Jr. and local cowboy families

Rex Allen Jr. performs Saturday in Torrington (contributed photo).

A 65-float parade, a filmed live concert by American singing cowboy, Rex Allen Jr., and a free pancake breakfast are all part of Torrington’s Frontier Days celebration on Saturday.

The hamlet of 170 people, 32 km east of Olds, is keeping itself on the map in ways that go well beyond its internationally known Gopher Hole Museum.

Filmmaker Tim Lasiuta doesn’t believe his hometown of Torrington has to prove its viability — he thinks that’s a given, considering that several young families have moved to the community recently, as well as retirees from Calgary.

Saturday’s celebration — which culminates with the filming of Allen Jr.’s live stage performance — is more a case of a small community asserting its belief in itself, added Lasiuta. “The take-away is: Believe in yourself because of what you can do as a community… This is a community that can grow and raise money… and it’s not afraid to try something different.”

Torrington parade kicks off at noon with an impressive 65 floats and 24 horses — up from 50 floats in 2016. It will be preceded by a free pancake breakfast from 9-11 a.m., and followed by free family activities and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. screenings of Rex Allen vintage cowboy films at the Silver Willow Senior Centre.

Lasiuta has invited Allen’s son — Western Music Association Hall of Fame-er, Rex Allen Jr. — to sing at 7 p.m. Saturday at the hamlet’s Gorr Memorial Arena. It’s being billed as his last Canadian concert. (Proceeds from the $30 ticket sales will support the local Agriculture Society).

Allen Jr., 69, whom Lasiuta met last year when he was featured artist at the Daines Country Music Pic-Nic, is the progeny of Hollywood’s last singing cowboy and Republic Pictures screen star, who took the reins after Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

But Allen Jr. is also a star in his own right. In the 1970s and ’80s, six of his western songs climbed the charts, including Can You Hear Those Pioneers?, Teardrops in My Heart, Ride, Cowboy, Ride, and The Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys. Allen Jr.’s 1984 composition, Arizona, became the alternate state song of Arizona.

“I’ve always liked cowboy stories,” said Lasiuta, whose company, Bright Frontier Films, is shooting a biography of Allen Jr., including shooting footage of his Saturday Torrington concert.

The project has Allen Jr. and David Armstrong on board as executive producers, and has attracted producer Mark Rodriguez, who has worked for NBC, and cinematographer Paulo Cascio, who worked on Criminal Minds and other shows.

Lasiuta, the associate producer, believes there’s nostalgic interest in Western music, as well as stories about a simpler time “when Roy Rogers could kiss his horse and you’d believe it.”

Among the other projects Bright Frontier Films is tackling is a series of cowboy stories, as told by old ranching families, including the Daineses and Volds of Central Alberta. So far, Jack Daines has recounted hitching rides when he was 15 to compete in rodeo events at the Calgary Stampede, said Lasiuta, who plans to enter the docs in film festivals, and eventually sell them to networks.

Tickets to Allen Jr.’s concert are available by calling 403-396-1773.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

 

Jack Daines tells some true cowboy tales in the latest project by Bright Frontier Films (contributed photo).

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