Colonial Williamsburg is the eastern historic district and living-history museum. The West has the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, a 27-acre museum that includes 55 historic structures. Dating from the late 1700s to the mid-20th century, all the buildings were dismantled then reassembled here, and 30 of its structures are between 100 and 170 years old. They are arranged chronologically, which makes walking the one and one-half mile path connecting them a look into how the West developed and grew.
Most of the buildings were originally residences but there is also a bunkhouse, a church, a smokehouse, a schoolhouse, utility structures and there’s a collection of windmills. A highlight is the 6666 Barn, built in 1908 at the monumental 6666 Ranch. Recently bought by Taylor Sheridan, the producer of “Yellowstone,” the Four-Sixes Ranch has a storied history as an ultimate Texas ranching center.
One of the most eagerly anticipated annual events at the museum is Candlelight at the Ranch, held for the 44th time this year on Friday, December 9th and Saturday, December 10 from 6:30 – 9 p.m. Visitors walk along the luminaria-lined path to see holiday scenes recreated in 15 historic structures, including the 1838 El Capote Log Cabin, 1886 XIT Ranch headquarters, 1888 Matador Half-Dugout and 1909 Queen-Anne style Barton House. Visitors will have maps pointing the way to each structure. The structures are decorated and lighted for the holidays; some with candles, some with oil lamps or kerosene lanterns, all according to the lighting technology available when they were new. Evenings are full of live music, kettle corn, cocoa and thousands of visitors. All is entirely accessible – the path is wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. Admission is free, but savvy revelers buy parking spaces close to the entry, and the event is a major fund-raiser for the museum. Last year, donations dropped into buckets added up to over $12,000.
While Candlelight at the Ranch is an eagerly-anticipated event, the museum is open all year, so winter is not the only time to visit. Special exhibits and events include chuckwagon breakfasts and a Summer Stampede Western art and gear show. All are listed on the website. The museum provides information about the history of cattle breeds and other ranching lore. It celebrates cattle with a collection of 19 life-size range Longhorns sculpted, cast in bronze and placed at the entrance of the museum to commemorate the Texas Trail Drive Era from the 1860s to the 1880s. Future plans for the National Ranching Heritage Center include the recreation of a saddle-making shop and a spur-making shop.
Cowboys are a huge part of the fantasy lives of growing children. For many adults, the fascination continues into adulthood. This the place to come to indulge in fantasies, and to learn facts about, the wild west.