GREENVILLE — A distinguished figure from America’s Wild West will take center stage during the Annie Oakley Festival at the Darke County Fairgrounds, July 29 to 31, 2022.
Richard Best, who has portrayed Buffalo Bill for many years, has been selected to be this year’s Annie Oakley Festival parade marshal.
For Best, portraying the legendary showman has been a family affair.
“With the help of my wife, Donna, we started our stage careers in 1979, giving programs on Frontier Life, 1790s and several different programs on the Civil War period,” he said. “In 1999, we decided to go west, so with the help of two of our granddaughters, Jessica and Samantha, we put together a whip and rope act we named Black Lightning Wild West Show, because our whips were black and they struck like lightning.”
Best says he put in a lot of time and research to accurately portray his alter ego.
“William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, was the first person I read about when I started my research on the Wild West,” said Best. “Wanting to look more the part of a Wild West performer, I let my hair grow longer and turned my mustache into a handlebar mustache. The final transformation came in 2007 when a lady that booked us told me how much she really liked Buffalo Bill and asked me to look the part, so I grew my chin whiskers out into a full goatee.
By that time, I had read about a dozen books about Buffalo Bill’s life and career and found him to be the “Real Deal” as they would have put it back then. His goal was to bring the real people who really lived the life to his arena. I’ve heard that sometimes it was called an ‘exposition,’ but never a ‘show.’ His posters always simply read BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST,” he added.
Best’s knowledge of local legend Annie Oakley started when he was young.
“The first time I heard about Annie Oakley I was in the second grade,” recalls Best. “Our teachers either read or just told us about her and that she was born in Ohio. So when I was asked in 2010 to represent Buffalo Bill at the 2011 festival, I felt deeply honored to be asked to be a part of the Annie Oakley Festival, so I quickly accepted. Over the years I have truly enjoyed being a part of this wonderful festival honoring Annie Oakley and her life and career.”
The Annie Oakley Festival Parade takes place Saturday, July 30. It begins at the Darke County Fairgrounds at 10 a.m. and travels down Fair Street to Washington Avenue before reaching Broadway and finishing at the Circle.
For more information on the Annie Oakley Festival, go to annieoakleyfestival.org.