PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The film, "Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs," produced and directed by Midland, South Dakota native Justin Koehler about the rodeo legend born northwest of Fort Pierre, will be named the Best Documentary Film by the National Cowboy Museum at its Western Heritage Awards night on April 14 in Oklahoma City.
"It's a huge feather in his cap," said Cindy Bahe on Feb. 28. She is director of the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre. "I just hope it's going to bring more awareness to Casey and his history."
It also should provide Koehler with some new possible backers to help him finance the film's distribution, she said.
The prestigious award will put Koehler in the same field of dreams as legendary filmmaker John Ford, and Western movie legends John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Stewart, Tom Selleck and Kevin Costner, and cowboy poet, singer and actor Red Steagall, who have received the Western Heritage awards.
The emcees at the Western Heritage Awards on April 14, in fact, include a famous old flame of Casey Tibbs: actress Katherine Ross, who will make the presentations along with her longtime husband, Sam Elliott, who also has been honored by the Cowboy Museum.
"He will probably make some joke about it," Bahe said of Elliott's possible stance on Casey Tibbs having dated Ross long ago.
Koehler, who lives in Colorado, called Bahe to tell her the news.
"The Western Heritage Award is like the Academy Award of the Western genre," Koehler said in a news release from Bahe. "It's a very prestigious award for anyone producing films, literature or music honoring the American West and the men and women who shaped it."
Koehler premiered the film last spring in Rapid City and has shown it across the nation and Canada, hitting California, Texas, New York and Georgia, he said.
Bahe said more than 1,000 attended two showings last year in Pierre in the Riggs High School theater, The Capital Journal reported .
Koehler also has shown it at film festivals.
The film includes interviews from about 30 people, including local friends and family members from South Dakota as well as celebrity friends of Casey's, such as Charlie Daniels and Steve Ford. It also includes rare footage of many bronc rides by Casey which haven't been seen in decades, if ever, Koehler said.
The Tibbs Center in Fort Pierre, Casey's hometown, has supported Koehler's project, with lots of hours of research and other help and by footing the $3,000 bill for turning historic film footage of Tibbs on old reel-to-reel formats into digital formats which Koehler could use in his new film, Bahe said.
"We have been honored to work with him over the last four years," she said. "Justin has worked feverishly on a cheap beer budget and crafted a top-shelf whiskey creation."
Rodeo champion Cole Elshere of Faith, South Dakota, played Casey in the film in several rodeo ride scenes. The outfit he wore is on display in the rodeo center in Fort Pierre, Bahe said.
She plans to be at the awards banquet in Oklahoma City, Bahe said.
Koehler still is seeking financial support to finish paying movie interests for the rights to commercially show the rare footage he has of Tibbs' many rides, Bahe said.
The attention from the Western Heritage award can only help, she said.
Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com