Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

Events and Festivals

Gathering Reports


We invite folks to send in reports about gatherings.

Following are reports about events that 
are linked from event listings on the Events Calendar. 

(Some links may go out of date.)

2009 Reports

July - August

This is Page Three


Butte (Montana) July


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July, 2009
National Folk Festival  Butte, Montana

  photos by Jeri Dobrowski; see many more photos from this event  here at her web site.


An estimated 120,000 people enjoyed the the arts of more than 250 performers and craftspeople who were a part of the 71st National Folk Festival in Butte, Montana, in July, 2009. The many stages offered music, poetry, and dance, and there were additional workshops, children’s activities, folklife demonstrations, marketplaces, and a variety of ethnic and regional foods.

The festival kicked off with an American Indian Horse Parade, which included popular Crow cowboy poet and horseman Henry Real Bird,  some of his family members, and other riders representing Montana tribes:

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
James Real Bird and Jack Real Bird

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Henry Real Bird

There was every sort of music, from Texas fiddle to Cheyenne drummers to Finnish kantele music to Telecaster guitar. Performers came from across the North America, including Magic Slim & The Teardrops (blues musicians from Chicago, Illinois), Sierra Hull & Highway 111 (bluegrass music from Byrdstown, Tennessee), Ethel Caffie-Austin Singers (gospel singers from Charleston, West Virginia), Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited (Zimbabwean Chimurenga music from Eugene, Oregon), Chuck & Albert (Acadian music from Prince Edward Island, Canada), BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet (Cajun music from Lafayette, Louisiana) Jeff Little Trio with Wayne Henderson (Blue Ridge piano trio from Boone, North Carolina and Rugby, Virginia), Massive Monkees (breakdance from Seattle, Washington), Otrov (Tamburitza music from Pittsburgh & Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Chicago, Illinois, Pride of New York (Irish music from New York and Baltimore, Maryland), Los Macondos (Colombian Vallenato music from New York and Florida), Wilho Saari (Finnish kantele music from Naselle, Washington),  Bill Kirchen & The Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods with George Bedard (Telecaster guitar music from Dunkirk, Maryland), Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano (Mexican Mariachi music from Los Angeles, California), Garry Harrison & The New Mules (Illinois old-time music from Bloomington, Indiana), Melody of China (Chinese music from San Francisco, California), Bob French's Original Tuxedo Jazz Band (New Orleans jazz from New Orleans, Louisiana), Texas Shorty (Texas fiddle from Rockwall, Texas), and North Bear (Northern Plains drum group from Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Lame Deer, Montana).

Folklorist Elizabeth Dear spearheaded the organization of the festival's separate Montana Folklife Area, which celebrated the culture of the horse in Montana and the West. Activities included, as described by the organizers, "folklife demonstrations, displays, exhibits, performances and narrative presentations." Among the demonstrations were "horsehair hitching, rawhide braiding, hat making, saddle making, boot making, blacksmithing, trick roping, quill and bead work, pack demonstrations and more."

Cowboy poets and Western musicians, including Randy Rieman, Henry Real Bird, Jim Brooks, and Wylie Gustafson did double duty, in the arena and in demonstrations, as well as on stage with performances of poetry and music.

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Wylie and Whiskey

Josh Kohn, National Council for the Traditional Arts, and Ella, Wylie Gustafson's border collie

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Wylie Gustafson

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Jim Brooks and Randy Rieman

There were additional poetry and music performances by Paul Zarzyski, DW Groethe, Sandy Seaton, and others.

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Paul Zarzyski and long-time friend and former bullrider Tudo Stagnoli

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
DW Groethe

A First Peoples' Marketplace featured 19 of the region's finest American Indian artists, and the Montana Arts Marketplace included 25 juried Montana artists. Among the Montana artists were Cecil Andrus, of Cody, Wyoming (whose wife, Maryanne Andrus is Co-Director of the Cody Institute of Western American Studies at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and was long involved with the Cowboy Songs and Range Ballads event).

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Cecil Andrus

Sean Kochel ( of Potomac, Montana displayed his traditional cigar-box guitars:

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski
Sean Kochel

The event, with free admission for all, was a great place for families and children:

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski

The big Saturday evening show featured the "Titan of the Telecaster," Bill Kirchen & The Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods with George Bedard. Atop the Continental Divide at 8,510 feet, the 90-foot tall Our Lady of the Rockies statue looks over Butte:

photo © 2009, Jeri Dobrowski

The National Folk Festival, a project of the National Council for Traditional Arts, is held in a different location every three years. The Butte festival, which was held first in 2008, marked the first time in many years that the festival was held in west of the Mississippi, and the first time it was ever held in Montana. Next year's event takes place in Butte July 9-11, 2010.  Read more about the Butte festival at the official web site

See more of Jeri Dobrowski's photos from the 2009 National Folk Festival here at her web site.


We invite you to send in reports about gatherings and other events.



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