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Ellensburg (Washington) February


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February, 2007
Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering  Ellensburg, Washington

report and photos by Doris Daley, with additional photos by Mary Frelich 


Ellensburg, Washington: The Place to be on Presidents Day

Ellensburg, Washington: The festival might have taken place in the great North West, but fans came from as far away as Georgia, California and even Canada to attend the third annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering in the historic old rodeo town of Ellensburg, Washington. And judging from the enthusiastic response of the crowds, many will be returning to Ellensburg on Presidents Day weekend for more great cowboy entertainment in 2008.

One of the unique twists of this festival is that the day sessions take place simultaneously at eight venues sprinkled throughout the city. Museums, libraries, furniture and computer stores, restaurants and the Moose Lodge all host hour-long poetry and music sessions. Town merchants love this format and in fact many restaurants report that the Spirit of the West cowboy festival brings in more business than the Labor Day Rodeo.

Four great main stage shows took place over the weekend at the state-of-the-art new concert hall on the Central Washington University campus. A fifth main stage dinner show took place Sunday afternoon at the
Fairgrounds Dance Hall. A testament to the wonderful weekend crowds was their terrific attention during the dinner show. Line-ups, taste tests, and table seatings could have been a distraction, but (despite the fabulous Dutch Oven beef supper catered by Three Peaks Outfitters) all eyes and ears were directed to the stage to enjoy the performances.

photo by Doris Daley
In the Green room: Curly Musgrave, Juni Fisher, Joe Hanna (almost visible
on left), Tim Johnson, Don Edwards, and Alan Halvorson (Rockin HW)

Hosting and performing throughout the weekend were headliners from Texas, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Alberta, Tennessee, and of course the great state of Washington. Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, R. W. Hampton, Cowboy Celtic, Wylie and the Wild West, Juni Fisher, Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave, Doris Daley, Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue, the Dreyer Brothers, Horse Crazy (Lauralee Northcott, Emele Clothier, and Nadine Van Hees) and Rockin HW appeared on Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night, Sunday matinee and Sunday evening main shows. 

photo by Mary Frelich
Don Edwards

Many of the above also rolled into town a day early to take cowboy poetry and music to Ellensburg and area schools. A great roster of local poets and musicians performed during afternoon slots, making for lots of variety and terrific entertainment at the downtown venues. Performances from Andy Bales, Kevin Barnhart, John Doran, Geno Harper, Stan Kvistad, Jerry Laskody, Dave Lundy, Greg McCarty, Dave McClure, Duane Nelson, Shiloh Sharrard, TR Stewart, Dick Warwick and Paul Wilson were well received by the discerning, appreciative crowds.

photo by Doris Daley
Horse Crazy (Lauralee, Nadine, Ermele) and Joe Hertz of Cowboy Celtic

Built into the Saturday morning program is a fun (and efficient) autograph session unique to this Gathering. About ten 8-foot tables are stretched out in a long line in the Dance Hall: all the artists take a seat behind the
tables. Every poster, program and buckaroo scarf that needs to be autographed gets passed from entertainer to entertainer; several fans join the fun by getting their personal posters and programs signed at the same
time. This is a great, unrushed opportunity for visitors to meet each artist.

photo by Doris Daley
Doris Daley and Matthew, a budding young fiddler from Hood River

One of the goals of the SWCG is "to help preserve the history of the old west." The festival is partnering with sculptor Paul Crites, whose limited edition bronze (appropriately entitled "Spirit of the West") is helping to
fund a life size monument that will grace an Ellensburg public park. One of the best cowboy art and gear shows in the west runs as part of the festival on the Fair Grounds. Everything from vintage and custom saddles to antler art, clothing, custom hats, fancy watches, fine art, home décor, candy and western stationery was on offer. The trade show alone is worth the trip to Ellensburg.

Hats off to Diana Tasker, Boots Wickstrom, Beth Bender and a remarkable team of board members and volunteers who put the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering on the list of Western Festivals Not to be Missed.

photo by Mary Frelich
Curly Musgrave



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