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 page. 

(Some links may be out of date.)

2005 Reports

September - December

(see January-February reports here)
(see March-May reports here)
(see June-August reports here)


Hot Springs (South Dakota) September

Enterprise (Oregon) September

Alzada (Montana) October

Emmett (Idaho) October

Valentine (Nebraska) October  two reports

Heber City (Utah) November

Albuquerque (New Mexico) November  separate page

Monterey (California) December  separate page


See links to all gathering reports since 2000 here


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Back on home . . .


November, 2005
Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair  Heber City, Utah

story and photos by Yvonne Hollenbeck, additional photos by DW Groethe and Glinda Penney



Without a doubt, Director Tom Whitaker and his hard working staff played host to huge crowds that attended the 11th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair at Heber City, Utah, on a lovely fall weekend in early November, 2005.  The snow-capped Mount Timpanogas served as a backdrop for the beautiful valley setting - a valley rich in western history and filled with America's top western entertainers and craftsmen as well as an estimated 10,000 enthusiastic fans.

Kicking off the festivities, on Tuesday evening, November 1, was a Cowboy Steak Dinner and Concert at the Midway Town Hall with entertainment by
Pat Richardson, Gary McMahan, Sourdough Slim, Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave, and hosted by Waddie Mitchell.

photo by DW Groethe
Jess Howard, Ernie Sites, Sourdough Slim, Glenn Ohrlin, DW Groethe, and Pat Richardson

The following evening found the Heber Valley Railroad's Cowboy Poetry Express chugging through the mountains with loaded passenger cars being entertained by Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave, Jess Howard, Ernie Sites, Glenn Ohrlin, DW Groethe, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Sourdough Slim, and Pat Richardson.  The balance of the weekend was jam-packed with concerts, continuous music and poetry: Buckaroo Fair (which included over 40 western booths); Horseshow Extravaganza; Mountain Man Trader's Camp; World Famous Eddie Deen BBQ; Buckaroo Dance; and Jam Sessions.

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Glenn Ohrlin celebrated his birthday with the help of friends from 
Pony Express of Buena Vista, Colorado

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
DW Groethe, Glenn Ohrlin, and Pat Richardson

photo by Glinda Penney
Pat Richardson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Sourdough Slim

In addition to the outstanding lineup listed above, folks were entertained at various venues by the ever-popular Bar J Wranglers, Don Edwards, Sons of the San Joaquin, Riders in the Sky, Baxter Black, Rich & Valerie O'Brien, Red Rock Wranglers, Richard Espinoza, Jeff Carson, In Cahoots, Stampede, River Road Band, Gary Russell, Blue Sage, Brent Kelly, the incredible UVSC Philharmonic Symphony, and Wylie and the Wild West, who also provided music for the buckaroo dance.  All theatre performances were hosted by the always-popular Waddie Mitchell.

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Stampede!  (David Anderson, Terri Taylor, and Steve Taylor) 

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Pat Richardson and Baxter Black

The final events, on Sunday, included a brunch hosted by the Bar J Wranglers and a well attended Cowboy Church service.

This Heber City event has fast become one of the premiere Cowboy Gatherings in America and will undoubtedly be one you will not want to miss. A tip-of-the-hat is certainly due to Director Tom Whitaker and his hard working staff for its success as they begin plans for their 12th Annual Gathering to be held  November 7-12, 2006.

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Event organizer Tom Whitaker

For more information, see


October, 2005
14th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days  Valentine, Nebraska   (two reports)


first story and photos by Yvonne Hollenbeck


Fourteen years ago when Willard Hollopeter and I started the Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days Celebration in Valentine, Nebraska, little did we know that it would soon become one of the most successful gatherings in the country.  In fact, little did we know. Because this community lies in the heart of cattle country (fact: Cherry County, Nebraska, is home to more beef cows than the entire State of
Wyoming) and the cow town of Valentine was searching for ideas for a fall celebration, we felt it was the ideal spot to hold a cowboy poetry gathering.  From some of the first events, which included Buck Ramsey, Tom
, Skinny Rowland, Ernest Johnson, Howard Parker, Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn, and other great entertainers, the fans have never turned back.  More and more folks gather each fall, and even when the gathering has to compete with the local homecoming football game, most shows remain sold out.

Although Willard and I knew little about putting a gathering together, we had the help of dedicated friends and somehow things went well. After five years, I dropped off the committee to pursue my own agenda of performing cowboy poetry, however, Willard still remains at the helm of the poetry committee and works with an excellent staff of volunteers.  Each year this committee selects new and different entertainers from the previous year and brings to this ranching community a great lineup of talent.  This past gathering, held October 13-16, 2005, was no exception.

R. P. Smith

Headlining the list of entertainers were DW Groethe, Kip Calahan, Andy Hedges, a great new group called "Qwik as a Wink," Dave Stamey, the wonderful Elizabeth Ebert, Al Mehl, Deb Carpenter, Jerry Kennedy, and R. P. Smith.  Originally scheduled was Dennis Gaines, however, due to medical problems, Dennis was unable to attend and R. P. Smith performed in his place, literally bringing down the house, and asking that his pay be sent to Dennis.  The night shows were hosted by committeemen Willard Hollopeter and Marty Blocker, excellent poets in their own right. Perhaps the hit of this year's gather was Carin Mari Lechner of Buena Vista, Colorado, and her brothers "the Pony Express band," who received three standing ovations during their performance.

Andy Hedges


DW Groethe

Day sessions are filled with many other excellent entertainers.  Rounding out the weekend was a western trade show; horse-drawn parade; trail ride; melodrama; bar-b-que; dances and jam sessions.


Bill May of Kearney, Nebraska, and Carin Mari Lechner of Buena Vista, Colorado both had broken bones from separate experiences in the corral. 

Anyone who read Dennis Gaines' heartfelt message [copy below] about the kindness afforded him by the Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering recently held at Valentine will know that this is what down-home congeniality is all about.  If you want to take in a first class gathering in a great ranching community, plan to attend Nebraska's Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Valentine next October.  Visit  for more details.


Dennis Gaines, photo courtesy Jim Fish of The Texas Cowboy Gazette   Dennis Gaines writes

By now, most everybody knows that I have been having some health problems, and have been knocked out of the saddle for a little while. Been unable to fulfill a few performance obligations, but have been gratified by the way people in this business look out for each other. 

I would like to give a big hug and thanks to the folks at Old West Days in Valentine, Nebraska, and in particular to R.P. Smith of Broken Bow, Nebraska, who filled in for me at that recent event, and did a great job, by all accounts. In addition, R.P. performed for free, and Willard Hollopeter and the board of Old West Days sent my fee on to me to help with medical expenses. 

This is an act of generosity, grace and humility that leaves me indebted and humbled, and I will forever be grateful that I am involved in a business where total strangers can have the opportunity to demonstrate a level of caring and sincerity that most folks will never experience. Western folks are the heart and soul of this great country, and I thank God that I know and count them among my friends."

You can write to Dennis Gaines by email or mail at:120 Hartshorn Drive, Kerrville, TX 78028-7607

Posted 11/22



second story by Slim McNaught

[Slim McNaught's photo above by Jen Dobrowski, used with permission]



Are we havin' fun yet? You bet! We rolled into Valentine, Nebraska, on Friday, October 14, 2005 just before noon. We had a load of our hand made leather items and poem books for sale. We were attending the 14th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days which ran October 13 through 16, 2005 in Valentine Nebraska.
A lot of people put forth much hard work to make this gathering the huge success it is, and I know that I will miss some folks if I start naming names, and I apologize if I leave someone out.
Willard Hollopeter was instrumental in starting this function and still puts much hard work into it's continued success and makes out the schedule for the performers. Yvonne Hollenbeck is also responsible for much of the success of this gathering.
Hosts listed for the various sessions throughout the day were: Wally Bazyn, Al Mehl,
Andy Hedges, Marty Blocker, Elizabeth Ebert, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Carin Mari Lechner, Dave Stamey, Kip Calahan, R.P. Smith, Deb Carpenter, and DW Groethe.
The current Old West Days committee members consist of: Marty Blocker, Steve Breuklander, Tina Naughtin, Ken Moreland, Dave Leonard, Duane Bellin, Bob Stetter,
Willard Hollopeter, Jerry Grooms, Marsha Bauer, Kim Parkhurst, and Jarolyn Crouse. These people really need a big hand for all their hard work and a very successful program.
Now, sometimes I'm not the most observant feller and I miss read the schedule that Willard sent me. I was supposed to be in the ten a.m. session but thought I was in the 4 p.m. session, so I was late. He worked me into the afternoon lineup. Al Mehl filled in for me in my morning slot. Al was also the host for that session. Thanks Al.
We got our booth set up in time for the one p.m. opening of the Western Art and Trade Show. Had a great turnout for both days at our booth and got to visit with lots of friends, old and new.
On Friday afternoon I was privileged to be on stage in a poetry and musical session hosted by R.P. Smith. He's great. He does some real humorous workin' cowboy poetry. Phillip Crawford and Norma Lhee Hooper were also in that session. We each recited several poems. Great audience.

The Friday night 7:30 performance was great. Performers were: Host Willard Hollopeter, DW Groethe, Kip Calahan,  and Carin Mari Lechner.
Saturday at 10 a.m. found us back in our booth (Darlene was there running it both days while I was reciting). I was back in an eleven a.m. session hosted by
DW Groethe. DW (and his wife "who travels in a guitar case") writes and performs some great cowboy songs and poetry, and has several books and CDs available. Others in that session were: Lance Johnson, Marci Broyhill, Marilyn Herrmann, and Deb Carpenter. Again, a great audience.
Saturday afternoon's 1:30 performance consisted of: Host Kip Calahan, Carin Mari Lechner,
Andy Hedges, Qwik As A Wink (Chris Gudgel, Charity Fay, Rodney Luther, Tonya Luther), and Dave Stamey A large crowd was in attendance.

The Saturday night 7:30 performance was another top entertainment program. Entertainers were: Host Marty Blocker, Elizabeth Ebert, Dave Stamey, Andy Hedges, and Qwik As A Wink. Once more, the theater was full. 

Sunday church services we attended were at the Berean Church in Valentine, with R.P. Smith delivering the message in cowboy poetry style. What a talented feller. He raises cows and kids, writes cowboy poetry, and serves the Lord. It looks to me like he's doin' a great job at all of 'em. He's the fourth generation to raise cattle on the Pinecrest Ranch in Custer County Nebraska, and the ranch will celebrate it's centennial in 2006.
A couple functions we were unable to attend were the Thursday and Sunday 7:30 performances of the "Old Time
Melodrama" and the Sunday afternoon trail ride. Maybe next time. We have attended the Melodrama several times in past years and it is always hilarious. 

Sunday afternoon after a nice visit with our great granddaughter and her folks, we had a comfortable drive back to New Underwood.

I would certainly encourage anyone who can make it, to attend the Old West Days in Valentine when it comes around every fall. It's an entertainment experience you'll never forget. This years gathering was the best ever, that comes from several folks in the audience.
Sometimes life gets so good ya just get spoiled.

October, 2005
17th Annual Alzada Cowboy Poetry, Art & Music Show  Alzada, Montana


story by Slim McNaught

[Slim McNaught's photo above by Jen Dobrowski, used with permission]

On Sunday, October 2, 2005, we took a leisurely drive from western South Dakota, through the northwest corner of Wyoming, into Alzada, Montana. This day marked the 17th Annual Cowboy Poetry, Music and Art Show in Alzada, Montana. The theme this year was "Alzada history Is Alive In 2005."

The ladies there served a delicious noon lunch before the program got started. The Alzada Community Club, Inc., is in charge of the lunch, but all of the community ladies pitch in and help. We spent the time before lunch visiting, getting registered (they had great door prizes), hanging our art work, and getting ready for the afternoon performance. I did a little "foot work and audio" for Bob Petermann while he was getting his sound system in order, which I enjoyed doing.

Ticket donations were being taken for a pair of really nice silver mounted spurs, custom made and donated by Ed Lawrence of Alzada. The drawing was held that afternoon during the program and they were won by Allen Johnson of Alzada. All proceeds and donations of the day went to the Alzada Community Hall. Gay Arpan told me that Ed made a pair of spurs in 1989 and donated them to be raffled for the hall. "It was decided to do a poet and  music show in order
to have something other than just the drawing for the spurs to celebrate Montana's centennial. It was such a
hit we have continued it for seventeen years", she said. This hall, where the program is held each year, was built in 1929. The building had recently been vandalized and the group is raising money for much needed repair of the damage. They very much appreciate all donations (past, present, and future).

Although the Alzada Community Club is the actual sponsors of the show, Gay Arpan and Chris Maupin have been the hosts of the affair since it started and do all the planning and work of putting it on. They really do a fantastic job of getting everything together. Randy Arpan done a good job as MC and the program opened with Chris welcoming us all and giving us a very interesting and informative talk on the history of Alzada. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag after which Ronelia Parry accompanied herself on the key board and sang "God Bless The USA". Bob Petermann ran the sound system and was also one of the performers. We took some of our hand made leather items and I had some hand tooled pictures along. In all, there were around twenty five performers for the Poetry and Music show. About thirty five artists displayed their works. Some of the artists (including myself) were also performers in the Cowboy Poetry and Music program. I don't know how many were in the audience, but empty seats were very few and quite a few folks were standing. The featured performers were Ronelia Parry of Ekalaka, Montana; Georgene Conley of Belle Fourche, South Dakota; John and Joyce Shreves of Sheridan, Wyoming; and Jim Hamilton of Decker, Montana. Darlene (my wife) and I had a good visit with Paula Harkens of Billings, Montana., (a beautiful singing voice ) and took home her new CD. Hadn't seen Paula since Medora, North Dakota, two years ago.

We had an absolutely great time on and off the stage.

September, 2005
Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Hot Springs, South Dakota


story by Greg Scott
[Greg Scott's photo above by Kevin-Martini Fuller, used with permission]

The 8th Annual Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held September 30 and October 1, 2005 at the Mueller Civic Center in Hot Springs, South Dakota. 

Friday evening, the 30th, there was a poetry and cowboy song jam session and a square dance at the Civic Center. Saturday the 1st included daytime sessions of poetry and songs and an evening concert in the beautiful auditorium at the Civic Center. The daytime sessions featured some tribute songs to Sean Blackburn. 

The concert was hosted by South Dakota rancher and cowboy poet and singer Robert Dennis. Included in the evening concert were Greg Scott, Badger Clark biographer and musician from Elgin, Arizona; Leslie Keltner, poet and singer from
Cody, WY who shared her original, and often humorous, material with the appreciative crowd; Marty Blocker, cowboy from the Sand Hills of Nebraska who presented his excellent original poetry; and Open Range from Livingston, Montana, the duo of Ric Steinke and Linda Hausler, who performed classic and original music which included great harmonies along with western swing and western standards. Following a group version of "Night Rider's Lament," many of the well entertained audience proceeded to another Western dance in the Center. 

Hot Springs can claim the title "Badger Clark's Hometown," as Scott pointed out to the audience, since Clark lived there between 1910 and 1925 and is buried there. It was in Hot Springs that Clark gathered the cowboy poems he'd written in Arizona and published his essential collection as Sun and Saddle Leather. While in Hot Springs Clark continued to write poetry which was published in many magazines as well as over twenty published short stories; he also began his public speaking career at that time. He was active in civic affairs, sang at church services and cared for his aging parents. Clark moved to Custer State Park, 25 miles north, and lived there the remainder of his life. Still, Hot Springs remained his "hometown" even then.  The Hot Springs and Black Hills community is looking forward to next year's 9th annual Gathering.

Greg Scott is the author of Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark.

September, 2005
1st Annual Max Walker Memorial Cowboy Poetry & Western Music Gathering  Enterprise, Oregon


Report and photo by Smoke Wade

Cowboys are known to have a long standing love of horses, and many of their songs and poems reflect upon that relationship. With that thought in mind, it seemed odd, at first, that cowboy poets would gather at the 25th Annual Hells Canyon Mule Days celebration in Enterprise, Oregon on September 9th, 2005 at the 1st Annual Max Walker Memorial Cowboy Poetry & Western Music Gathering. On closer evaluation, cowboys seem to have a hidden fondness for mules as well, especially when they can gather to support a worthy cause.

The late Max Walker was an original organizer of the Hells Canyon Mule Days event, and it seemed fitting to memorialize his work with a scholarship fund generated by the work of cowboy poets. The event got under way 7:00 PM in the Wallowa County Fairgrounds show barn with a near capacity crowd. An early fall storm dropped snow in the surrounding mountains as temperatures lowered and the audience huddled beneath blankets to keep warm.

Event organizers and cowboy poets, Mark Porter and Allen Schnetzky

The organizers presented a one thousand-dollar scholarship to Lindsay Easom of Wallowa, OR. Lindsay will attend Boise State University, ID, as she pursues a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Management. [Ed. note: Read more about the scholarship at the Hells Canyon Mule Days site here.]

Following the scholarship presentation, about twenty local poets and a couple of musicians took the stage. Local cattle rancher and Grand Marshall, Doug Tippett gave a noted poetic performance. Poetry organizer, Mark Porter presented original poetry as well. One of the highlights of the evening was cowboy poet newcomer, Tyson McLaughlin who did an excellent job reciting poetry written by Leon Flick. As the evening wound down, headliners
Smoke Wade and Tennessee Mule artist Bonnie Shields took the stage to the delight of the crowd. During the intermission and after the show, the crowd warmed themselves in the snack bar with coffee, hot chocolate, home made pie and hamburgers.

Poetry gathering organizers, Mark Porter and Allen Schnetsky, announced that the 2nd Annual Max Walker Memorial Cowboy Poetry Gathering would take place in Enterprise, Oregon on September 8th, 2006. Until then, cowboy poets will
continue to look for another worthy cause to donate their time and talents to.

October, 2005
Annual Southwestern Idaho Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Emmett, Idaho


Report and photos by Smoke Wade

As autumn winds swirled brightly colored leaves along the sidewalk, the Cowboy Poets of Idaho gathered for the eighth year for the Southwestern Idaho Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Frontier Theater in Emmett, Idaho on October 14-16, 2005. Warm greetings of renewed friendships were complimented by equally warm fall weather.

The event kicked off on Friday with hourly day sessions at the Frontier from 12:00 - 5:00 PM. The night show got under way at the Emmett Jr. High School with a pre-show by musicians Linda Merrill and Carol Findlay. The evening's Trail boss, Fay Briscoe, took the stage at 7:00 PM and emceed a wonderful performance presented by eight of CPI's finest poets and musicians. The performers included musicians Mallory Shiflet, Idaho; Dallas McCord, Oregon; Jim "Awesome" Aasen, Washington; and poets Larry Shiflet, Howard Norskog, Bill Ramsey, and Ellie Corrigan, all of Idaho, and Don Kennington, Utah. Bill Ramsey presented a well-received poem of an outlaw cowboy trapped beneath a fallen horse. As the cowboy has a final conversation with the horse, Ramsey pulls a six-shooter from his pocket and slowly fires two shots at the end of the poem. Needless to say, the audience took notice of his fine performance.

On Saturday morning, the poets and musicians gathered in the City Park to present a special tribute to the 116th Battalion of the Idaho National Guard. Proceeds from the weekend gathering were to be donated to the families of the wounded soldiers of the 116th Battalion. The show got under way at 10:00 AM with deejay, Mitch in the Morning from KFXD AM radio of Boise, ID. Memorial presentations and tributes were made, interspersed with swing dance groups, bag pipers, tap, square and line dance groups, as well as cowboy poetry and music. Event organizer, Fay Briscoe and Sam DeLeeuw, Utah, presented poems, and "Windy" Bill Chiles, Idaho, sang cowboy songs. Highlights of the program included a western melodrama, rodeo clowns Barbara Hall and Sam DeLeeuw, both of Utah , and a Tall Tale exhibition where the audience
chose a winner by their applause. After several clap off's, Vern Woodbury, Idaho, was awarded Champion Teller of Tall Tales,  Don Kennington, Utah, was runner-up, while
Smoke Wade, Idaho, as third place winner was awarded Champion
in Training status. A fried chicken picnic provided by Albertson's supermarket followed the show.

From left: Howard Norskog, Barbara Hall, Sam Mattise, Sam DeLeeuw 

Clowns Barbara Hall and Sam DeLeeuw

Day sessions on Saturday ran from 1:00 - 5:00 PM at the Frontier Theater followed by an evening show at the Emmett Jr. High School at 6:30 PM. The Trail Boss for the evening was event co-organizer, Sam Mattise, Idaho. A pre-show performance was given by Gene & Sandy Jones of Bad Water Cattle Co.  The featured performers were poets A. K. Moss, Oregon, Layle Bagley, Smoke Wade and Vern Woodbury, all of Idaho, and Sam DeLeeuw of Utah. The featured musicians were "Windy" Bill Chiles and Gary Trexler, both of Idaho, and the musical group Northfork, of Washington, featuring Sharon "Silver" Glen and George Thomsen. A. K. "Kathy" Moss presented exceptional poetry on stage as she held the audience spellbound with her magical words. Bill Chiles' music also enchanted the audience.

Smoke Wade and Sam DeLeeuw.

Following the Saturday night show, the performers gathered at the home of Fay and Melvin Briscoe for a late night chili feed with homemade bread, apple pie and ice cream. After the meal, the performers jammed until the wee hours of the morning.

Event organizers, Sam Mattise and Faye Briscoe

A Cowboy Church was held at 9:00 AM at the 9-11 roadside memorial on Freeze Out Hill. Howard Norskog hosted the church with presentations given by Sam Mattise, Bruce "Loose-Lip" Pinson, Idaho, Fay Briscoe, Smoke Wade, Larry
, Idaho, Northfork, Dallas & PJ McCord, Jinny Lowe, Idaho, and special guest Ralph Smith of Arizona. Smith is the chairman of the Gila Valley Cowboy Poetry Association. A special thanks was given to Larry Beck, Idaho, for all his help as the organization's "roadie" - setting up chairs, moving stage props, operating the light system and providing all the performers with a bag of Idaho's finest potatoes. Cowboy gatherings always have someone like Larry behind the scene making things happen and often they are overlooked when the kudos and back-slapping are passed around.

Cowboy Church: Howard Norskog and Sam Mattise

As the church came to a end on the ridge top high above the valley painted with brilliant fall colors of yellow, red and gold, the cowboy entertainers said their good-byes, promising to meet again - somewhere down the trail.

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



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