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Pincher Creek (Alberta) June
Stavely (Alberta) July
Salinas (California) July separate page
Creswell (Oregon) July
Pinetop-Lakeside (Arizona) July
Townsend (Montana) June
Bickleton (Washington) June
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See reports for 2002 here
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21st Annual Pincher Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering Pincher Creek, Alberta
report and photos by Mag Mawhinney
PINCHER CREEK COWBOY GATHERING
June 12-15, 2008
Like a reenactment of the pioneer wagons of yesteryear, approximately 75 RVs formed a circle on the agricultural grounds at Pincher Creek, AB for their 21st gathering and the only difference was, these folks had gathered to listen to stories, songs and poems about the old west, instead of actually living it. But everything was brought to life by 45 talented performers from across Canada’s four western provinces, Washington State, Montana and Idaho. Of course, some poets spun tales from modern-day experiences as well, continuing the old tradition of storytelling about the ways of the cowboy. Luckily, the sunny weather held from Thursday-Sunday, which made it much more pleasant than slopping through mud and braving the cold that had preceded the event.
There were only two venues this year instead of four and the crowd divided their time between them, as well as watching several demonstrations in the outdoor rodeo arena—colt handling, horsemanship, horseshoeing and ranch horse competitions. Thirteen artisans displayed their wares in the Pavilion and 25 performers had books, tapes and CDs to sell as well.
B.J. Smith, Shiloh Sharrard and Mag Mawhinney
The featured presentations on both evenings packed the community hall and the performers were outstanding! I was really impressed with Ol Ugly, who kept the crowd laughing from the first minute he hit the stage and Vannatta from High River, AB, who sang some old classics in the style of the Sons of the Pioneers. Two "up and comers" on the gathering scene were given a spot on Saturday’s feature. Fifteen-year-old Shiloh Sharrard from Idaho, who has been performing at Pincher since she was eleven, wowed the crowd with her singing talents and great stage presence. Young Matt Robertson from Bentley, SK, winner of the Rising Star Award at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, sang his own songs in fine style, backed by the respected musical talents of Latigo. I also noted that some poets are now presenting their recitations with musical accompaniment. It seems to be gaining popularity as more and more poets collaborate with musicians in transforming poems into songs. Right after the Saturday feature, many fun-lovers boot stomped to some wonderful dance music by the Westwinds.
The evening barbeques were well attended with nearly 400 served on Friday and about 450 on Saturday. Folks climbed the hill on a sunny Sunday morning for an outdoor breakfast of cowboy coffee, ham and pancakes, followed by Cowboy Church in the Pavilion. All the chairs and bleachers were taken for a spiritual session with many performers taking part.
Just about everyone stayed for the Rancher’s Fun Rodeo, which pitted ranches against each other in timed events. A new event, put on by the Canadian Cowboy Mounted Shooters Assn., absolutely thrilled the crowd. Riders, using pistols filled with black powder blanks, had to pop balloons while loping or galloping around a variety of courses.
I was saddened to learn that the wonderful false fronted sets, which Noel Burles and friends had lovingly spent many hours constructing in the image of the Pincher Creek buildings of long ago, had deteriorated beyond repair and will no longer be used in the Pavilion. But artist and singer Bob Davis is painting some beautiful pictures on canvas to take their place. I can only hope that I’ll find Bob down by the creek, playing his guitar, along with his friend Noel (the Campfire Boss), practicing on his old fiddle and welcoming folks to the warmth of their campfire at the 2009 Gathering.
Willow Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering Stavely, Alberta
report and photos by Mag Mawhinney
7th ANNUAL WILLOW CREEK COWBOY GATHERING
July, 11-13, 2008
Stavely may be a small town, but there was nothing small about the spirit and enthusiasm of the Committee members and volunteers who brought this town’s cowboy festival to life. Each one did an absolutely fantastic job in handling every facet of the event and first-time President, Sue Florence, can be very proud of the results.
It took just one day to make the indoor rodeo arena look like a western dance hall movie set. A horse-drawn wagon, complete with cowboy camp equipment, sat in one corner, black silhouettes of cowboys, cowgirls, bears and coyotes lined a wooden fence, white and gingham tablecloths adorned tables and vases of cut flowers, including the beautiful Alberta rose, graced the edges of the stage.
Miriam Dreher and Mag Mawhinney
Twenty-seven talented poets, storytellers and musicians entertained a crowd of about 230 people, coming from as far away as Arizona. Five performers from across the border were outstanding—Eli Barsi, well-known, award-winning singer from Nashville and her husband John Cunningham; yodeling virtuoso Rod Erickson from Idaho; People’s Choice Award winner, young superstar Shiloh Sharrard from Idaho and Montana rancher/poet Dena Fritz, who had folks in stitches with her animated style. The expertise of sound man, Larry Gallop, made all the performers sound good and MC Bob Westrop’s charm and wit not only entertained the crowd, but put all the performers at ease.
Ed Brown, Eli Barsi, Shiloh Sharrard, B.J. Smith, Charlie Ewing, Miriam Dreher, MC Bob Westrop
I can’t say enough good things about the food provided—two big pancake breakfasts, a wonderful roast beef dinner on Saturday night and even a free impromptu hamburger meal for everyone on Friday night, supplied by one of the generous sponsors. The ‘Green Room’ was very inviting—colorful rugs on the benches, western posters and pictures on the walls and plenty of delicious goodies to snack on.
Rod Erickson, Mag, Buddy Gale
Three artisans displayed fine workmanship in wooden furniture, pottery and knives and many performers sold books, tapes and CDs.
Noel Burles was there, wearing his 1971 cowboy hat full of badges and guitar picks. He and his friend, singer Bob Davis, were the late evening campfire bosses and welcomed everyone who wanted to sing along or play their own tunes. Willow Creek Gathering always has huge campfire circles, despite the cool nights.
Noel Burles, Jill and Bud Stewart
Many of the performers took part in Cowboy Church on Sunday. The Gripping family of five added much humor to their gospel songs and I particularly enjoyed their rendition of "The Long Black Train."
One thing I like about this festival is that ranchers, Audrey and Cliff Egger, always invite Committee members, volunteers and performers to their spread for a Sunday afternoon wind-up supper. It seems to ease the sudden letdown after the festival is over. The Egger’s ranch is tucked in a beautiful valley in the foothills and Audrey had cooked up a delicious pot of Mexican stew for everyone, along with cake and ice cream for dessert. Storytelling and music continued until long after sundown and then it was hugs all around before bidding farewell.
The wind-up group at Egger ranch
The Egger spread
4th Annual Coast Fork Cowboy Festival Creswell, Oregon
report, captions, and photos (except where noted) by Gini Davis of The Creswell Chronicle
Coast Fork Cowboy Festival Returns to Creswell for Fourth Year
Hundreds of cowboys- and cowgirls-at-heart came in from the range and sat a spell during Creswell’s fourth annual Coast Fork Cowboy Festival, which included a street dance, salsa-making competition, FFA chicken barbecue and cowboy church, in addition to two evenings of top-caliber Western music and poetry.
Performers included: Horse Crazy, a trio of cowgirl singer/musicians; the Reddington family, singers and musicians who perform as The High Strung Band; cowboy poet Vern Woodbury; couples Dallas and PJ McCord and Kathy and Van Criddle, who recited cowboy poetry and sang solos and duets; special guest RJ Vandygriff performed poetry, sang and played his guitar; and honky-tonk pianist Jinny Lowe.
photo by Robyn Andersen
Saturday's featured guest performer R.J. Vandygriff (at right) seen here with friends Van and Kathy Criddle
Four days of down-home, family-friendly entertainment kicked off with the festival’s first annual Street Dance and Salsa Challenge, held July 31.
Line-dancing and clog-dancing lessons, “calf-roping” for the young-’uns (using sawhorse-mounted horns), an Old West shootout and kick-up-your-heels performances by Horse Crazy and Lowe drew a merry, diverse crowd that swelled as the evening wore on.
With Oregon Avenue closed between First and Third streets and an Old West backdrop from Wayne White’s Wild West Events lending historical flavor, hectic modern life gave way for a few hours to the more relaxed, neighborly pace of another era.
Assisted by authentically-attired cowboys, children tried roping, perched on hay bales to lick ice cream cones and joined adults in the two-stepping, swing-dancing fun.
Elisabeth Erker, granddaughter of Cowboy Festival organizers PJ and Dallas McCord, shows off her six-guns
About 15 young cowgirls seemed particularly enchanted by the three authentic cowgirls who comprise Horse Crazy, dancing and twirling throughout their performance.
Eight salsa entries were tasted and judged by attendees before emcee Dallas McCord declared Siuslaw Bank’s cranberry salsa the “best of the West.”
Bank representatives received a plaque and a $50 Bi-Mart gift certificate. El Oasis Taqueria’s Mexican salsa and Windermere Real Estate’s island salsa tied for second place.
As the sun dipped low, mellow Western melodies kept the street corner filled with mothers rocking toddlers, fathers spinning their young daughters and couples gazing into each other’s eyes while turning in each other’s arms.
That warm, community feeling continued on Aug. 1-2 with music both high-energy and laid-back and cowboy poems both touching and humorous.
Lowe, from Idaho, provided pre-show and intermission entertainment for the festival, emceed by co-organizers Dallas McCord and Van Criddle.
Cowboy Festival performers Lauralee Northcott, left, of Horse Crazy and honky-tonk pianist Jinny Lowe blow off steam with an impromptu whistling contest.
Opening and closing the show was the phenomenal High Strung Band, the Reddington family group from Cove, Oregon (pop. 500), that features flat-pickin’, almost-15-year-old, guitar prodigy Landen and virtuoso fiddlers Hunter, 13, and Morgan, 11.
Bookending their talented children are lead-singer/guitarist mom Jennifer and stand-up bass-playing dad Shawn.The versatile band’s selections, including "Hallelujah, I Saw the Light," "Amazing Grace" (sweetly sung by Morgan), "Gold Rush," "Old Joe Clark" and "Jerusalem Ridge" showcased cowboy music’s bluegrass, Celtic and gospel influences and earned an enthusiastic standing ovation.
The Western Music Association-nominated cowgirl band Horse Crazy entertains an appreciative
crowd during the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival Street Dance
Western Music Association triple-award nominee Horse Crazy, featuring Emele “EC” Clothier on Western swing guitar, banjo and harmonica, Lauralee Northcott on bass guitar and rhythm/percussion stylist Jennifer Epps also received a spontaneous ovation. The trio’s tantalizing three-part harmonies, yodeling and jokes enhanced songs about tumblin’ tumbleweeds, the Western moon, old cowhands, ponies stretchin’ out their stride and cowboys goin’ to town on payday with that “jingle in their jeans.”
“We’re from a town of 300 people in north-central Washington,” said Northcott. “We’re 47 miles from the nearest stoplight; our idea of a traffic jam is four cars behind a tractor. We don’t get out much, but we’re thrilled to be here.”
Introducing award-winning Idaho poet Woodbury, McCord promised, “If your tickle bone isn’t tickled by the time the night’s over, you don’t have one.”
Cowboy poet and humorist Vern Woodbury strums and “sings” during the Cowboy Festival. Said Woodbury, “I’d like to sing you a song I wrote myself—except I never wrote one.”
Judging by the roars and good-natured groans that greeted Woodbury’s tales, no funny-bone transplants were necessary.
Riffing on government studies, Woodbury related, “They’ve found out that if your parents never had any kids, you probably won’t either” and “They’ve found birthdays are good for you: the more birthdays you have, the longer you’ll live.”
McCord and his wife PJ performed "Ponies," "She Always Smells like Lilacs in the Rain" and "Dead Horse Trampoline." PJ and Kathy Criddle collaborated on "Same River," and Criddle sang "Wyoming Waltz." Van Criddle shared his poetry and sang with his wife Kathy in their version of "Cowgirls Promise."
Cowboy musician and poet Dallas McCord, right, and his wife, PJ McCord, sing together during the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival.
Lamenting that “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore,” McCord joked he “went on one diet so strict the only thing I lost was my will to live,” and greeted a doctor’s advice to get in shape by protesting, “Doc, round is a shape.”
On-stage Saturday only, Vandygriff performed cowboy poetry, sang and spun yarns. During the song "Endangered Species," he eulogized the vanishing West: “They say I’m an endangered species, / part of a vanishing breed, / but I will survive ’til the day I die, / a cowboy’s life I lead.”
The High Strung Band, the Reddington family from Cove, Oregon (from left: Hunter, dad Shawn, Morgan, Landen and mom Jennifer) sings a gospel song at cowboy church.
Humble cowboy church services at picturesque Cloverdale Chapel wrapped up the festival on Aug. 3.
Cowboy Church attendees show their appreciation for The High Strung Band
“Cowboys wear their hats in church; it’s not disrespectful, just part of our western attire,” McCord told guests. “God accepts that.”
Except for opening and closing prayers, the only “preaching” at cowboy church came through gospel-style Western music and poetry, with guests finding inspiration “just the way the cowboys did on the range,” McCord said.
Woodbury wryly reconciled the Biblical creation story with evolution by explaining that “God does things on cowboy time.”
Dawdling, in true cowboy fashion, on his seven-day deadline to create the earth, God, Woodbury recited, “...told the angels to relax, for heaven’s sake. / I’ll get it done in seven days—however long it takes.”
The prudence of regular prayer was humorously imparted through the poem Jake the Rancher. Woodbury told of a rancher who froze to death after his pickup truck wouldn’t start and his prayers apparently went unanswered. Set straight by St. Peter, Jake learns his long silence caused havoc in heaven. Said St. Peter, “‘…though all prayers are answered / and God ain’t got no quota, / He didn’t recognize your voice / and started a truck in North Dakota.’”
As if four days of first-class entertainment weren’t enough, festival sponsors—including The Creswell Chronicle, KNND 1400AM, Cascade Home Center, Ray’s Food Place, I-5 Tire and Creswell Christian School/Creswell Christian Child Care Center—and 400 ticket purchasers took home a bonus: that warms-the-cockles-of-your-heart feeling of contributing to worthy causes.
The 2008 Cowboy Festival raised about $2,000 to benefit Creswell Library and Creswell High School’s FFA, equestrian and music programs.
Another $900 was donated to the Cowboy Crisis Fund, which assists Western performers in serious financial straits.
Thanking attendees and donors, Robyn Anderson of Rope Burns magazine said that during the festival, “I saw kids playing, teens skateboarding, couples dancing, bikers; black, white and Hispanic [people]; I saw Obama buttons and McCain stickers. And I thought, now that’s a community I could live in—you guys are awesome.”
With a homegrown, all-Oregon slate of performers, including the popular High Strung Band, promised for 2009, the closing words of a song McCord sang during cowboy church seemed a perfect farewell to their host community until the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival returns next year:
“You’ll know me from afar / when you hear my ‘Howdy, Pard’ … May the good Lord bless you / ’til our trails cross again.”
White Mountains Roundup of Cowboy Poetry, Music and Art Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona
report and photo by "Hard-Twist Ike"
The White Mountains Roundup just gets better and better each year. This year's line up was stellar and from the crowds reaction they agreed!
Emceed by the White Mountains own
Chris Isaacsthe show featured Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble, the ever-popular
Yvonne Hollenbeck, the hometown favorite
Rolf Flake, Oklahoma's answer to voluntary insanity
Kent Rollinsand the best balladeer in the business, Dave Stamey.
A standing ovation by the crowd let the performers know they were on the mark and the only problem presented by the performance was how to match it next year. Put this one on your calendar, it's fast becoming one of the best in the country.
Marshall Trimble, Kent Rollins, Chris Isaacs, best sound man in the business Paul Overson hiding behind Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rolf Flake and Dave Stamey.
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