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(Some links may go out of date.)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


Calgary (Alberta) July

Benicia (California) July

Lewiston (Idaho) July

Creswell (Oregon) July

Page Two:

Lewistown (Montana) August
Roy and Fremont (Utah) June and August
Stony Plain (Alberta) August
Montpelier (Idaho) July

Page Three:
Butte (Montana) July

See January-February reports here.
See April-June reports here.
See September reports here.
See October reports here.
See November reports here.

See reports from 2008 here
See reports from 2007 here
See reports from 2006 here
See reports from 2005 here
See reports from 2004 here
See reports from 2003 here
See reports for 2002 here
Reports from 2000- 2001 are here


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Back on home . . .


July, 2009
5th Annual Coast Fork Cowboy Festival  Creswell, Oregon

report, captions, and photos by Gini Davis of The Creswell Chronicle


All-Oregon Cowboy Festival fetes Creswell’s 100 years, Oregon’s 150


What better way to honor Oregon’s pioneers during the state’s sesquicentennial anniversary year and the hardy settlers who established the city of Creswell a century ago than with an energetic, down-home celebration of the plain-spoken, wry-humored music and poetry of those hardworking, hard-riding Old West adventurers?

Coast Fork Cowboy Festival organizers Dallas and PJ McCord of Creswell couldn’t agree more, designing the fifth annual incarnation of their western-themed festival to feature Oregon performers.

“We’re here to celebrate 100 years of Creswell being a city and 150 years of Oregon being a state, and we absolutely love living here; we love the way people are and how they get along,” said Dallas McCord, host of Cowboy Culture Corner on KNND radio.
To honor the music and lifestyle of the state’s pioneers, “everybody performing in this program are people living the life here in Oregon,” McCord added.
Featuring a wealth of activities spread over three days, the festival kicked off with a Street Dance on July 31 at the intersection of Second Street and Oregon Avenue.
The closure of Oregon Avenue between First and Third Streets and casual western ambiance  invited visitors to step back in time, linger and stroll.
Old West sets from Wayne White’s Wild West Events set the scene for lasso twirling, sawhorse-“calf” roping, mechanical bull rides and country rhythm two-step lessons offered by award-winning ballroom and country-western dancers Paul and Priscilla Johnson.
A Salsa Challenge drew eight local competitors eager to test their favorite recipes, and after a public tasting and 250 ballots McCord’s “Kickass Salsa” was declared the winner.

“I make it for flavor, not heat,” explained McCord to tasters stopping by his booth.

photo by Gini Davis
Reddington Family members, who perform as The High Strung Band, sing a gospel tune during Cowboy Church. From left: Morgan, father Shawn, Hunter, mom Jennifer and Landen.


Musical appetites were whetted with a preview concert by The High Strung Band, the Reddington family of Cove, Oregon: mom Jennifer, who plays guitar and mandolin and sings, dad Shawn on upright bass and their children, the almost-16-year-old guitar prodigy Landen and his gifted fiddler siblings, 14-year-old Hunter and 12-year-old Morgan.
A performance by the Rick Miller Band and music played by Creswell High School’s deejay club added ambiance to the family-oriented evening, and “bail” paid by voluntarily “jailed” residents raised $80 for Cottage Grove’s Family Relief Nursery.

photo by Gini Davis
Oregon cowboy poet Duane Nelson entertains during the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival.

The celebration continued Saturday in Harry Holt Memorial Park, with live music by talented young guitarist Brooks Robertson and local singer-guitarist Tim Jenkins, cowboy poetry by Duane Nelson, food vendors, a watermelon-eating contest, temptingly packaged lunches auctioned for a lunch box social and old-fashioned cake walks.

photo by Gini Davis
Eugene-born fingerpickin’ acoustic guitarist Brooks Robertson performs in the park as part of the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival’s day-long slate of events.

A vintage covered wagon was on display, and horse-drawn wagon rides provided by TJ’s Big Horse Farm gave riders a charming, slower-paced vantage point from which to view nearby neighborhoods.
“The cake walks were really successful,” said PJ McCord, who was kept busy by a steady stream of children eager to trade a dollar for a chance to win their choice of cakes, pies, cookies and brownies donated by Ray’s Food Place and several community members. 

photo by Gini Davis
Outfitted for the occasion in her cowboy hat and carrying a toy horse, a young cake walk contestant selects a cake after winning. Perhaps anticipating her victory, she simply sat beside her chosen number instead of walking around the circle with the other participants during the cake walk.

“[Ray’s manager] Dan [Murray] said they’d give us 20 watermelons, which was what we’d asked for, and a few pies, and that was fine,” reported McCord.  “And then I went to pick it up and it was bag after bag of goodies: six big boxes of watermelons, at least a dozen grocery bags of cakes, cookies and pies.  They were extremely generous.”

The High Strung Band played a benefit concert that afternoon at Creswell Historical Museum, and the Hanson Family Singers entertained to benefit the Creswell Library.

photo by Gini Davis
The Hanson Family Singers give an individual daytime concert at Creswell Library as part of the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival. 

About 100 people continued the fun into the evening, purchasing tickets for the main concert held at Creswell Community Center.

photo by Gini Davis
Award-winning cowboy poet Van Criddle spins a cleverly worded yarn while co-emceeing the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival. 

A pre-show featured Nelson and singer-guitarist Eli Stockman, and the headliners took the stage at 6 p.m.

After performing with their wives, PJ McCord and Kathy Criddle, co-emcees Dallas McCord and award-winning cowboy poet Van Criddle introduced multi-award-winning singer-songwriter Joni Harms.

“She’s the real deal,” said Criddle.

photo by Gini Davis
Oregon’s own award-winning Western singer-songwriter Joni Harms performs during the 5th annual Coast Fork Cowboy Festival.

Harms’ commitment to “putting the western back in the country” shone in her strong, clear voice.  Staying true to a lesson learned, she said, from a longtime waitress, Harms sang that she is “doing what I love, and never start what I don’t finish.”
Musically advising audience members to “cowboy up” when things go wrong and recounting the “catalog dreams” of folks richer in friends than money, Harms was joined for several second-set numbers by her teenage daughter Olivia.
The perennially crowd-pleasing High Strung Band roused the audience to cheers during two high-energy sets of bluegrass and Celtic-inspired western music featuring the virtuoso talents of the Reddington children.

“They’re one of my very favorite groups and just a great family, great people,” McCord said in introduction.
He recalled first hearing the group when guitarist Landen was about 12.

After hearing him play, “all of us who thought we could play guitar started a bonfire and that was the end of our guitar playing—he’s that good,” McCord said.

Selections such as "Orange Blossom Special," "Blackberry Blossom," and "Amazing Grace" also effectively showcased the fiddling and vocal talents of Hunter and Morgan.

photo by Gini Davis
Cowboy poet and singer Dallas McCord strums his guitar and sings during Cowboy Church.

Cowboy Church, held at the picturesque Cloverdale Chapel, closed out the festival Sunday morning.

Humble and casual, the come-as-you-are, Stetson-friendly service featured gospel music from Harms and The High Strung Band and songs and poetry from the McCords, honoring cowboy faith and looking toward “that last great roundup.”

With daughter Olivia singing backup, Harms vocally celebrated “wide-open spaces built by the hand of the Lord” as ideal places of worship.

“You don’t always have to be in church to have something special with the Lord,” Harms observed.  “Sometimes it’s those beautiful spaces that inspire you anyway.”

Opening and closing prayers and an emotion-filled performance of “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life” by the Reddingtons acknowledged tough economic times and the virtues of faith, family and friends.

Participants were sent on their way with a musical benediction from Dallas McCord.

“May the good Lord bless you ‘til our trails cross again,” crooned McCord, who’d earlier joked that while studying to be a minister in college, he’d “thought I had the calling, but it wasn’t even a whisper.”

Robyn Anderson, reporting for
Rope Burns magazine, issued a plea on behalf of the Cowboy Crisis Fund, which provides assistance to western performers and their families dealing with such crises as serious illness or the death of a loved one.

“We send one hundred percent of the donations to the family—not one penny goes anywhere else,” Anderson said.

This year, the $200 raised will benefit three-year-old Briggs Hill.  The son of western performer Brenn Hill is fighting a brain tumor.

Understandably spent after the whirlwind of planning, hosting and performing, the McCords are nevertheless committed to bringing the Coast Fork Cowboy Festival that is so close to their hearts back to Creswell next year.
“Every year we get so exhausted by the end of this that we swear this is it,” Dallas McCord told Saturday’s concert audience.  “But looking out and seeing all of you out there, we looked at each other and said, Okay, we’ll be back. We’ll do this again.”


July, 2009
Calgary Stampede  Calgary, Alberta

  report and photos by Diane Tribitt


Minnesota rancher, writer, and poet Diane Tribitt reports on the Calgary Stampede, held in July, 2009 in Calgary, Alberta:

Our trip started out with a slight delay at 5 a.m. when we hit a deer on Interstate 169 on our way to the airport. The car had plenty of damage, but we made it in plenty of time to make our flight to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for our first Calgary Stampede experience…and what an experience it was! The Stampede supplied us with courtesy drivers, sponsored by GMC, to get us back and forth from the hotel to the Stampede. The drivers were local volunteers—doctors, lawyers and CEO’s—who were all dressed in “cowboy” attire. Corporate Canada literally shuts down during the Stampede and the multitude of volunteers helping to put on this event was nothing short of astounding! We were treated like royalty at all times.

Despite the overcast skies and a few torrential downpours of rain, the invigorating hustle and bustle of the Stampede never wavered. A completely full-service venue for all your cultural dining and entertainment needs, you can start your day out right with a scrumptious pancake breakfast. The rest of the day offers so many options it is truly hard to decide what to do next. Miniature and heavy horse events, team pennings, Celebrity Racing Pigs, Beef Cattle Showcases, the Calgary Stampede Show Riders (horsewomen), Horse Haven Stables, Antique Tractor Pulls, Sheep Shearing Contests, Chuckwagon Races, a World Championship Blacksmithing Competition, the Calgary Rodeo and the World Stock Dog Championships satisfy the needs of every equine, bovine or sporting enthusiast. We ardently followed the stock dog trials to the top 15 dogs overall after the first two go-rounds, and caught part of the championship round before heading to the rodeo (in the rain).

We walked through the Midway, which was a feat in itself! Thousands and thousands of people, young and old, frequented the Stampede’s 58 rides as the aromas of caramel apples, funnel cakes, deep-fried and grilled foods wafted among them. Thousands more frequented the Slot Machines, the Indian Village (complete with Native teepees, crafts, beadwork, cloth making and cooking), Stampede Stores, Agrium Ag-tivity in the City (celebrating Alberta agriculture), Weadickville (a re-created typical Calgary street circa 1912), the Midway Circus (featuring the Flying Fools High Dive Show) and the BMO Center’s Western Oasis (showcasing artists and entertainers). This is where I performed, on the Window of the West Stage. The WOW stage was very diversified with Western, Bluegrass, Gospel and Cowboy Poetry performances. Moreover, any time I can perform on stage with award-winning singers/songwriters Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail, I always remember to count my blessings twice! The audiences were genuinely appreciative and receptive of every performance. Many of them stopped to chat with us afterwards, curiously intrigued by our lifestyles, music and poetry. I was most impressed with the fact that so many people travelled from other countries just to attend the Stampede.

Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail

Diane Tribitt

The outdoors stages were extraordinary, also, including the Saddledome, Coca Cola and Nashville North stages. Some of the featuring performers we watched were Les Vitamines (acrobats), the Outriders (a 35-piece musical ensemble), the USA Break Dancers, several Show Bands, the Treaty Seven Native Dancers and the Prairie Mountain Fiddlers. We did frequent the Maverick’s Dining Room and Lounge and feasted on a wonderful buffet. Afterwards we strolled through the Beer Gardens, past the Cantina (featuring Sherry’s Caribbean Foods) and stopped to enjoy the Canadian Forces Display (Army, Navy and Air Force vehicles).

Whew! A mere two days to take this all in, and there was still so much we didn’t have time to see! We did make it to the Stampede Rodeo on Monday, however, despite the rain and cold. It was an outdoor arena, but we were thankful that our seats were located under roof cover! Several hours later, after buying a warm Calgary Stampede souvenir blanket to wrap up in, we trekked back for the spectacular and thrilling GMC Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon Races, awed by the athletic endeavors of mud-spattered men and beasts as they raced against time and sludge on the Stampede’s rain-drenched track. It was simply and gloriously astounding to watch! We also hung in there for the Big Show. This event alone was worth the trip to Calgary—it is a spectator’s dream-come-true. From the Japanese drums, motocross bike stunts and acrobatic artists who seemed to magically fall out of the sky at any given moment, to the hilarious comedian Sugar Sammy, we were in constant awe! The “wheel of death” act literally left us at the edge of our seats. We heard this was a completely different show as seen in previous years, so if you have been there before, you had better go again. If you have never been there – you need to put this event on your must-do list! Did I forget to mention the grand finale fireworks display? It is truly the “Big Show.”

Diane Tribitt was presented with a Special Recognition Award by the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase Committee


July, 2009
Cowboy Poetry and Music Relay for Life Benefit  Benicia, California

photos by Tamara Adams (


Northern California's Benicia Yacht Club might seem an unlikely place for a cowboy poetry and music event, but the sold-out-and-more enthusiastic crowd would disagree. The sleepy little one-time territorial capitol came alive with performances by Paul Zarzyski, Susan Parker, and Mick Vernon, at a show held July 24, 2009, in a Relay for Life benefit for the American Cancer Society.

Susan Parker
photo by Tamara Adams (

Poet, reciter, singer, and songwriter Mick Vernon—who for many years was the Artistic Director of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry Gatheringheld the audience with classic poems (such as S. Omar Barker's "The Courtin' of Jack Potter") and his own poetry. He sang his own songs, including the popular "Picayune Valley," and contemporary favorites, such as Mike Beck's "Don't Tell Me" and "Night Rider's Lament" by Michael Burton. Later in the program, he accompanied both poets in their performances.

Poet and reciter Susan Parker, who has a special interest in the poetry of pioneering women of the West, presented some of the poems she's uncovered, delivered with her usual impressive command of the stage. Clyde Robertson's "Pony Nelson" and A. V. Hudson's "The Homemade Cigarette" were among the classic selections. She also recited some contemporary poems, including Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")'s "Tomboy" and "Generic Titles" by Sally Bates. Her recitation of her own poem, "She Rode a Wild Horse" (from her CD of the same name) was particularly well received; the daughter of the subject of the poem was in the audience.

photo by Tamara Adams (
Paul Zarzyski, Susan Parker, and Mick Vernon

Self-described "rodeo-hobo-poet" Paul Zarzyski never disappoints. His intense delivery and exquisitely crafted poems simply capture audiences. He performed some of his best-known poems, including ""The Heavyweight Champion Pie-Eatin' Cowboy of the West" and "Black on Tan." Mick Vernon added to his recitation of "Bucking Horse Moon," by performing the song created from the poem, which was put to music by Tom Russell. Two moving choices—as the event was raising money for the American Cancer Society were his reading of the poem "1998" from his award-winning book, Wolf Tracks on the Welcome Mat and his recitation of "Words Grown Wild," about his childhood and how his father, who died recently, inspired his love of words.

The trio then took the stage together for a lively round robin, and each continued to delight the audience with poems and songs (yes, Paul Zarzyski sang his incomparable "Calico Fever Blues" a cappella and Susan Parker did her poem, "Poet's Lament" which ends with some yodeling that would make Wylie Gustafson proud). The shared friendship of the three performers came through in the fun and relaxed performances, and the crowd jumped to its feet with a standing ovation at the show's end.

All proceeds from the event, including those from the well-run, generously supported silent auction, were donated to the American Cancer Society. Denise Keary was the energetic and efficient organizer behind the event.

Many in the audience had never heard cowboy music or poetry, and their response was enthusiastic. Susan Parker, long active in "mainstream" poetry events in Northern California, has helped organize a number of cowboy poetry shows there. This was another success, and another instance of her efforts to grow the audience for cowboy poetry and music.

July, 2009
KRLC Benefit for the Hill Family (Team Briggs)  Lewiston, Idaho

  report by "Toe Tappin'" Tommy Tucker
photo by Smoke Wade

On July 18th, KRLC Radio held their annual "Family Picnic" at Pioneer Park in Lewiston, Idaho. This year it was decided that KRLC would join "Team Briggs" ( and help raise money for Briggs Hill, the 3 year old son of Country / Western entertainer Brenn Hill. Briggs has been undergoing cancer treatment. It was a typical July afternoon with temperatures nearing 100, but still an estimated 300 to 350 people attended the event. It was a tremendous success! We reached our "goal" and then some!

The afternoon consisted of free hot dogs and Pepsi products, games for the kids, a rock climbing wall and jumping castle. The highlight was the entertainment featuring Rod Erickson who had a Top Ten hit record in the early '70's called "She Taught Me How To Yodel."  Also on the agenda were local favorites Buzz Goertzen, Hal Olson, Coyote Joe, Shiloh Sharard, Jim
, Jimmy Bullard, Bodie Dominguez and Smoke Wade (who also served as emcee). All donated their time for this worthwhile event.

A live auction was held for a beautiful quilt made by the KRLC Quilters Club (who also sent a quilt to Briggs), and a for a guitar donated by Bodie Dominguez. The silent auction drew plenty of attention, with items donated by over 50 business's and individuals.

A big thank you to the entertainers, and the KRLC staff for their efforts, especially Michelle King, Kim Dahl and Crystal Primsky.



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



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