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18th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, Sierra Vista, Arizona, February
17th Annual Bootheel Cowboy Poetry Fiesta,
Lordsburg, New Mexico, February
Sixth Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, Ellensburg, Washington, February
On page 1:
21st annual Colorado Cowboy
Poetry Gathering, Arvada, Colorado, January
3rd annual Gila River Heritage Round-Up, Thatcher, Arizona, January
Moab's Western Stars, Moab, Utah, February
2nd annual Texas Crossroads Cowboy Gathering, Van Horn, Texas, February
4th Annual Cowboy Poetry Hootenanny, Mesquite, Nevada, February
26th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering,
Elko, Nevada, January separate page
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18th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering Sierra Vista, Arizona
report by Les Buffham, photos by Kit Cramerphoto by Kit Cramer
The eighteenth annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering got off with a bang on Thursday, February 11th in the usual manner as poets and musicians scheduled to entertain at area schools on Friday gathered at Big Nose Kate’s in Tombstone for an evening warm up. This warm up feature is not an advertised part of the Gathering though it is open to the public. It is primarily for the performers scheduled for venues in area schools and key sponsors events on Friday. It gives the performers and their host families time to get acquainted and renew old relationships as well as provide a great evening of entertainment for everyone attending.
They filed across the stage much in the manner of the Grand Ole Opry, only without the commercials. It was a delightful evening with just a taste of what was to come over the course of the weekend.
The theme for this year’s Gathering was “Cowboys and Sweethearts” and as you might suspect, there were lots of western love songs and poems. You could see and feel those hearts a floatin’ on the air!
The “Main Event” began the following evening in the Buena Performing Arts Center at Sierra Vista’s Buena High School. The evening performance was graced with Western stars; Sue Harris, Dennis Gaines, Prickly Pair and the Cactus Choral, Jerry Brooks, Bill Barwick, Doris Daley and the closing act, Due West Trio.
Prior to the intermission came part of the program that the organizers of this event are aptly heralded for—the presentation of awards in the youth poetry contest.
The winners were selected from nearly two thousand poems submitted by young people in area schools.
Jessica Gandara and Zack Madarang performed their winning submissions and in turn received their awards. Awards for the contest came in the form of scholarships and savings bonds. These students also received a resounding applause from the audience for their efforts.
The organizers of this gathering place a great deal of attention and focus on the importance of passing on the lifestyle and culture of the cowboy to our young people. They have adopted a “Western Heritage Program” which is dedicated toward that end and have published each year a booklet, Saddlebag of Poems, which is offered for sale at the gatherings. The content is of submissions by the youth poetry winners and proceeds from sales benefit the schools.
They also show their appreciation for the field of education by choosing an “Educator of the Year.” The honor this year was bestowed upon Mrs. Jamie Handling who teaches English at Buena High.
Saturdays free sessions were a full day for everyone as performers and audience alike studied and shuffled programs in order to get to the next venue. Over 50 artists perform during the Saturday day events, and this Gathering also hosts two rooms out of the eight just for “walk-ins,” artists who want to get a chance to be seen by the Gathering. Each of the available 14 sessions is hosted by an artist and they submit critiques on the performers. The Gathering has picked up a number of new artists through these sessions. So, if you are in the area for THIS Gathering, join the fun!
The organizers of this event and the many volunteers must be praised for the nearly military precision with which it is put together. Without their combined efforts it would be impossible. Kudos to Co-Chairmen Steve Conroy and Mike Barker for a job well done!
Saturday night’s headliners were Randy Huston, Laurie and Cora Wood, Desert Sons, Larry Maurice, Joni Harms, Jack De Werff and Journey West.
Youth Poetry winners presenting were Dallas Belair and John Quinn.
The end of the show was certainly not the end of the day. Jam sessions abounded until the wee hours in halls, lobbies and conference rooms at the Windemere Hotel and Conference Center.
The wrap up was the final headline stage performance Sunday afternoon at the Buena Performing Arts Center. The list of headliners were: Tony Norris, Sandy Seaton, Ken and Lynn Mikell, Dennis Gaines, Prickly Pair and The Cactus Choral, and Laurie and Cora Wood.
Youth awards recipients and presenters were: Makayla Duncan, Joe Feliciano and Shiann Skinner.
A spectacular closing performance was given by Arizona’s own Desert Sons.
photo by Kit Cramer
A highlight of this event, at least for me, was the appearance of new faces, including Judy Coder, Hank Cramer and many others.
In speaking with a few of the artists they answered my question, “What stands out to you about this gathering?” with a uniform response. “The care, attention and welcoming the gathering gives to the performers making them feel they are an important part of their event.”
Put this one on your calendar for next year. It is without a doubt one of the premier gatherings of western poets and musicians. The 19th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering will be held February 11-13, 2011. Check the website (http://www.cowboypoets.com) for the latest news and announcements.
Sixth Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering Ellensburg, Washington
photo of Tommy Tucker by
photo of Tommy Tucker by Smoke Wade
President's Day week-end brought western music fans out in large numbers for the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering in Ellensburg, Washington and they certainly were not disappointed. It was three days of outstanding entertainment with a cast including Riders in the Sky, Red Steagall, R.W. Hampton, Rich O'Brien, Belinda Gail, STAMPEDE!, Rockin' HW and Stan Kvistad. Also five venues in the downtown area featured several western musicians and cowboy poets on Friday and Saturday.
Riders in the Sky and Belinda Gail backstage
Kicking things off on Friday Night was a performance featuring R.W. Hampton and Rich O'Brien with the Central Washington University Symphonic Orchestra. R.W. performed the music and stories from his award winning album, Oklahoma.....Where The West Remains! Don't ever let anyone tell you that a college symphony can't keep up with the best, because this orchestra can. They were "dynamite"! This was a magnificent performance! Which just reaffirmed my belief that Western Music was meant to be played by a symphony.
Tommy Tucker, Red Steagall , Clyde James
On Saturday afternoon it was Red Steagall who took to the CWU Music Hall Stage and before a near capacity crowd proved why he is one of the top entertainers in the western genre. With Rich O'Brien and Red's son backing him up, he performed with stories, poems and great songs. Red's performance was absolutely brilliant. STAMPEDE!, Steve and Terri Taylor and David Anderson, opened for Red and did an absolutely great job with their great music and comical performance.
Riders in the Sky performing Saturday Night
Then on Saturday night, Riders in the Sky hit the stage with their great music and zany antics to a near sold out auditorium. This was my first time in seeing them perform and certainly wasn't disappointed! Everything I'd heard was true, they are the greatest! Opening for the Riders in the Sky was The Rockin' HW, with Michael Whitaker and Alan Halvorson, performing their unique style of music and poetry were, as usual, outstanding! Also on both Saturday performances the National Anthem was sung by Jenny Lynn, the daughter of David Anderson, who did a wonderful performance.
Two performances were held at the events center on the Kittitas County Fair grounds. On Saturday afternoon, it was Belinda Gail, STAMPEDE! and Stan Kvistad taking the stage and Sunday it was Belinda, joined by R.W. Hampton and Rockin' HW. Belinda Gail absolutely "lit up" the stage during her performances. She proved that she is one of the best in Western music. Whether playing with a symphony or on stage with just his guitar, R.W. Hampton again was outstanding.
On Friday night, a special tribute was held honoring Curly Musgrave. Kathi Musgrave, who attended the show, and Belinda Gail were each presented a beautiful, framed enlarged photo of Curly taken when he last performed at the Spirit of the West two years ago. The one that Belinda received is the picture that was on the cover of winter issue of Western Way magazine.
Other happenings and new this year was the Cowboy Reunion with World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, Den Copenhaver. Deb won the titles in 1955 and 1956! A member of the National Rodeo Hall of Fame and Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, along with other Hall of Famers shared stories and experiences about life on the rodeo circuit. Also a Youth Fiddle Contest was held. Which was a great success! Several workshops took place and there were dance lessons for those who want to brush up for the dances on Friday and Saturday nights. Music for the dances was provided by the Dave Rawlinson Band on Friday and Lance Romance on Saturday.
It was reported in the local newspaper that the Spirit of the West is ranked as one of the Top 5 Gatherings in the Country. And this year the organizers and crew proved why! OUTSTANDING! This was one great week-end! So make your plans to attend on February 18, 19 and 20 in 2011. Go to www.EllensburgCowboyGathering.com for information.
17th Annual Bootheel Cowboy Poetry Fiesta Lordsburg, New Mexico
story and photos by Steve Conroy
Lordsburg was pummeled with rain on Saturday night, but that did not prevent anyone from attending the marvelous 17th Annual Bootheel Cowboy Poetry Fiesta. The house was sold out and the entertainment was superb. Once again Allen "Hook" Hill and his wife June put together a great mix of poets and musicians who came from near and far to support this annual fundraiser for the preservation, restoration and updating of the Lordsburg-Hidalgo County Museum, where the Fiesta is held.
This is "hometown" at its best and if you are a Gathering aficionado, one to be experienced. You are treated to over three hours of great entertainment, and a delectable meal of grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings, chips and a drink and whatever else might show up on the table. Saucedo's Super Market donated all the food and drink and the Lordsburg Fire Department handled the cooking. "Who else would you get to burn your burgers? The Fire Department, right?" says "Hook." By the way, Hook and June just celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary.
This year, around 250 people attended.The show started at 5:00 (or purt near) for the first session. Intermission was around 6:30 for dinner and the second session started in at 7:00 and ran to 8:30. Steve Hill, "Hook's" son, served as MC and was in rare form. He said the theme was history and "everything would be historical...except the dates and the places, peoples names and the actual events might be changed." Steve is a comedic entertainer in his own right and kept things moving along smoothly while interjecting various quips throughout the show. The audience got their full share of laughter and a little moaning between acts. Steve is worth the
trip to Lordsburg, by himself.
The first entertainer was Pete Kennedy, a poet. Pete writes much of his own material and his delivery is smooth and polished. He also delivered his Valentine's poem that he had written for his wife and had surprised her with
it the week before at the Sierra Vista Gathering.
Pete was followed by Jon Messenger, a gifted songwriter and talented singer/guitar player. Jon's rendition of Dave Stamey's "The Bandit Joaquin" reverberated through the building and received a hearty applause from all. Jon also did two originals: "Old Pelloncios," a story about the jaguar and "Windmills."
Larry Harmer, a poet, followed Jon and he added some to the political humor that was very free-flowing.You must understand that patriotism and freedom are key elements to the western folk.They also are not bashful about sharing their thoughts and feelings. He did his poem "The Little Lady," which had the house in an uproar.
Copper Creek Wranglers
Closing out the first half were the Copper Creek Wranglers. The group consists of a fiddler, bass (sometimes steel guitar), lead and rhythm guitars and two female vocalists.The guitar players also sing and they blend their harmonies well.They did an exceptional job with the "Song of New Mexico" and "Strike a Lope."
Following hamburgers and sodas, Mike Dunn once again mesmerized the audience with his poetry. Mike has a rare gift for presentation and he brings each story alive. He said that many of the deaths that occurred on the trail were during river crossings. He presented one of his poems about such a death and it struck a chord in every heart. Well done.
Steve Conroy followed with a Dean Cook song called "The Minstrel Song." The audience requested that he sing Joyce Woodson's "Cheyenne" and it was well received. Steve also recites poetry and he presented S. Omar Barker's rendition of "Jack Potter's Courtin'" as well as one of his own pieces called "The Photograph." He has a fine baritone voice, and presents his music and poetry well.
Bud Strom is well-known poet throughout the southwest and has performed at many other Gatherings. He talked about his interaction with the school children and reminded us that "Kids say the darndest things." He did one of
the classic poems, "The Pearl of Them All" by Will Ogilvie, which WILL bring a tear to your eye. He also did several of his own poems, to include "My Dog Fred." Bud has written two books of poetry, and is a superb artist.
Roughstring closed out the evening with Ken Moore, Jess Barry and his wife Savannah (Moore) Barry. They did a superb job and surprised everyone with several duets between Jess and his wife. Savannah brightens up the stage and has a delightful voice, as does Jess. Jess also performed his original work "Two Miles," which was written for his grandfather who had been in World War II. We expect to see this one on the national circuit. They also sang Ian Tyson's "Navajo Rug," "Cowboy's Life" and the Double Diamond." Jess did a couple of fast-moving fiddle solos and got everyone to clapping.
Allen "Hook" Hill
Steve talked his father, Allen "Hook" Hill, into coming up and doing a piece. Hook has been a writer and storyteller for over 50 years and has recited cowboy poetry since 1992. Hook has a unique style for both his poetry and his presentations (as some of them are rather elaborate stories that defy description). He wrapped up the evening with his rendition of "Snore White." Ask him to tell you the story some time.
I can only say that, once again, "Hook" and June Hill have put together another "Pearl" of a Gathering. Of course, for every show, you need an appreciative audience and we had one of the best on Saturday.They participated, they sang along, and they laughed till their sides hurt.To all those who came from near and far to support the Lordsburg Museum renovation, thank you for sharing your time and laughter and applause.
If you were unable to join us this year in Lordsburg, you may just want to check out this great little Gathering in the Bootheel of New Mexico. Mark your calendar for February 19, 2011. See you at the next great Gathering
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