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(Some links may go out of date.)

2010 Reports



4th Annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show, Ritzville, Washington, May

14th Annual Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering, Ft. Scott, Kansas, June

Old Settlers Picnic at Devils Tower National Monument near Hulett, Wyoming, June

Cross Ties Cowboy Cowboy Poet Gathering and Trade Show near Lexington, Missouri, July

5th Annual White Mountains Roundup of Cowboy Poetry, Music and Art, Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, July

25th Annual Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Lewistown, Montana, August



Find January-February reports here.
Find March-April reports here.
Find September-October reports here.
Find November-December reports here.

See reports from 2009 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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July, 2010
Cross Ties Cowboy Cowboy Poet Gathering and Trade Show  near Lexington, Missouri

  report and photos by Jerry Schleicher


Horses and Cowboys Reign at Cross Ties Gathering

It was a BYOH (Bring Your Own Horse) party, with nearly 300 guests, riders, exhibitors and performers attending the Cross Ties Cowboy Poet Gathering and Trade Show at the Big River Ranch outside Lexington, Missouri, last July 10-11.

Organized and co-sponsored by the Cross Ties Cowboy Church of Odessa, Missouri, the event began with amateur cowboy music and poetry competitions, with
Travis Giles and Bill Henderson taking home first-place custom-inscribed belt buckles. The Missouri Rawhide Mounted Shooters staged two demonstrations of mounted shooting in the Big River arena. They were followed by the Double Trouble Trick Riders, starring 11-year-old twins Bethany and Britney Iles from Lexington, Missouri, who put on a captivating performance of stunt riding. The event also featured an Old West gunfight, wagon rides, and nearly 20 trade show vendors offering western art, jewelry, clothing, food, books and CDs.

Jerry Schleicher; Abe Reddekopp; D.J. Fry; Johnny Kendrick; Steven Spalding; Jackson Kendrick; Francine Robison; Sam Kendrick; Richard Dunlap.

Cowboy musicians and poets put on two big outdoor shows from the deck of the Big River headquarters on Saturday, July 10. Johnny Kendrick, a popular cowboy musician from Richards, Missouri, and co-founder of the Echoes of the Trail Festival in Fort Scott, Kansas, led off each show with a performance of traditional cowboy music. Kendrick, who sings and plays the banjo and guitar, was accompanied by his sons on guitar and fiddle.

The Kendricks led off each performance at the Cross Ties Cowboy Poet Gathering

The Kendricks were followed by Francine Robison, Oklahoma's Cowboy Poet Laureate from Tecumseh, Oklahoma, and Abe Reddekopp, a cowboy singer from Kansas City, Missouri. D.J. Fry, a cowboy musician from Oronogo, Missouri, and Richard Dunlap, a musician and rancher from Louisburg, Missouri, teamed up to perform old-time cowboy ballads and range songs on the guitar and mandolin. Steven Spalding, a nationally-known cowboy preacher and recording artist from Lebanon, Missouri, closed each show with original songs from his seven CD's of cowboy and country gospel music. Jerry Schleicher, a cowboy poet and country humorist from Parkville, Missouri, emceed each show and added a note of humor with his tall tales about a cowboy matador, country wives sent to town for parts, and a runaway 4-H calf at the county fair.

Richard Dunlap and D.J. Fry entertained at the Cross Ties Cowboy Gathering with old-time cowboy ballads and range songs.

Even the horses stopped to listen as Steven Spalding performed his original cowboy and country gospel music during the Cross Ties Cowboy Gathering.

Big River Ranch is one of the largest and best-furnished horse camps in Missouri, offering 25 miles of horse trails on 2,100 acres of wooded land adjoining the Missouri River. The ranch frequently serves as a filming location for western and Civil War-era films and documentaries. Many guests attending the event brought their horse trailers and RV's and spent the weekend camping and trail riding. On Friday and Saturday evenings guests gathered around a bonfire for a cowboy sing-along. The event concluded on Sunday morning with cowboy preacher Steven Spalding preaching and performing at cowboy church.

Credit for much of the success of this first-year event goes to Charlie Giles, past vice-president of the Missouri Equine Council and co-founder of the Cross Ties Cowboy Church, who put in many long hours to organize the gathering and trade show. The event was co-sponsored by the Cross Ties Cowboy Church, Transwest Trailers, Kleinschmit's Western Store, Circle S Ministries, and the Heartland Cowboy Performers Association.


May, 2010
Fourth Annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show  Ritzville, Washington

  story and photos by Smoke Wade
photo of Smoke Wade by Jeri L. Dobrowski


4th Annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show

Sadly, the train doesn’t stop in Ritzville these days. It has been a number of years since the passenger trains gave up on Ritzville. Established in the 1880’s, Ritzville, Washington was once the largest wheat shipping point in the world. While the wheat industry is still booming, much of the grain is transported by trucks these days. Then the interstate by-passed the quaint farming town of gracious homes and graceful brick buildings that bear silent witness to the prosperity of times gone by. Slowly, the historic downtown, rich in pioneer heritage, slipped into a slumber brought about by a lack of business and tourism.

But, even though the trains no longer stop in Ritzville, that doesn’t mean she’s not a train town. Over sixty trains a day blow through the heart of town with whistles blowing, and the ground shaking, as long freight trains hurry past to unknown destinations. And it is these very trains and their endless clickety-clack that connects the soul of Ritzville to its prosperous past.

It was just a scant one hundred feet from the historic Ritzville train depot that the outdoor main stage was set for the 4th Annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show held May 28 – 30, 2010. As the trains rumbled by, the talented cast of western entertainers that performed over the weekend quickly learned to adapt to the deafening noise. The 2010 Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show was sponsored by the Ritzville Downtown Development Association as a means to help revitalize the historic downtown business district. The three-day event encompassed downtown Ritzville as it featured inside and outside venues including a street fair of over 60 renowned artisans—western artists, sculptors and, authors, along with food booths, youth activities and live entertainment.

Poets Jessica Hedges, Van and Kathy Criddle, Duane Nelson, and JB Barber

The performing artists for the 2010 Art show included Cowboy Celtic, Alberta; Dave Stamey and Sourdough Slim, California; the Rockin' HW (Michael Whitaker and Alan Halvorson) and Nevada Slim & Cimarron Sue, Washington; Barbara Nelson, Oregon; and The Copper Mountain Band, Montana. The performing cowboy poets included Jessica Hedges, Del Gustafson, Orvil Sears, Robin Dale and Dick Warwick, all from Washington; Kathy and Van Criddle and Duane Nelson of Oregon; and JB Barber, Idaho. Smoke Wade, Nevada, emceed the street festival event.

Alan Halvorson and Michael Whitaker of the Rockin' HW

The festivities got under way on Friday night with an artists’ reception at the C. J. Newland American Legion Memorial Hall with musical entertainment provided by Barbara Nelson. Street fair art exhibits, art auctions and cowboy entertainment ran throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday. Up on Main Street, one could hear the occasional sounds of gunfire as members of the Ritzville Community Theater troupe staged Old West gun battles on a regular schedule. The out-of-town visitors wandered through the art booths sipping from a cold bottle of sarsaparilla or blowing the steam from a cup of cowboy coffee that was offered for sale from an authentic chuck wagon.

And the music and poetry seemed to waft through the streets in a non-stop fashion. Sourdough Slim was at his best delighting audiences throughout the weekend. Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue wandered the streets on occasion as western singing minstrels. Cowboy Celtic brought their own unique music to the festival—reminding us about the roots of cowboy music. Cowboy poet Mike Whitaker and musician, Alan Halvorson of the Rockin' HW pulled double duty as sound crew and performers. The Copper Mountain Band played country music for a wonderful street dance, and Dave Stamey lived up to his Western Music Association 2009 Entertainer of the Year Award by dazzling the audiences with his music, singing, and naturally engaging personality.

Somewhere in the midst of it all some folks spent time at the classic car show up in the park, dining at the local restaurants or attending a special Memorial Day service at the Ritzville Memorial Cemetery. Others scooped up collectable art from the many artists, or toured the museum at the historic Ritzville train depot.

It was perhaps ironic that even though the entire festival offered free admission, the chilly and windy weather kept crowds lighter than the organizers and entertainers would have expected. Still, the event coordinators headed up by the energetic group of Stephen McFadden, Jim Lisk, Lavonne Saunders, Jennifer Larsen and many others, stormed through their duties in a tireless fashion. And the entertainers entertained—and the trains rolled by.

When western art and music festivals come to an end, the organizers, audience and entertainers alike all experience a deal of bittersweet feelings. They are often relieved the event is over and know they can soon journey home, yet they are saddened to part company with new and old friends alike. In Ritzville, they left reluctantly. They left wanting more—more of Dave Stamey’s ballads, more of Van Criddle’s poetry and more of the quick draw artist competitions. They left with memories of a wonderful weekend, of cold sarsaparilla and cowboy coffee —memories of the 4th annual Historic Ritzville Days Western Art Show and Music Festival. But mostly, they will remember the trains—those wonderful trains that no longer stop in Ritzville.


June, 2010
Old Settlers' Picnic at Devils Tower National Monument  near Hulett, Wyoming 

    report by Francie Ganje


In the early days of settling the West, neighbors were few and far between. In some areas of the West, it's still that way.

Which is why the annual Old Settlers' Picnic held June 20, 2010 at the Devils Tower National Monument near Hulett, Wyoming, resonates yet today with neighbors and family who don't get a chance to socialize very often and subsequently won't miss this treasured tradition, held at the base of what is the neck of a dormant volcano.

The annual event offers picturesque settings, fellowship and entertainment—much the same as in the early 1880s when settlers would travel by wagon, horseback and buckboard to the Tower for a two-day gathering. [The Old Settler's Picnic started in the 1930s and was held through the 1960s. It was revived in June, 2006.]

The event, coordinated by the Crook County Committee for the Old Settlers' Picnic, presented its honorees for the occasion. Opal Oudin and Walter and Arline Hauber  were recognized for their long-time support and attendance by another long-time supporter of the event, the National Park Service.

Troy McNaught Westby and Slim McNaught

Along with picnic lunches and desert, cowboy entertainment was the order of the day, poetry and music.  Mother/son team of Troy McNaught Westby and Slim McNaught were among the western poets lineup that
also included Wyomings' Patricia Frolander*, Sundance; Shirley Anderson, Hulett; and Terry Henderson, Shawnee.

Patricia Frolander

Shirley Anderson

Terry Henderson

[*Patricia Frolander is featured in a June, 2010 American Life in Poetry column from past Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, here.]

June, 2010
14th Annual Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering   Fort Scott, Kansas

  report and photos by Jerry Schleicher


Echoes of the Trail Resound in Fort Scott, Kansas

An estimated 700 visitors enjoyed the finest cowboy entertainment to be found in the Midwest during the 14th annual Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering in Fort Scott, Kansas, June 11-13, 2010. Located just over an hour's drive south of Kansas City, Fort Scott is a beautifully-preserved Kansas frontier town that features restored Antebellum homes, cobblestone streets, an original downtown dating back to the mid-1800s, and a restored 1842 U.S. Army frontier fort.

Johnny Kendrick and his sons Sam (left, on fiddle)
and Jackson (right, on bass fiddle) with Doug Ernest on dobro

Visitors were treated to headline performances on both Friday and Saturday nights, and performances on two separate stages all day Saturday, with all shows held at the Fort Scott Community College. The Friday night show featured a performance of traditional cowboy, western bluegrass and country gospel music by Johnny Kendrick, co-founder of the Echoes Gathering from Richards, Mo., and his sons Jackson and Sam. Warm-up acts that evening included cowboy and country gospel recording artist Steven Spalding, Lebanon, Mo.; musician Wanda Cothren, the "Kiamichi Songbird" from Amber, Ok.; Geff Dawson, a popular cowboy poet and musician from Alma, Ks.; and Jerry Schleicher, a country humorist and poet from Parkville, Mo.

Saturday night featured performer Del Shields, with his accompanist Doug Coon

Del Shields, a nationally-known cowboy poet and singer from Humboldt, Ks., who's been featured on RFD TV's "America by Horseback," delivered the headline show on Saturday night. His show was preceded by performances by Johnny Kendrick; Abe Reddekopp, a cowboy musician from Kansas City, Mo.; D.J. Fry, a cowboy singer and musician from Oronogo, Mo.; Harold Carpenter, a cowboy poet and humorist from Sedan, Ks.; and Joe Lester, a cowboy singer and poet from Kansas, Ok.

On Saturday, eleven performers entertained audiences on two stages, including the "theatre in the round" auditorium at the Community College. In addition to those who performed Friday and Saturday nights, performers also included Richard Dunlap, rancher and cowboy musician from Louisburg, Mo.; Ken Lorton, a deerhide braider and cowboy reciter from Venita, Ok.; Donna Penley, a cowboy poet from Haysville, Ks.; and Cliff Sexton, a cowboy musician and poet from Uniontown, Ks.

Cliff Sexton, Uniontown, Kan.; Joe Lester, Kansas, Ok.; D.J. Fry, Oronogo, Mo.; Jim John, Wichita, Kan.; Donna Penley, Haysville, Kan.; Ken Lorton, Vinita, Ok.; Steven Spalding, Lebanon, Mo.; Judy Howser, Fort Scott, Kan.; Harold Carpenter, Sedan, Kan.; Wanda Cothren, Amber, Ok.; Jerry Schleicher, Parkville, Mo.; Abe Reddekopp, Kansas City, Mo.;
Royce Smithey, Bonham, Tx.; and Geff Dawson, Alma, Ks.

Saturday afternoon also featured the winners from the more than 120 students who entered the annual student cowboy poetry competition. Several talented cowboy musicians and poets performed during an open mic session, and Steven Spalding and Jerry Schleicher conducted a cowboy music and poetry writing workshop that attracted numerous aspiring poets and songwriters. The writing workshop proved so popular that it will be back again next year.

Each year, Echoes of the Trail features a trade show of western art, jewelry, western clothing, leather work and saddles, as well as books and CD's by the performers. On the grounds of the Community College, chuckwagon cook Dennis Williams and his wife, Donna, from Neosho, Mo., served lunch on Saturday and flapjacks and sausage on Sunday morning. They were assisted by chuckwagon cook Kenny Gordon from Oregon, Mo. More than 60 folks attended Cowboy Church Sunday morning beside the chuckwagon, with Richard Dunlap leading services, and several performers providing country gospel music and inspirational poetry.

The Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering was established in 1996 by Arnold Schofield, a retired National Park Service historian and director of the Mine Creek State Historic Site, and by Johnny Kendrick, who wrote and recorded the popular Echoes of the Trail title CD. The annual event is organized by Schofield and Kendrick, and by Judy Howser and a committee of volunteers including Diann Tucker, Gary Wimmer, Cliff Sexton, Keitha Bohlander and Marlene Arndt. The event is entirely supported through donations, with leading sponsors including the Fort Scott Community College, the Bourbon County Arts Council, and many local businesses and individuals.

See our feature on this event here.

July, 2010
5th Annual White Mountains Roundup of Cowboy Poetry, Music and Art  Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona

From Chris Isaacs:


Ours is a small show, but we have tried hard to keep the quality first class.

This is an e-mail that I received after the White Mountains Roundup, from Matilda Essig (included with her permission), who was a first timer:

Chris - I still can't believe I got to hear all of that in such an intimate setting. It was pure magic. I had heard Dave before down here in Elgin, but never even heard of you or Waddie before that trip. I was simply transported in the most powerful way that great art can move a person. An inspiration. I wish that more Americans could connect to this heritage and benefit from the power of these stories. Maybe if we turned off all of the electric on the planet we would rediscover some things. Hope to see you perform again someday—Matilda Essig

Waddie Mitchell, Dave Stamey, and Chis Isaacs

I treasure the comments from folks who are hearing our performances for the first time and enjoy them. My thanks to Waddie Mitchell, Dave Stamey, the Mountain Saddle Band, and all the hard working folks behind the scenes for a great show.

August, 2010
25th Annual Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Lewistown, Montana

Report by John Glawson,


The Silver Anniversary of the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering
And Western Music Rendezvou


Now, how is that fer a moniker?

Yahoooo! What a party that was. Pards, you just gotta give credit where it’s due. Ms. Kuhlmann, you and yer “tower of strength” committee along with the great support of the Lewistown Chamber of Commerce did it again. As one of the performers and an audience member, I appreciate the hard work you do. Thank you.

I could see this party was gonna be a success from the “Get Aquainted BBQ” at the Yogo Inn on Thursday, August 12, 2010. Heck, them poets and pickers was wolfing down that great feed and fixin’s the Inn’s ownership put on like they was a pack of starvin’ coyotes—entertainers don’t eat good on a regular basis. Then them entertainers got to linin’ up to show off their talent and give the crowd an insight on what was to come.

Ha, I’ll tell ya, the crowd not only got their giggle boxes oiled, but their feet a tapping, too! Ha, if you folks only know’d what was goin’ on behind the scenes ya wouldn’t ever wanna come outta there!

Then Friday it started. And the folks started pouring into the Inn. I see’d old and new friends coming through them doors. It was sure gratifying to see a passel of young folks bringin’ their young uns in also.

Many of them young uns had that starry look in their eyes as they watched and listened to the entertainers - maybe a sign of entertainers to come. And what entertainment it was too!! Poets and pickers galore was singin’ and pickin’ and recitin’. Heck some of em was just up there telling dang lies, but, oh what lies. Them lies could either curdle yer inners or rock yer giggle box outta kilter—I just refuse to believe that a feller would administer medicine to a mule’s north end with a french horn.

And many of them folks, young and old come to me afterwards and let me know how they enjoyed and was plannin’ on making this something they was gonna pay a whole lot more attention to in the future. A good many was pointing at their offsprings and saying how much they enjoyed it, too.

The Yogo Inn was hopping all weekend long. The crowds coming and looking at the entertainment and art exhibits was one of the best yet. I don’t know about sales fer them other artists but judgin’ from my own personal experience they musta been good.

This whole shebang came to a wondrous finale at the beautiful Fergus County High School Auditorium—I am so jealous and envious of Lewistown fer having that facility!  Henry Real Bird! Red Steagall!! Wow, what a performance them two put on Saturday night. They had the capacity crowd whooping and clapping and just plain loving it.

Folks, it ain’t only them that was in and around the Yogo Inn that was getting their hands greened up with cash, but other hotels, restaurants and businesses was, too.  

Lewistown, ya got yerselves a winner there. It’s been a winner fer a long time and folks are starting to notice. The Yogo Inn might just have to get bigger; you all might be just building bigger facilities to handle it. You got a great group of people that got it off the ground and you got a great group of folks that understand that working together for success is more than carrying a wore out membership card in yer back pocket. It sometimes takes a helping hand. Lewistown and district sure seems to have that notion if what I saw in Lewistown on August 12-15th, 2010 is indication.


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



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