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(Some links may be out of date.)

2003 Reports

May - July

(see January-April reports here
see August-December reports here)


Richmond (Texas) May

Spearfish (South Dakota) May

Houston (Texas) May

Medora (North Dakota) May

Townsend (Montana) June

Fort Scott (Kansas) June

Amarillo (Texas) June

Bannack (Montana) June

Salinas (California) July

Fort Worth (Texas) July (separate page)

(see January-April reports here
see August-December reports here)

See reports for:

2005 here
2004 here

2002 here
2000- 2001 are here


Back to Events page . . .
Back on home . . .


May, 2003
Working Cowboy Competition  
George Ranch Historical Park
Richmond, Texas

story and photos (except where noted) by Lloyd Shelby and Judy Hadaway

The George Ranch Historical Park held its annual A.P. George Memorial Working Cowboy Ranch Competition on May 3rd and 4th, 2003.  Working cowboys from several ranches competed for cash and prizes in events such as double mugging, ranch branding and heading and healing.  The competition was fierce and exhausting in the ninety degree plus South Texas heat and humidity, no
small job!  This competition was emceed by the George Ranch Lead Interpreter (Head Wrangler), Jim Hodges.  "This was the way cattle were handled on most ranches during the late 1800's and on the many cattle drives," Hodges said.

"So our visitors are seeing cowboys doing things the way they were done right here on the ranch when Mr. George ran things in the late 1890's into the 1920's." However, this was only a part of the "go'ins on" during the day.  At the other end of the large covered arena on the George Ranch was a cow camp, set up to show visitors how a cowboy lived during the days of the cattle drives. Three authentic chuckwagons served up some great chuck and the visitors couldn't get enough. 

Cowboy True
Curly Musgrave, Linda Kirkpatrick, and Lloyd Shelby
photo by Bud Northington

Entertainment at the cow camp included the Young Pioneers and three cowboy poets.

These poets provided a new experience for the many visitors, as most had never really heard a "cowboy poet."  AWA award winning writer and poet, Rod Nichols kept visitors captivated with his easy style and earthy poetry.  His quiet voice still provided a really wonderful listening experience around the chuckwagons.

AWA standout, Linda Kirkpatrick, was a real favorite as she gave a woman's perspective to the poetry.  Many commented on her ability to lead the listeners into the early pioneer lifestyle.

Lloyd Shelby, another AWA award winning writer and performer worked with the roping demonstration, showing young and old how NOT to rope.  "I never was very good at roping," Lloyd told the participants, "but I have gotten a little worse lately!"

Lloyd Shelby

A highlight of the day was the "stick horse races" for the young 'uns in the rodeo arena.  The competition was absolutely fierce, as each young cowboy and cowgirl did their best to control their unruly steeds.  However, the championship saw a young lady edged out by a young buckaroo who was over the line first, but actually came in second after the judges assessed a five second penalty for breaking the barrier too soon.  Great competition!

After a great day of rodeo competition and events, the arena was cleared and setup for the Cattlemen's Ball.  The famous George Ranch camp cookie, Nick, then prepared a 1900 George Ranch Banquet, consisting of two-inch thick, hand cut ribeye steaks, Garlic potatoes, sourdough rolls, with all the fixin's and mouth waterin' peach cobbler for dessert!  No one left hungry!

Just prior to everyone beginning, two ranch hands fired their six guns into the air to let everyone know it was time to eat.  This is an old George Ranch tradition started by Mr. A.P. George when he was entertaining the owners of other Texas ranches, such as the King Ranch and the Frost Ranch.
As the dinner plates were cleared away, Head Wrangler, Jim Hodges thanked the staff for their work that day and introduced the guests from the George Ranch team.  He then turned the stage over to the Official George Ranch Cowboy Poet, Lloyd Shelby.

"A Cowboy True," the title song, written and sung by it's writer, WMA Male Performer and Songwriter of the Year, Curly Musgrave, set the evening up for the audience.  Lloyd Shelby then began the entertainment with his riveting presentation of "Rainman," then recited more of his award winning stories in rhyme to an attentive crowd.

Curly Musgrave

Next up was Leakey,Texas' favorite daughter, Linda Kirkpatrick performing her nostalgic look at an old cowboy and his love of "saucering" his coffee ("A Cup Full of Mem'rys"). Linda's presentation of Debra Hill's ever-popular "Yellow Slicker" gave everyone a moment of quiet reflection.

Linda Kirkpatrick

When Curly began, everyone present was drawn to his easy and warm style as his voice took the listener to the very heart of the cowboy's life.  Several songs from his new CD, Heritage, delighted and captivated the audience. His special song, "Lone Star," written for his Texas fans, was an instant crowd pleaser, winning him many new admirers.

Cowboy True
Curly Musgrave, Lloyd Shelby, and Linda Kirkpatrick

Curly introduced a special favorite of his own, "Annie Laurie," by telling how it was the last song he and his mother sang together before she crossed the last divide two years ago.  Lloyd then provided his own reason for loving "Annie Laurie," as it was also an old favorite of the drovers while on night herd.

Then, together, Lloyd and Curly presented "Annie Laurie" and Badger Clark's "Bad Half Hour" in a rendition that brought tears to many eyes, as the story of the loneliness of a cowboy's life played out in the words and music.

The evening was one that will be long remembered by all those present, both performers and audience.  Many new friends and pards were made at the George Ranch Cattlemen's Ball, which is an annual event in May of each year.

All in all, The A.P. George Memorial Working Cowboy Ranch Competition and the Cattlemen's Ball should be on everyone's calendar of "must attend" events.

May, 2003
Heritage of the American West  
Spearfish, South Dakota

by Yvonne Hollenbeck 

On Thursday, May 15, 2003, I took a much needed break from the ranch and headed to beautiful Black Hills in Western South Dakota where I attended the Heritage of the American West Show at the High Plains Heritage Center in Spearfish.  This show is held once a month, on the 3rd Thursday evening, in the Bruce Miller Theatre on the Heritage Compound.  If you ever go to the Black Hills, be sure and pay this place a visit.  It is a wonderful complex that is dedicated entirely to displays and art of the Old West and the life that we try to preserve through our music and poetry.

This program is hosted monthly by a very popular radio and rodeo personality, Jim Thompson, together with his partner, Kay Jorgensen, and the staff of Creative Broadcast Services.  Each program consists of talent, both of local and national prominence, that is of the Western influence.
This month's show featured Brenn Hill on his first visit to this part of the West.  The theater was full of many people who were seeing Brenn Hill entertain for the first time and who left that night as his fans forever.

This is Brenn on stage.  Incidentally, the song he was
singing at the time was "The Smell of Burning Hair" which he had dedicated
to my husband and other men unable to attend that night due to the many
spring brandings being held throughout cattle country.

Brenn performed a wonderful program and will forever be remembered as providing one of the best concerts in the 97 concert history of the Heritage of the American West series.  The program was broadcast live over approximately 50 radio stations as well as the internet and can be heard in the archive at Live With Jim Thompson.

Jim Thompson and Brenn during a station break.

The show ended with a standing ovation, and after the "thunderous" applause died down inside,  Brenn and his father left in a thunderstorm outside, heading home to Utah where they were to attend his maternal grandmother's funeral on Friday.  He was also anxious to go home, after a lengthy tour, to see once again, his wife and little boy.

After the concert, Brenn was greeted by many fans wanting autographs and
thanking him for a wonderful evening.

This report is also posted in Yvonne's "irregular column," From My Home on the Prairie

May, 2003
CHAPS Meeting
Houston, Texas

by Scott Hill Bumgardner

CHAPS Breaks In A New Location

The May meeting of the Cowboy History and Performance Society (CHAPS) was the first to be held at our new location, the Pappas Bar-B-Q on Highway 59 South in Houston.  While we were well taken care of by our friends at Hickory Hollow, it was time to move to a bigger facility.  It seemed that disaster was looming, early on the day of the event our planned speaker had to cancel.

This disaster was averted, thanks to our great friend and member, Bob Dabney.  Bob, who was our very first speaker three years ago stepped up to the plate or in our case, slid into the saddle to handle the speaker's duties.  He led us down the trails of early Texas with a masterful presentation on the early days of ranching and our Spanish predecessors. Mr. Dabney is truly a great Texas historian and friend to all of us who work to preserve this western heritage we share.

Our member entertainers followed the historical presentation.  We had quite a medley of performances ranging from the hilarious Dennis Gaines' tale of "Bovine Palpation" performed excellently by Ted E. Dennison to the soothing and smooth ballads performed by Misslette, The Singing Cowgirl.  Poet Gene O 'Quinn performed several stirring poems and cowboy singer John Pickul belted out some of our favorite songs of the western movie era.  Many thanks must always go to Mike Stroup for his great guitar work and for lugging the sound equipment.  President Pat Gavin led the meeting and helped close it in song as he, Misslette and John Pickul led us in "Happy Trails."

Gene O'Quinn, Misslette, John Pickul, Mike Stroup, Bob Dabney, & Pat Gavin

Check our web site for further details at

May, 2003
17th Annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Medora, North Dakota

by Yvonne Hollenbeck  with photos by Yvonne Hollenbeck and Jeri Dobrowski 


Photo courtesy of Jeri Dobrowski 

The above photo was taken of the performers after the night show on Sunday, May 25, 2003 at Medora.  They are, in front:  Emcee: Glenn Vaagen of Taylor, North Dakota (a right good singer and picker in his own right); poet Yvonne Hollenbeck, a Clearfield South Dakota ranch wife; and in the back from L to R is singer Bob Peterman, a Wilbaux, Montana rancher; poet Jess Howard of Marmarth, ND (Pat Richardson's brother....who goes by a different last name so folks won't know that); singer (and right good saddlemaker) Lon Davis of Beach, North Dakota; and for a little entertainment, both before, during and after the show, was Stan Howe of Helen, Montana, who not only recites classic poetry, but is an outstanding singer.....and Norwegian joke teller!  This group entertained a full house and received standing ovations.  According to Show Coordinator, Bill Lowman, it was one of the best shows to ever grace the stage in the 17 year history of the Gathering.

The Saturday night show featured the local Holsti Sisters, poet Andy Nelson of Pinedale, Wyoming; singer Sam Hanzlik of Sturgis, South Dakota; and poet Patsy Shannon of
Lake Park, Minnesota.

A number of top names graced the stage for the afternoon shows, including Elizabeth Ebert; D. W. Groethe; Bill and Rhonda Stearns; the Fiddle Kick Cloggers; Syble Brown; Ann Secrest Hanson; Charlie Hunt; Bill & Deb Sustrich of Sheridan, Wyoming; and many, many others' great talents.  

Ray Hanzlik of Mud Butte, South Dakota, received a standing ovation (and many tears flowed) after reciting, and then announcing his retirement from the stage due to complications from a stroke.

 D.W. Groethe entertaining the packed house at
the 17th Annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in historic Medora, ND,
May 24 & 25, 2003
Photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck

One of the favorite features of the Gathering is the Sunday Morning Gospel Sing which featured a tremendous line-up of musical talent and they even got "yours truly" here to dust off the ivories, actually they worked me like a foundered burro, accompanying a number of groups and singers with a little gospel piano.

Bill & JoAnn Lowman, Jeri & Jen Dobrowski and the whole staff need a big Thank You for all their hard work in making this one of the finest gatherings in the country!  It's Memorial Day Weekend each year and a great place to spend some time.

June, 2003
Second Annual Cowboy Entertainer Gathering
Townsend, Montana 

story and photos by Charlie Camden

We loaded up the car on the night before, got up early, and were 100 miles away and almost to the top of Lolo Pass leaving Idaho for Montana as the rising sun hit the windshield.  The glare on the windshield didn't bother me at all, as I had cast my fate to the winds and went to sleep letting Kathy
drive.  This was no small act of bravery as one might think.  I realized that she was driving the speed limit, but it was the 35-40 miles over that concerned me.  I am determined to put an O- S--- handle in that little rocket.

Anyway we arrived in Townsend, Mont. and checked into our room that Larry Gibson, the event organizer, had reserved for us.  We were there for the 2nd Annual Townsend Cowboy Entertainer Gathering.  This year it was held in the Auditorium of the High School which had a great stage, and back rooms to tune up and rehearse in.  There were two night shows, and both were well attended.  Attendance at day sessions was light, but that can be expected on weekdays.  The Friday Night Show was MC'd by Dave Tingey, a past President of Cowboy Poets of Idaho.  There was a pre-show put on by Butch Colby and Nelson Wert.  Performers on the Friday Night Show were:  Dave Tingey, (Single Saddlebag, Alice Hanks), Rusty Feathers, Jason DeShaw, Bruce South,
and Montana's Singing Cowboy--T. J. Casey.  Everyone had lots of stage time, and the show lasted over 3 hours.  Didn't lose a single person from the audience.  This was in large part due to the quality of each performance. After the show, most of the performers showed up at the American Legion and had a great Jam Session.  These are often the best part of the whole event. I left a little after 12:00 PM but many stayed to close the place down.

The next morning I got to the High School early, and when the performers started showing up, I couldn't believe that most of them looked bright eyed and bushy tailed.  I can vaguely remember days when I was that young.  I guess that is what they call it the days of Wine and Roses.  I can remember the Wine part, but don't recall spending hard earned money on Roses.

Performances started as soon as the performers arrived and went all day right through lunch until 5:00 PM. Loads of new and great talent.  All the sessions were full, and the audience was eager to hear it all.  We had one group of people from Dillon, Mont. that never left their seats all day Friday or Saturday, and were at both Night Shows.  By the time the Event was over they were just like family to all the performers.  Great people.  The Saturday Night Pre Show was performed by Family Tradition, a father-son singing act, and by Orville Riley doing some Humorous Poetry.

Mike Logan and Charlie Camden

The  Saturday Night Show was MC'd by Charlie Camden (me) President of the Northwest Chapter of the Western Music Association and Performers were: Bodie Dominguez, Larry Gibson, John Westbrook, Mike Logan, Wyoming Red, and last but not least Wayne Nelson. All of the performers seemed inspired by the receptive audience, and gave exceptional performances.  Again all the performers had plenty of stage time, and the show lasted till 10:30 PM.

Wyoming Red (Susan Park and Rusty Endecott) with Bodie Dominguez

The performers gathered at the American Legion and jammed until nobody could go any longer.  Cowboy Church was held at 9:00 AM and almost all said they were going to attend.  We had to leave early and miss the Church as we had animals to take care of, and I hate to trust others to do that chore for me.

Some of the other scheduled performers that were present were: Margaret Wilhelm, Les Poppleton, Lacey Pierry, Stacy Sue, Nevada Mattson, Smoke Wade, Dena Fritz, Nelson Wert, Butch Colby, and others who just dropped in.

There is much talk about making this an annual event.  If anyone is interested in coming to this event, they should contact:  Larry Gibson--- 406-266-3946 or e-mail
Larry is a member of the Western Music Association, Northwest Chapter of the Western Music Association and Cowboy Poets of Idaho

[See Larry Gibson's Cowboy Entertainer site for his report of the event; he mentions Byrd Woodward was also in attendance.]

June, 2003
Seventh Annual Echoes of the Trail
Ft. Scott, Kansas

by Norm Rourke 

They traveled many trails to be at the 7th Annual Echoes of the Trail gathering in Fort Scott, Kansas, June 14-15, 2003.

Cowboy poets, musicians, craftsmen and folks who follow the cowboy way gathered for two days of enjoyment. Held on the campus of Fort Scott Community College, the facilities were ideal for outdoor events. Music and poetry were presented in the Round Room auditorium. This in-the-round stage offered a unique setting for the presenters.

Performances included many regular contributors to Some were:
Norm Rourke, Jay Jones, Leroy Watts, Neal Torrey, Gail Burton, and Jake White. (And most likely some others were missed, sorry.)

June, 2003
Second Cal Farley's Boys Ranch Youth Cowboy Poetry Gathering   
Amarillo (Old Tascosa), Texas

by Lloyd Shelby

Old Tascosa, Texas - The second Cal Farley's Boys Ranch Youth Poetry Gathering was held June 12-15, 2003.  Those attending were treated to some of the best entertainment around in the cowboy genre.  The facilities at Cal Farley 's are simply amazing to the first time visitor.  The Ranch sits on the original town site of Tascosa, a true cattle town of the 1880's.  All that remains today is the well preserved Court House, which is now the Blevins Museum, and Boot Hill Cemetery.  Boot Hill is the final resting place for several outlaws and at least two deputy sheriffs killed in a shootout.  Pat
Garret was in the Court House many times, along with a visit or two by Billy the Kid.  Yessiree, this is the real deal, folks!

The Ranch looks more like a small, well-kept town today, with one of the nicest staffs you'd ever want to meet.  The boys and girls from the Ranch were great, polite, but still kids.  The visiting youngsters had the opportunity to choose from a number of classes being mentored and taught by
the musicians and performers themselves.  Classes included: Writing Workshop taught by renowned western novelist Elmer Kelton, Writing Your Story with Stephanie Davis and Andy Wilkinson, Performing With Passion with Lanny Jo Burnett, Crafts From The Ranch with Trudy Fair, Writing Cowboy Poetry with Judy and
Lloyd Shelby, Cowboy Cartooning with Wendy Liddle, Sculpting with
Rick Jackson, Photography with Bob Moorhouse, Performing in Public with Jeff Gore and many, many more.

Needless to say, the kids had a ball!  By the way, these classes were for the kids and no parents were allowed!

All day, each day, the entertainers were performing on the Dippel Center Stage, when they weren't teaching or talking to the many fans.  The evening performances included Red Steagall, R.W. Hampton, Trudy Fair, The Burson Family, Stephanie Davis, Don Edwards, Sons of the San Joaquin, and, not to be forgotten, ole Waddie Mitchell.

Special performances each night included a tribute to Larry McWhorter, well done by nine-year-old hit Oscar Auker, and a moving portrayal of the last living resident of Tascosa, Frenchie McCormick, by the lovely Anne Lockhart of Hollywood and Montana.

Winners of the Youth Open Mic Sessions also delighted the audience as each recited classics of the western genre.

It is impossible to pick a favorite performer at this Gathering, but suffice it to say that everyone had a great time, all day and every night!

Of special note was the beautiful art work provided for the program cover by Don Dane.  Other artisans showed their talents at the Western Arts and Trade Show which went on during the entire weekend.

Artisans of another sort, chuckwagon cooks, demonstrated their craft in a most delicious way for everyone to enjoy.  There will definitely be more of them next year!

Enough cannot be said for the staff at the Ranch.  They are absolutely great!  Kudos to the lovely Darci Johnson (and her even lovelier mother!), Mike Pacino and Tim Jobe for their organizing this worthwhile event.  They worked all year getting this Gathering ready, and it certainly showed!

The Cal Farley Youth Poetry Gathering should definitely be on your calendar for next year!  It already is one of the best Gatherings around, and it will get better each year.  Thanks, to the great folks at the Cal Farley's Boys Ranch for their hospitality!

[See our feature about this event here]

June, 2003
Let's Raise the Roof (Northwest Chapter of the Western Music Association)
Bannack, Montana 

story and photos by Charlie Camden

On June 20th we left Idaho to go back to our old stompin' grounds in Montana.  To be exact we were on our way to Bannack, the First Territorial Capitol of Montana.  The purpose of this was to meet up with other members of our newly formed Northwest Chapter of the Western Music Association.  We would be participating in a program for the Montana Deptartment of Fish Wildlife and Parks that was called "Let's Raise the Roof," and it would be our "kickoff event." This was to be a fund raising event to repair the roof on the Old Meade Hotel.  

Meade Hotel

Bannack is maintained in what is termed "an arrested state of decay."  Sounds like typical political jargon to me. But these buildings must be maintained, as they are visible, standing, historical items from the era of the Old West.  Instead of reading a book, a person may come here and wander through the buildings, walk the boardwalks, pan for gold, see and do, the things that were part of every day life for the people of the time.  We would be there to put on a show with all the proceeds to go into the fund for maintenance.  The amount of money generated by our performance would be matched by other funds.

Old Church and Skinners Saloon

The day was cool, and looked like rain as we pulled into the campground at Bannack.  After setting up the camper, we went the short distance to the towns entrance and met with Angie Hurley, the Park Manager.  Although I had been to Bannack many times in the past, she took our Chapter on a tour of the town, and gave us a selection of places to perform.  We had originally been scheduled to perform on the porch of the Meade Hotel, but due to the threatening clouds and cold winds off the Mountains to the West, we opted for the inside use of the Old Church.  

Old Church

No use to start something that was likely to be interrupted by rain or even snow.  The show was scheduled to begin at 7:00 PM, and about 6:00 PM the parking lot began to fill.  People were coming from surrounding towns and ranches, many were tourists there on vacation, some were from other countries.  All were gathering in the Old Church as so many had in the past.  As I watched them enter and look around, I wondered what was in their minds.  Their hands were carrying brochures showing points of interest about the town, and their eyes had a look of unsure expectancy.  At 7:00 PM, Angie Hurley gave us an introduction to the crowd that was gathered.  The Old Church was filled, and a number of people were standing in the entrance.  When she turned it over to me, I introduced the performers that had come for the event.  

Those WMA Members attending were T.J. Casey, Larry Gibson, John Westbrook, Bodie Dominguez, and me. Members of Cowboy Poetry Organizations were John Sidle and his son Rob Sidle (Family Tradition) and my old friend Jeff Streeby who had come up from California to visit.

John Westbrook, Larry Gibson, John Sidle, T. J. Casey, Jeff Streeby, Charlie Camden
Rob Sidle, Bodie Dominguez

Bodie and I started the show with a few songs off our new CD, and then everyone took a turn.  After we had gone one round, we had an intermission and the hat was passed for donations to the Maintenance fund.  My hat was used, and when it was returned to Angie it appeared to be full to
overflowing.  During the intermission all the performers sold CD's and laughed and talked and mingled with the audience.  When we continued, everyone did two more selections and  by that time it was getting dark in the Church.  People were patiently sitting in the dark to hear more, but we had to end the show, as the town closes down at 9:00 PM and we were 1 1/2 hours beyond that time.  

Charlie Camden and Jeff Streeby

The performers went back to the campground and built a big fire.  Most were standing or sitting so close to the flames they were in danger of catching on fire.  The night had turned cold at almost
7,000 ft. and a steady wind was blowing.  Kathy cooked supper in the camper and plates of food were passed out to all the performers.  Strange what eating outside can do to appetites, as they all ate like wolves.  Music was still coming through the walls of my camper as I was in my bedroll, and
falling asleep at Midnight.

Larry Gibson

In the morning everyone was at the door wanting to come in for some heat. Bannack had donated the Bannack Tipi, which sleeps 8 for our people to use. Most said that it was 30 degrees colder in the Tipi than it was outside.  

T. J. Casey

T. J. came up to the door of the camper walking with his long legs permanently bent.  I asked what was the matter and he said he slept sitting up, and freezing in his truck.  As we were talking and laughing it started to snow. Kathy hurriedly fixed breakfast for everyone, and filled them with coffee, as I hooked up the trailer.  I had to tell everyone that if they wanted to stay and talk that was fine, but don't step out the door without looking, because the camper was leaving for Lewiston, Idaho and warmer climes.

Everyone said their goodbyes and as we drove out to the highway, the snow started to blow across the empty road in front of us.  We drove for almost 80 miles before we started down into the Bitterroot valley and the blizzard let up.

Kathy was driving and I remembered the night before in the Old Church.  I hoped that the Ghosts of the Vigilantes, the Innocents, and the miners of old, had enjoyed the music that drifted down the Boardwalks and echoed from the nearby slopes.  I know that I had, and the memory of playing till dark closed us down, and all of the people that stayed to listen in the dark, would be a pleasant memory for the rest of my life.  Seven hours later we pulled into our driveway.  Home again.

July, 2003
California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering 
Salinas, California 

The 16th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Salinas helped kick off events for the 93rd Annual California Rodeo --  pronounced "ro DAY oh" in those parts.

Chairman Frank Pinney

Chairman Frank Pinney and his Cowboy Poetry Committee organize a show that gets great community support.  On the main stage, AWA Cowboy Poet of the Year Pat Richardson was joined by poet and tale spinner Larry Maurice, humorist and trick rope showman Montie Montana Jr., musicians Tom Russell and Andrew Hardin, singer/songwriter Kay Hansen, amazing trick roper Chyrle Bacon, and Miss Rodeo California, Darci Robertson.  A special added attraction was the appearance of the winners of the Monterey County Library's Kids Cowboy and Cowgirl Poetry Contest, who ranged in ages from 7 to 17.

The enthusiastic audience always shows up early for the popular open mic session that precedes the big show.  Among the highlights there were Janice Gilbertson, an area poet who will perform at Elko for the first time in 2004; Scott Collins of Gonzales; and Mick Vernon, President of the Monterey
Music Association.

Janice Gilbertson and Pat Richardson   

Scott Collins and his wife

Montie Montana Jr. could put on his own one-man Wild West Show, and he made for an entertaining emcee, dazzling all with his rope tricks, magic, and humor. The young poets charmed the audience. Darci Robertson, Miss Rodeo California, also a pre-med student, sang and did some excellent recitations of Baxter Black poems.

Once the kids and young women were safely out of his reach, "the evil genius," Pat Richardson and his twisted, hilarious humor took center stage.  Pat never let up and the audience never stopped laughing as he did a number of his most popular poems, including "The Donner Party," "My Brother," "Pony Eggs," and "Act of Kindness." He introduced that last poem by saying "Some say it is morbid and crude, and it is.  That's the beauty of it." With luck, no audience members suffered permanent damage.

Kay Hansen had a hard act to follow, but did it beautifully with her original songs and some classic favorites. Chyrle Bacon, Montie's trick rope protégé, kept the audience entranced with her tricks, which included a Big Loop with 70 feet of rope.

Larry Maurice

Larry Maurice's mouth harp gave way to his Cow Camp Symphony, and the piece's a cappella singing, storytelling, and poetry nearly conjured up a crackling campfire.  He followed that powerful work with an excellent recitation of S. Omar Barker's "Purt Near" and more of his original poetry, including a stirring tribute to California history, "I Wish I Could Have Seen It."

Tom Russell and Andrew Hardin, just back from a European tour, played many of their most-requested tunes including "Rose of the San Joaquin," "Navajo Rug," and "The Sky Above, The Mud Below" and "Sitting Bull in Venice." The audience would have stayed all night, and they did manage to get the duo to give them more than one encore.

Tom Russell meets his fans after the show

Larry Maurice sent the satisfied audience into the warm California night with another of his evocative tales, "The Legacy," and for all who were there -- to borrow from the California Rodeo's slogan -- "the West came alive."

Visit the official web site at


We invite you  to send in reports about gatherings.



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