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October 2010
Annual Grand Union Gathering: Cowboy & Country Poets & Pickers   Fort Benton, Montana


  report by Almeda Terry  (


The 2009 Grand Union Gathering held October 2-4 in Fort Benton, Montana, was another well received and much- enjoyed event. This small gathering, organized by former local Almeda Terry who now lives in Huntley, Montana, is held at the beautifully restored 1882 Grand Union Hotel where owner and gathering sponsor Cheryl Gannon rolls out the red carpet for all the gathering attendees. The historic atmosphere of this elegant old hotel sitting just a stone's throw from the Missouri River contributes much to the gathering's appeal.

Lobby of the restored 1882 Grand Union Hotel

This year's event featured the regular local talent as well as folks from Big Timber, Lewistown, Billings and beyond. Ken Blacklock of Wabumun, Alberta, hasn't missed the event yet and was on hand with his laptop cranking out a steady stream of poem vignettes that he freely gives as gathering mementos to whomever  he writes about.  Bette Wolf Duncan of Billings was a first-time attendee and a featured guest on the Friday night show "Women of the West" along with Pat McCallister of Billings, Joan Comley of Shepherd and Christine Schumann of Big Timber. Miriam Dreher of Airdrie, Alberta and Gwen Petersen of Big Timber were slated to be on the program, but were unable to attend due to health reasons and scheduling conflicts. They were certainly missed by all! Almeda Terry also performed and emceed the "Women of the West" show.

Bette Wolf Duncan shares from her award-winning poetry book, Russell Country, a fitting selection as
Fort Benton is located near the Great Falls home of C.M Russell.

Joan Comley of Shepherd preparing for the "Women of the West" show.

Almeda Terry, Emcee of Friday night's "Women of the West" show.

On Saturday, the day sessions began with Almeda Terry presenting "Cow Camp Fiddling," a history of fiddle music making its way out west with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, along the Oregon Trail, among the cattle drive cow camps and into today's Texas-style contest fiddling.

Almeda Terry was joined by two of her former students, Katelyn and Alexis Giles,
during her presentation of "Cow Camp Fiddling."

Other day session performers included Ken, Bette, Pat, Joan and Christine already mentioned with Montanans Kyp Lybeck of Joplin, Arnold Hokenson of Big Sandy, Pol Holdemann of Cleveland, Dale Mailand of Harlem, Lloyd and Meryl McKenna of Lewistown, and Rev. Jeff Stoops of Big Sandy.

 Long-time Bear Paw Mountain rancher, Arnold Hokanson, of Big Sandy entertained the audience with his uniquely self-described "Mutilated Music," always a crowd pleaser.

Pol Haldemann of Cleveland performs his gentle "Bear Grass Music" during the night show.

Kip Lybeck of Joplin recites one of his fine deeply reflective poems.

A popular feature of the GUG is "Sing/Recite For Your Supper" where participants sign up to perform 10 to 15 minutes during the lunch and dinner hours at local restaurants in exchange for a meal. Everyone benefits and it's great advertising for the night shows.
All the performers participated in the Saturday night show "Rancher Rednecks and Agrarian Gentlemen" which featured the masculine point of view with a sprinkling of the ladies touch mixed in. A Grand time was had by all at the Grand Union Gathering. Dates for next year's gathering have not been decided on, but the event is usually the first weekend of October. Hope to see you there in 2010! 



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