Featured at the Bar-D Ranch


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Yvonne Hollenbeck

Cowboy Poetry Rodeo Champion

photo by Lloyd Shelby


Lanny Joe Burnett

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A unique event takes place in late summer in beautiful and friendly Kanab, Utah: the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, conceived and produced by our past Lariat Laureate Sam Jackson, held in conjunction with the popular Western Legends Roundup.

Beginning with a day-long writing workshop and followed by a day and a half of intense competition before standing-room-only audiences, the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo's focus and accomplishment is "excellence through competition." 

The accompanying Western Legends Roundup event offers days and evenings full of entertainment that included well produced evening shows, open mic sessions, an outdoor fair with Western arts and craft booths, demonstrations from blacksmithing to Navajo dancing, daily free outdoor stage shows, Western movie star events, an exciting parade down Main Street, and more.

Our report on the 2003 event starts below.

One road to Kanab...
 Photo by Lloyd Shelby

You can read more about beautiful Kanab and more background on the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and the Western Legends Roundup in other features here at CowboyPoetry.com, including:

More About the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo
Background and reports of other years' competitions

What is Cowboy Poetry and How do You Write It?
articles by Sam Jackson with poetry and commentary 

an essay by Sam Jackson about competition among Cowboy Poets

The Cowboy Rodeo and its rules to govern are protected by copyright, registered at the United States Copyright Office. For permissions to use the name or rules or for more information contact Sam Jackson, the copyright holder: 4675 E. Vermillion Ave., Kanab, UT 84741 lastcamp@kanab.net




The 2003 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and Western Legends Roundup

photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski  

Top talent gathered in late August of 2003 for the sixth annual Cowboy Poetry Rodeo at Kanab, Utah,  held each year in conjunction with the Western Legends Roundup.  Conceived and organized by poet Sam Jackson, the Rodeo takes place over an intense day and a half, pitting some of country's best poets and reciters against each other for their share of a $6000-plus cash purse,
silver buckles, and trophies.

Popular Alberta poet Doris Daley ran an highly rated poetry writing workshop the day before the Rodeo.  She set the tone right off by telling the group how she had competed in one of the early Cowboy Poetry Rodeos, didn't win, but went home with many new friends and a strong desire to be a better writer. Her easy and friendly style, along with her breadth of examples and exercises for the participants combined for a satisfying and useful experience for all who attended. 

Poets Jerry Brooks, Rick Pitt and Verlin Pitt

The Cowboy Poetry Rodeo audiences fill every square inch of  the historic Old Barn Theatre at Kanab's Parry Lodge, where many of the rooms are named for the Western film stars whose locally shot movies and TV series caused the town to be known as "Little Hollywood."

Competitors included Lloyd Shelby, Mike Dunn, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jerry Brooks, Don Kennington, Byrd Woodward, Michael Robinson, Rick Pitt, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Verlin Pitt, Andy Nelson, Bill Black, Dan Bradshaw, Allen Clark, Doug Keller, Ed Nesselhoff, Perry Payne, Stan Tixier, Kwen Sanderson, Gary Walton, and Clint Nelson.

Michael Robinson on stage at the Rodeo
photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski  

The judges were Academy of Western Artists' Executive Vice-President and poet Charles Williams, popular Alberta poet Doris Daley, veteran Elko reciter and poet Ray Lashley, respected Idaho poet Denise McRea, and Western writer Brad Hainsworth.

Three of the five judges: Brad Hainsworth, Denise McRea, and Ray Lashley, with timekeeper Brent Owens, back left.
photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski

"Riders" draw times and compete in serious and humorous Poet and Reciter categories.  There's an additional Silver Buckle division for past winners and brave others who want to enter.

Division winners are determined by the highest point accumulation for all of their performances over both days in that division.

On Friday, the first day of the competition, in the Serious/Poet division, Rick Pitt took the high score, followed by Lloyd Shelby, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Jo Lynne Kirkwood.  In the Humorous/Poet division, Yvonne Hollenbeck received one of the highest recorded scores, and Perry Payne also scored high.  In the Reciter/Serious division, Allen Clark, Lloyd Shelby, and Jerry Brooks stood out.  In the Reciter/Humorous division, Allen Clark, and Bill Black took the top scores.

The final competition is held on Saturday, where the best of the best face the judges.  There were outstanding performances that day, including Rick Pitt's "Angel of the West," which he did for his wife, knowing that the less-than-cowboy theme might get points taken off; Yvonne Hollenbeck's flawless presentation of her  "Pioneer Gals Were the Best"; and Verlin Pitt's "Mule Whisperer." 

Linda Pitt ("Angel of the West) with poets Rick Pitt and Bill Black
photo by Sue Black

Allen Clark did a moving recitation of Badger Clark's "Bad Half Hour," to be followed by an even higher rated recitation of another Badger Clark poem, "Ridin'," by Lloyd Shelby.  Reciter Jerry Brooks commented that "none of this is possible without friends," and reinforced her point by reciting her friend Andy Wilkinson's "Men of Vision."  Later, her recitation of "Boko," an Australian poem written in 1894 by "Curlew," earned the day's highest score. Every poet who made it to the final day gave a solid performance.  Mike Dunn's "Spellbound" and Dan Bradshaw's "I'll Be Go to Hell" helped both poets earn high scores.  

Lloyd Shelby
Photo by Judy Howell

South Dakota's Yvonne Hollenbeck took away the top prizes for performances of her original poems in both the Serious and Humorous divisions. She gave a number of excellent performances, but nothing pleased the audience as much as her "What Would Martha Do," which concerns a weary ranch wife, and, among other things, an unexpected visit from the banker.

Yvonne Hollenbeck picks up her buckles
Photo by Lloyd Shelby

In the Humorous/Reciter division, Utah's Allen Clark took home the money for his recitation of S. Omar Barker's classic "Jack Potter's Courting," which he said could have been his own story, 17 years and 4 kids ago.

Al Clark recites his "Riding for the Brand"
photo by Bill Black

Jerry Brooks, whose reputation as an outstanding reciter has spread across Western gatherings, won the Serious/Reciter division and also bravely faced the previous winners to win the same division in the Silver Buckle group. The "real world" just disappears when she takes the stage; the world of the poem she's reciting comes alive and the audience is with her every step of the way.

Everybody's favorite, Don Kennington, won hands down in the Humorous division of the Silver Buckle bunch and there was nothing funnier than his original hilarious "rap," with snapping fingers and all the other required movements, about a shoer and a pretty gal's horse.

The winners appeared at the Western Legends Roundup's big Saturday night show and were presented their awards by Sam Jackson and Hal Cannon, the founding director of Elko's Western Folklife Center and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The winners and the arena boss:  Al Clark, Jerry Brooks, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Don Kennington, and Sam Jackson
 photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Continued on Page 2...




Visit the Western Legends Roundup site for more information about the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and other festivities at their annual gathering.






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