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There's a great camaraderie among the competitors, and the event is always a place for making new friends and getting together with old ones.  Breaks from the intense competition are always welcome, and poets take advantage of Kanab's fresh air.

Poets Jerry Brooks and Mike Dunn and Poet Jo Lynne Kirkwood and Mike Kirkwood
 photos by Teddie Daley

Poet Perry Payne and his wife RaDawn, and poet Don Kennington and judge Ray Lashley


The simultaneous Western Legends Roundup bills itself as "A Cowboy Celebration" and events always include great evening shows, which are often sold out. Among this year's headliners were Curly Musgrave, Belinda Gail, Brenn Hill, Baxter Black, and Riders in the Sky.

Curly Musgrave
photo by Lloyd Shelby

The festival also honors "Western Legends," which this year included movie stars Charlton Heston, Adrian Booth, the late John Wayne, and Clint Walker, along with local ranchers Leroy Judd and Norman Carroll.  A host of other "Little Hollywood Heroes" were in attendance, including Gregg Palmer, Dick Jones, William Smith, and Whitey Hughes.

Cowboy Poetry Rodeo poets also appear on stage each night.  On Thursday, Byrd Woodward entertained with her tales of her family and other poems, including "Born to the Breed," "Cookie's Solution," and "Spirit Horse and Rider."  Byrd shared a comment that gave comfort tor many who have difficulty reciting, and must read: "I spent 60 years getting my poems out of my head, and I'm not going to spend the next 60 trying to get them back in."  Later on the program, Hal Cannon introduced Doris Daley, who wins over her audience in seconds with her sincere and often humorous poetry. Among other poems, she recited her popular "The Great American Cowboy," "Cowboy Calling," and "Hands."  Rick Pitt recited his brother Verlin Pitt's "Buttercup," and his poem, "Dallas," and left everyone smiling.

Poet Byrd Woodward and her husband Woody before her appearance 
at the Western Legends evening show
photo by Teddie Daley

Silver Buckles, trophies, and cash awards for the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo are presented on Saturday night. Hal Cannon and Sam Jackson did the honors, and they commented that all the poets were winners, some leaving with pockets jangling and some leaving with knowledge gained from the competition. Sam Jackson treated the crowd to a poem with a local setting, "Midnight on the Kaibab," Yvonne Hollenbeck had the audience in the palm of her hand with her hilarious "Rebel Rouser," and Allen Clark did his award-winning presentation of S. Omar Barker's "Jack Potter's Courting."

The Saturday show that featured Baxter Black was long sold out, and he himself was standing in the aisles watching the presentations by young poets, the "Southern Utah Dogie Rhymesters," who were led by poet Jo Lynne Kirkwood.  The stage that night was also shared by Brenn Hill and Phil Kennington.

Cowboy Poetry Rodeo organizer and poet Sam Jackson and Brenn Hill
backstage at the Western Legends Roundup
photo by Teddie Daley

The young "Southern Utah Dogie Rhymesters," were visible throughout the festival, and Ethan, grandson of Cowboy Poetry Rodeo Timekeeper Brent Owens shared his winning poem, "I'm a Little Cowboy."

photo by Teddie Daley

I am a little cowboy
I love to rope and ride
When I go to practice
The chickens run and hide

The dog won't come when we call her
And the cat's been gone for days
And grandpa says there'll be nothing left
If I don't change my ways

Ethan, with his grandparents
photo by Teddie Daley


There were open mic sessions every night, daytime films, workshops, a quilt show, an outdoor fair with music and poetry performances and Western arts and crafts, a parade down Main Street, and more.  But the Cowboy  Poetry Rodeo is "the place to be" and gets filled with enthusiastic standing-room-only audiences.

Everyone takes part in the open mic sessions, including Cowboy Poetry fans.  The Saturday evening crowd was touched by Sarah Sandberg, who read her son Lonnie's poem about his father, who had recently died. He had loved the Cowboy Poets and Western musicians, and poem was a moving tribute. 

Mike Dunn, Curly Musgrave, and Belinda Gail 

Jerry Brooks, Al Clark and son, and Jo Lynne Kirkwood


Verlin Pitt, Hal Cannon, and Doris Daley


Cowboy Poetry Rodeo Champion Yvonne Hollenbeck's impressive 
quilt was a crowd-stopper at the quilt show


In the end, the Rodeo's official mission is accomplished: "Excellence through competition." Though the Rodeo competition is intense, there is a friendly bond among the poets. Charles Williams says, "Beneath the fun and camaraderie there is a thoughtful tone of working to improve the level and quality of cowboy poetry that I find refreshing and invigorating.  I highly recommend this event to any cowboy poets who are serious about their craft."

Cowboy Poetry Rodeo judge Charles Williams
 photo by Lloyd Shelby

Visit the gathering's official site at www.westernlegendsroundup.com for more information about the current year's events. 


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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