Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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Ellensburg (Washington) June



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June, 2006
The Luke Mezich Memorial Team Roping, Western Music and Arts Festival  Ellensburg, Washington 


Report and photos by Smoke Wade 


"Cowboy Country"

The Luke Mezich Memorial Team Roping, Western Music & Arts Festival 


The Luke Mezich Memorial Team Roping, Western Music and Arts Festival was held in Ellensburg, Washington, on June 16 – 18, 2006. Cowboy poets and western musicians gathered from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington to provide the entertainment for the event. All proceeds were intended to benefit The Sparrow Foundation.

The Sparrow Foundation ( helps children in medical crisis. The organization was founded by a group of school children in Central Oregon that banded together to raise more than two hundred thousand dollars to pay for a life saving operation for a nine-month-old baby with leukemia.

Steve Mezich lost his son, Luke, a few years back in a tragic accident. Not wanting to spend Father’s Day alone, Steve decided to do something that both he and his son loved: team roping. He invited a bunch of team ropers to get together for the weekend to rope for prizes. A profit was made from the event, and Steve decided to donate the profits to the Sparrows Foundation. Henceforth, Father’s Day weekend in Ellensburg is devoted to raising funds for a Sparrow – a child in medical crisis.

The event got under way at noon on Friday with open mic sessions through out the day. Kathy Camden, Idaho organized the music, poetry and arts portion of the event.

 Poet - Rusty Feathers; musician - Tony Reed; event organizer - Kathy Camden


A western storefront town, complete with Main Street and hitching posts, provided the open-air auditorium for the show. Behind the stage, loomed the historic Ellensburg Rodeo arena. As poets and musicians took the stage, barrel racers and team ropers competed in the arena.


Prior to the Friday evening show, Sam Mattise presented the workshop Wild Horses in America. The program was complete with a slide show and the presentation was very informative.

Dallas McCord, Oregon emceed the Friday night show following pre-show entertainment by Alan Halverson and Mike Whitaker, The Rockin’ HW. The show featured the talents of cowboy poets Harley Sharrard and Howard Norskog, both of Idaho; Rusty Feathers, Montana; and Van Criddle, Oregon. The featured musicians included Jim Bullard, Idaho; Bodie Dominquez, Jim Aasen and Dave McClure, all of Washington. While the Friday night show was taking place, one hundred thirty-five barrel racers competed for prizes in the rodeo arena. Following the evening’s events, many of the performers held an informal jam session at the 4W Guest Ranch. It was reported that several of the musicians played their music until sunrise.

Mike Whitaker


Poet - Van Criddle


Poet - Howard Norskog


Country gospel singer - Jimmy Bullard


Day sessions began at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday with many of the cast of performers participating. The late night guitar pickers showed up for their scheduled time slots with blood shot eyes and a lazy gait, which led to a certain amount of heckling from those that went to bed early (the poets).

A Tall Tales contest took place at high noon on Saturday. Van Criddle emceed the contest, while the windy competitors included Wayne Nelson, Smoke Wade, Harley Sharrard, Dwayne Nelson, and Larry Price. After a clap-off between Smoke Wade and Wayne Nelson, Wayne was declared the champion teller of tall tales.

Cowboy Poet Dwayne Nelson, Oregon


Following the tall tales contest, Smoke Wade hosted a two-hour session where all performers present were given a chance to perform two numbers each.

Next came the Music Shoot-Out where musicians paid an entry fee to perform. The contestants were Sam Mattise, Jim Aasen, Wayne Nelson, Virgil Stortroen, and Dallas McCord. Once again a clap-off was required to determine the winner. The two finalists were Wayne Nelson and Jim Aasen. Jim took home the cash prize with his presentation of Big Iron by Marty Robbins. It was later reported that Jim Aasen donated his winnings back to The Sparrow Foundation.

Cool Cowboy Blues singer - Sam Mattise


Dallas and PJ McCord


Sharon "Silver" Glenn of Northfork showing off for Dallas McCord and Sam Mattise


A. Kathy Moss and Billie Flick presented an informative workshop titled Women of the West: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. The workshop discussed the role of ranch wives and women of the west.

Following pre-show entertainment by western humorist, poet and musician, Dave McClure, "cool cowboy blues" singer, Sam Mattise, took the stage to emcee the Saturday night show. The performers included cowboy poets A. Kathy Moss and Leon Flick, both of Oregon; and Smoke Wade, Idaho. The musicians included Joni Harms, Oregon; Wayne Nelson, Idaho; Tony Reed, Washington; and Emele Clothier, Lauralee Northcott and Nadine Van Hess, all from Washington, of the kickin’ cowgirl band – Horse Crazy.

Emele Clothier, Lauralee Northcott, Nadine Van Hess


Cowboy poet and songwriter Wayne Nelson


Jim Aasen and Joni Harms


Joni Harms was joined on stage by her children Luke and Olivia.

As usual, the Harm family’s performance was exceptional. Horse Crazy with their high-energy performance also provided exceptional entertainment. Leon Flick delighted the audience with his tale about his fuzzy bull slippers.

Despite weather that was less than cooperative, the show was deemed a success and plans have started for the 2007 event. As the poets and musicians donated their time and talents to raise money for the Sparrow Club, one thousand team ropers competed over the weekend in the rodeo arena, both to win prizes and to raise money for the organization. It was commented that the rodeo arena had more horses than the 7th Cavalry did.

As the event came to an end, once again the poets and musicians bade farewell to each other, and reluctantly, packed their gear, vowing to meet again in the near future, somewhere along the cowboy poetry trail.



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