Moab (Utah) February
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Moab's Western Stars Moab, Utah
Report and photos by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Janet Lowe, new director of Moab's art council (pictured below with artist Pete Plastow) took the bull by the horns, stepped up to the plate, and raised the bar this year at the Moab Western Stars Festival. After initial rumors that the gathering would be discontinued after previous coordinator Rusty Salmon moved out of the area, Janet decided to instead take on the event herself. Janet is an artist and poet who (perhaps until now...) has not written in the cowboy genre, and who had few contacts and little experience working with western entertainment. With the help of experienced organizer Mike Kirkwood, and significant contributions from the Cowboy Poets of Utah organization, Janet spent the fall and winter crafting what turned out to be the most successful festival in the gathering's five-year history.
Janet Lowe and Pete Plastow
The kick-off concert on Friday evening (following an afternoon of visual arts activities) featured the band Saddle Strings, and included poets Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Sam DeLeeuw, and Paul Bliss. Andy Nelson also performed, and emceed the event and subsequent events through the weekend.
Events continued Saturday, and included some special treats such as lunch with Michael Martin Murphey, an event eagerly awaited by dozens of sponsors and ticket holders who were fortunate enough to be included in the intimate audience. Murphey gave an excellent show and was very well received.
Following Murphey's performance the hall was cleared then opened up for a very entertaining youth session put together by artist, poet and musician Sid Hausman who has been poet in residence at Moab's elementary school for the past few weeks.
Some of "Sid's kids"
One of my favorite sets of the afternoon Saturday highlighted Al Clark, who convinced Sam DeLeeuw to pantomime Cordie Eddie to his Jack Potter while Al recited S. Omar Barker's "Jack Potter's Courtin'," which Al recites particularly well!
Al Clark and Sam DeLeeuw
Michael Martin Murphey appeared in concert Saturday night, to a sold out audience (and a disappointed waiting list of nearly two hundred people) and again gave an outstanding show. The Cowboy Poets of Utah also met that night, and jammed with festival musicians until the wee hours at Buck's Grill in Moab. Sometimes the very best sessions are the jam sessions.
On Sunday, the day began with cowboy church at the MARC (Moab Arts and Recreation Center) and at the same time the cooks began preparing for the dutch oven contest. Performances were open mic between church and the first organized set at 1:00 P.M., but most folks found time to sneak some tastes of the excellent fare prepared by the cast-iron chefs. Shows continued through the afternoon, and the house filled yet again for the evening concert.
On Sunday, the show took on an "around the campfire" theme, and performers traded mics round-robin style for two hours of exceptional entertainment. Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks received a standing ovation for her rendition of J. W. Beeson's "Rosie's Eagle," and Doug Keller nearly had us in tears with his hilarious "Wallapi and the Eagle." The music was fabulous. The night included Latigo, Kenny Hall, the Bar M Wranglers from Moab, and the Red Rock Wranglers. Val Carter also performed, and was very funny.
On Monday morning folks got together for donuts and good-byes, and everyone left knowing that the Moab gathering is alive, healthy, and the right place to be during Presidents' Day Weekend. The event is annual, and we're already looking
forward to next year! And who knows? Star Hall, which is currently under renovation, will be completed this summer. Could be the event is even better in 2008!
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