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Salinas (California) July


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July, 2005
18th Annual California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Salinas, California

story and photos by Margo Metegrano, with additional photos where noted by Dixie Dixon

In mid-July, headliners Juni Fisher and Dave Stamey wowed the crowds at the 18th Annual California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Salinas.  They were joined by John Silveira, Jim Ross, Karen Ross, Jess Montana, Clem Albertoni, and the ever-popular Monte Montana, Jr., who was the able and entertaining emcee.

Cowboy history runs long and deep in the Salinas Valley, where the poetry and music event takes place in conjunction with the Calfornia Rodeo ("ro-day-o," as it is said in these parts) that was marking its 95th year.  Over 45,000 rodeo fans find their way to Salinas during the Rodeo, and Rodeo Marketing Director Sally Hamana, who opened the Cowboy Poetry Gathering show, commented that the event is one of her favorites of the "Big Week" celebration.

Event organizer Frank Pinney

The gathering always hosts the best national talent along with impressive local performers. An open mike session precedes the big show, and most of the enthusiastic main show audience turns up for that. Mike Horsley hosted this year's open session, which  included strong performances by Jim Cardwell, Scott Collins, Janice Gilbertson, Rick Shreve, Jay Parson, and others. Each year one person from that session is selected to perform on the next year's main stage.

Jim Cardwell

Janice Gilbertson

Scott Collins, Nona Collins, and Lisa Vernon

This year, that was John Silveira of Hilmar, California, who did a fine job of leading off the show with his poetry, including selections from his new CD, "Hard to Tell the Difference."

Carrie and John Silveira

The winners of the Seventh Annual Monterey County Free Libraries' Cowboy and Cowgirl Poetry Contest, who ranged in age from 9 to 14, delighted the audience with their winning poems. The youth competition was the inspiration of Gathering organizer Frank Pinney, who has worked closely with the Libraries to help educate young people about the area's history and culture and to "cultivate an appreciation through participation."

Juni Fisher

Juni Fisher, 2005 AWA Top Western Female Vocalist, who looks as stunning as she sounds, held the crowd in the palm of her hand.  The complex songwriter's set included her takes on "the rest of the story" of Marty Robbins' "El Paso" and Tom Russell's "Gallo del Cielo" (her AWA-nominated song is called "Ghost of Del Cielo"); "He'd Be Home By Now"; the sweet and strange "Sideshow Romance"; and other tunes from her most recent CD by the same name.  The crowd begged her to stay and were rewarded with encores.


After the intermission, poet and respected silversmith Karen Ross maintained the high tone of the show with her flawless and moving recitation of Larry McWhorter's "Johnny Clare," followed by "The Bell Mare," by Bruce Kiskaddon. She left the crowd laughing with her elaborate, tongue-twisting, hilarious delivery of "Rindercella."

Emcee Monte Montana Jr. brought along his trick-roping son Jess Montana and granddaughter Amber, and the three delivered plenty of dazzling showmanship in the best tradition of the Montana family.

Jim Ross, also well known for his recitations of the classics, performed a number of his own poems, including "A Lotta Bull," "Limburger," "Baloney," and "The Hot Shot War."

The answer to "What could top all of that?" came when Dave Stamey took the stage. One of today's most engaging cowboy singers, he makes his considerable talent seem effortless.  From the first strains of  his outstanding "It's the West," the audience was drawn in by his nimble writing and the energy of his impressive guitar playing.  His lightning-fast sense of humor and timing make his introductions and asides almost as entertaining as the songs in his wide-ranging repertoire. From "Talkin' Bronc Ballet Blues" through "The Bandit Joaquin," the audience just couldn't get enough.

Dave Stamey

Chairman Frank Pinney, his hard-working committee, and an involved community always deliver top talent and large audiences.  They've set a high standard for quality entertainment, and is is maintained and enhanced each year. 

After the event, participants gather at the Cowboy Pizza restaurant for a jam session.

Lisa and Mick Vernon (Monterey Cowboy Poetry Gathering Director)
photo by Dixie Dixon

Clem Albertoni
photo by Dixie Dixon

Juni Fisher and Dave Stamey
photo by Dixie Dixon

Karen and Jim Ross
photo by Dixie Dixon

Visit the official web site of the California Rodeo at to learn more about the event and the California Rodeo. 

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