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Salinas (California) July


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July, 2006
19th Annual
California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Salinas, California

report and photos by Margo Metegrano, with additional photos where noted by Cort Parker 


The California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering offers a perfect balance of national headliner talent along with regional and local performers.  In July, 2006, master reciter and poet Randy Rieman joined top poet Virginia Bennett, who also emceed the show. Other featured performers included the Santa Cruz group Lone Prairie; area rancher, singer, songwriter and  musician J Parson; the impressive young sisters, Amanda and Christina Gabucan; and the winning youth poets from the Monterey County Free Libraries' poetry competition.

photo by Cort Parker
Poet and emcee Virginia Bennett

The gathering, headed for its 20th anniversary next year, is held in Salinas in conjunction with the California Rodeo —pronounced "ro-day-o" in this area with deep vaquero roots— which marked its 96th year in 2006. Over 45,000 rodeo fans attend the weeklong events, and the cowboy poetry and music show is always an important part of the "Big Week" celebration.

Even before the main show started, an enthusiastic audience enjoyed an hour of excellent open-mike performances, ably emceed by Mike Horsely

Mike Horsely

Those in the know don't miss the opportunity to see this extra show, from which the gathering selects a performer to participate in the following year's main show. This year's open-mike participants included Jim Cardwell, Janice Gilbertson, Susan Parker, Clem Albertoni, and Scott Gerber

Janice Gilbertson, Jim Cardwell, and Susan Parker


photo by Cort Parker
Susan Parker on stage

Premier poet Virginia Bennett kept the show moving with her poems and humorous stories, and her own comfortable way with both audience and performers enhanced the show for all. 

photo courtesy Liz Gabuchan
Christina and Amanda Gabuchan

The young Gabuchan sisters, Christina and Amanda, show-stoppers wherever they perform, dazzled all with their yodeling and harmony. Amanda, now 7, has been performing and recording since she was three. Christina, now 12, has been performing for six years. Both girls have won the Patsy Montana National Talent Roundup bronze medal. Their mother, Liz Gabuchan, says that "Amanda's highest note is a G#7 (G# in the 7th octave which is the highest octave on the piano and is also Mariah Carey's highest recorded note) and Christina's highest note is two notes below that (F#7)." Visit Amanda Gabuchan's web site, with audio tracks at:

The crowd enjoyed the music of Lone Prairie, with their harmonizing and stylings of old-time Western music, such as classics from Rex Allen, Sons of the Pioneers, and others. A fiddle duo was a highlight.

photo by Cort Parker
Lone Prairie

J Parson, who ranches near Bakersfield, entertained with fine guitar playing and a pleasing voice, with original songs and those of others.  He was selected from last year's open mike performers for this year's evening show. He is also on his way to his first appearance at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko in 2007. Read more about him at his web site:

Master reciter, cowboy, horseman, and noted braider Randy Rieman, who gave the audience outstanding performances of some of the most revered cowboy poems, talked about passing along the tradition.  He said that his interest in poetry and reciting began with a grade school teacher who read the class Robert Service poems. Though he wasn't "born to" cowboying, as he said, he "went to find it." He's worked in Montana, Nevada, California, and Hawaii, where he spent nine years on the Parker Ranch. He performed Henry Herbert Knibbs' "Boomer Johnson"; Bruce Kiskaddon's "Creak of the Leather"; Joel Nelson's "The Men Who Ride No More"; S. Omar Barker's "Pert Near," and other poems. At the end of his performance, the crowd begged for more, and he returned to do "Lasca," by Frank Desprez. He told that Desprez, an English engineer, left Bristol in 1874 when his eyes began to fail, and went to Texas for three years. When he returned to England, he was employed writing "curtain openers" for theatrical productions, and one of those was "Lasca." 

Randy Rieman and one of the youth poetry winners

Early in the show, the winners of the Eighth Annual Monterey County Free Libraries' Cowboy and Cowgirl Poetry Contest, who ranged in age from 8 to 12, 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."

Frank Pinney

A devoted, active committee puts on the show each year, and their hard work and careful coordination is always reflected in the program, the Silent Auction, and all of the parts that seem to come together seamlessly to make the Cowboy Poetry Gathering such a successful event. This was Frank Pinney's final year as the Cowboy Poetry Committee Chairman; he's handed over the reins to long-time committee member Donna Vaughan, who is also the Superintendent of the Salianas City Elementary School District. 

Incoming Committee Chairman Donna Vaughan

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


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