Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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Salinas (California) July

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July, 2008
21st Annual California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering, "Cowboys & Cabernet" 
Salinas, California


  photos by Janice Gilbertson and Trisha Pedroia


California Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Gathering
"Cowboys & Cabernet"


The California Rodeo Salinas Cowboy Poetry Gathering is an event with deep roots in the California Rodeo (celebrating its 98th year in 2008) and a steady eye on the future, in the Monterey County Free Libraries' Youth Poetry Contest Winners who are a part of each gathering. Those young people joined Dave Stamey, Michael Martin Murphey, Clem Albertoni, Fred Engel, and other local poets and musicians at the 21st annual event held in July, 2008.

A regular feature of the event is the popular open mic session for poets and musicians that always starts off the show. Among the performers were Janice Gilbertson, Lisa Brown-King, Ellen Albertoni, Richard Guzman, and Will Fargo.

photo by Trisha Pedroia
Poet Janice Gilbertson

photo by Janice Gilbertson
Poet Lisa Brown-King and her husband James

The Monterey County Free Libraries' Youth Poetry Contest Winners presented their work, and ten-year old Isabella Calcatera stole the show with her presence and her poem, "Cowpoke." Other winners were Jose Luis de Jesus Sanchez, age 7, for his poem "Ser Vaquero" (presented by Marcus Ortiz) and Chloe Drape, age 9, for her poem, "Fiesta Years!" Winners' poems also appear in the official program.

The Salinas Cowboy Poetry Gathering was the first big show where Dave Stamey ( performed, more than fifteen years ago, and his local following is as strong as the audience he commands throughout the West. A songwriter, musician, and singer considered by many to be "The Best," Dave has won numerous Western Music Association awards for Top Songwriter, Top Vocalist, and Entertainer of the Year. He held the crowd with  his usual humor, wit, and intelligence, with old favorites (including "Tonopah," "If I Had a Horse," "Crazy Mary," "Someone Needs to Go Home," and new songs from a forthcoming album. The audience did not want to see him leave the stage, and brought him back for a favorite, "The Bandit Joaquin."

photo by Janice Gilbertson
Dave and Melissa Stamey

Utah poet Fred Engel, who lived and worked some time in the Salinas area, was also featured, along with local poet and funnyman, Clem Albertoni, who also emceed the show.

photo by Janice Gilbertson
Festival Director Donna Vaughan and poet and emcee Clem Albertoni

The mostly-agricultural audience, in an area hard-hit by recent wildfires, produce issues, and the downturn in the economy, was receptive to headliner Michael Martin Murphey's ( commentaries about land issues and government interference. Along with his messages, they warmed to his music, which included "Carolina in the Pines" and "Cowboy Logic." After a performance of his popular "Wildfire," a standing ovation brought him back for a final song, which led into his arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

photo by Janice Gilbertson
Michael Martin Murphey

Last year, in 2007, the gathering took on a new name, “Cowboys and Cabernet,” and added a showcase for area vintners with wine tasting opportunities. The concept is popular with the crowd, as is the always-impressive and expansive Silent Auction, with its wide array of local arts, crafts, and services. This year included everything from live birds to Belgian draft horse riding time.

photo by Trisha Pedroia
Cowgirl poet Erica Ray at the Silent Auction

The longevity and success of the gathering is in great part owed to the support of community sponsors and loyal audiences. Director Donna Vaughan; a strong committee, including former Director Frank Pinney; and an army of gracious, dedicated volunteers make it all run smoothly and professionally.

photo by Janice Gilbertson
Robin and Frank Pinney



See our 2007 report here, and reports from previous years:



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