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  Western Folklife Center's 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering


Find links to all the latest news on page 1.


Western Folklife Center's 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (January 28-February 2, 2013)


Newest information below.

The Western Folklife Center will feature Italian cowboys at the 29th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, to be held January 28 to February 2, 2013 in Elko, Nevada.
From the Western Folklife Center:

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering—the nation’s greatest celebration of the American West, its people, culture and traditions—has its own long legacy of hosting ranch people and cowboys from around the globe. Past participants have hailed from Mongolia, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France, Hungary, Australia and the British Isles. The 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, will welcome butteri, cowboys from Italy, who have their own unique poetry, music, gear and traditional techniques, but still have much in common with their counterparts in the American West and cattle cultures across the globe. The event is produced by the Western Folklife Center and takes place January 28 to February 2, 2013, in Elko, Nevada.

The Italian cultural exchange is part of the Western Folklife Center’s ongoing effort to build understanding among herding cultures worldwide, explains Executive Director Charlie Seemann. “We believe it is important to introduce American ranchers and cowboys to others who share their occupation but may have different ways of accomplishing their work. Over the years, our cultural exchanges have created awareness and appreciation for how other cultures operate, and we’ve learned from each other. It’s been very rewarding for everyone involved.”

butteri are from the Maremma region of Tuscany where they have been raising and herding the large lyre-horned Maremmana cattle for centuries. Butteri ride the Maremmano horse and tend the cattle using a long stick or l'uncino. There are two types of saddles used in the buttero tradition, the scafardo, a military-type saddle built on a wooden tree, and the more simple bardella style. The buttero typically wears coarse cotton pants, leggings, a velvet jacket and a black hat. He protects himself from the rain with a large mantle called the pastràno.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will welcome seven Italian guests to share the traditions and the art of the
buttero. They will participate in performances of music and poetry, as well as presentations of butteri culture and environmental preservation in the Maremma, and cooking workshops and demonstrations. The participants are: Drew Mischianti, buttero, writer, journalist, co-curator of the buttero program at the Gathering; Giulio De Donatis, buttero; Gianluca Zammarelli, zampogna (Italian bagpipe) maker and player, and director of the Etnomalia School of Music; Marco Ruffo, accordion and tambourine player; Francesca Prato, buttera; Natalia Estrada, buttera, photographer, filmmaker, co-curator of the buttero program at the Gathering; Valerio De Donatis, buttero, Maremma chef; and Rodolfo Lorenzini, buttero, historian, Chairman of the Italian Society for Horse and Environment.

The Western Folklife Center will also mount an exhibition of
buttero gear, tools and clothing, as well as contemporary and historic photographs, artwork and video depicting life herding cattle in the Maremma. Italian Buckaroos: Old World & New World will also feature the rich legacy of Italian-American ranching in the American West. The exhibition will open at the Wiegand Gallery of the Western Folklife Center during the 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and will travel to arte italia, Nevada’s premier Italian cultural arts center in Reno, Nevada, in September 2013.

Find more about the event, including a list of performers and workshop information in a news item below and at the Gathering web site here.

[image by Natalia Estrada; courtesy of the Western Folklife Center]

Posted 10/9

The Western Folklife Center has announced the artists performing at the 29th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, to be held January 28 to February 2, 2013 in Elko, Nevada.

They are Adrian, Baxter Black, Dave Bourne, Cowboy Celtic, John Dofflemyer, Carolyn Dufurrena, Elizabeth Ebert, Don Edwards, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Jessica Hedges, Brenn Hill, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jess Howard, Linda Hussa, Chris Isaacs, Kay Kelley Nowell, Ross Knox, Los Texmaniacs, Bill Lowman, Corb Lund & the Hurtin' Albertans, Mary McCaslin, Gary McMahan with Ernie Martinez, Wally McRae, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Glenn Ohrlin, Ed Peekeekoot, The Quebe Sisters Band, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, Pat Richardson, Randy Rieman, Tom Russell, The Saddle Cats, Georgie Sicking, Al Simmons, Jesse Smith, R.P. Smith, Sourdough Slim & Robert Armstrong, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Keith Ward, Wylie & The Wild West, Paul Zarzyski.

From the organizers:

...Consider arriving in Elko early in the week of the Gathering (January 28 to February 2) to participate in a hands-on workshop. Learn to cook Italian food from an Italian chef with restaurants near Rome; learn how to make a mohair cinch; or improve on your rhythm guitar skills. In the evenings enjoy the poetry and music of the butteri, cowboys from the Tuscany region of Italy (Monday, January 28), and be thoroughly entertained by Paul Zarzyski, John Dofflemyer, and David Wilkie and Denise Withnell of Cowboy Celtic (Tuesday, January 29). The Gathering kicks into high gear on Wednesday night with an all-Texas show featuring the beloved Quebe Sisters Band and Los Texmaniacs, a high-energy Grammy-award winning band that merges traditional conjunto music with a dash of rock and blues.

We are thrilled that cowboy music legend
Don Edwards is joining us this year and will be performing shows with poets Joel Nelson and Waddie Mitchell. Singer/songwriter Tom Russell is also returning to Elko and will be performing a solo show and sharing the stage with Grammy-winner Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The Dinner Theater is back for two nights with a laughter-inducing show featuring Sourdough Slim titled "Sourdough's Wild and Woolly Revue." And there's so much more! If you are not on the mailing list to receive the Gathering brochure, please be sure to give us a call or send an email to with your address so you don't miss out on this incredible Gathering. The ticketed show schedule will also be posted on our Gathering website in August...

Ticketed events have been announced. See the full list here at the Gathering site, where you can also view the full brochure.

See our list of performers at the Gathering since its inception in 1985 here.

Find more at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering web site.

Updated 11/9

  Excerpts from the December 14, 2012 Western Folklife Center newsletter:

Full Daily Gathering Schedule Now Online

full schedule for the 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 28 to February 2 is now available as a pdf on our website. The schedule includes all day-time performances that are accessible with the purchase of a 3-Day Deluxe Pass or a single Day Pass, as well as ticketed performances, workshops and discussions. The schedule will certainly change as we include last-minute adjustments, additions or cancellations; please check back often to see the latest schedule.

We will be adding more detailed information about all of our National Cowboy Poetry Gathering events to our website in the coming weeks...Tickets to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering are available online or by calling 888-880-5885.

The Western Folklife Center Welcomes Western Swing Band The Saddle Cats

The Western Folklife Center is excited to welcome
The Saddle Cats who are performing at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the first time this year. The Saddle Cats pride themselves on a repertoire that explores every corner of American folk and popular music, including Western Swing, cowboy ballads, blues, old time fiddle, honkytonk, Tin Pan Alley and polka. This versatile, talented group features legendary steel guitarist Bobby Black (who has worked with Webb Pierce, Tommy Duncan, Commander Cody and Asleep at the Wheel); Richard Chon on fiddle and vocals (Sons of the San Joaquin, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks); Gordon Clegg on acoustic guitar and backup vocals; and Bing Nathan on bass. The Saddle Cats received the Will Rogers Cowboy Award for Western Swing Band of the Year and Album of the Year from the Academy of Western Artists for their album Herdin' Cats, which celebrates California's momentous contributions to Western Swing.

Sourdough Slim says of The Saddle Cats, “This band is hot! It doesn't get any better or more authentic then this. If you are a fan of traditional Western Swing music like I am, you'll love The Saddle Cats. Hot pickers with a great ensemble sound who really know how to make this music jump.”

The Saddle Cats are performing several times during the Gathering, including the Friday Night Dance and the Saturday night show "Western Stories and Western Swing" with
Gary McMahan and Cowboy Celtic. For additional showtimes, consult the full schedule of events.

Water in the West: A Roundtable Discussion

Cowboy poetry is an occupational tradition, born out of a livelihood that is dependent on land, water and weather. At a time when demand for the West’s natural resources is at an all-time high, and a changing climate is contributing to drought and its devastating consequences, it is critical to bring together those who depend on the land and those who are tasked with ensuring its sustainability, to share stories and solutions to the region’s growing resource concerns. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a natural forum for discussions about these and other subjects pertinent to the rural West.

Among the topics of discussion at the Gathering will be the challenges of water in the West. A roundtable discussion among four presenters will offer a range of perspectives and experiences on topics ranging from regional drought to resource conservation, sharing local stories to working collaboratively. The intent is to generate food for thought and provide practical tools for water conservation. There will also be a follow-up conversation with audience members.

Panelists are Bill Zeedyk, a consultant who helps ranchers restore wetlands and riparian habitats using “low-tech” bio-engineering methods and native materials; Lisa Hamilton, a photographer and writer who collects and shares stories of individuals’ relationships to water in the West; John Ehrmann, who, as founder of the Meridian Institute, has pioneered the use of collaborative decision-making in many challenging areas, including water conservation; and Jack Loeffler, an aural historian, radio producer and writer whose focus includes restoration and preservation of habitat, the relationships of indigenous cultures to homeland, and understanding the role of cultural diversity in preservation of habitat.

Water in the West will take place Saturday, February 2, at 10:00 am in the Turquoise Room of the Elko Convention Center. It will be followed by a conversation with the audience at 11:30 am. The event is free and open to the public. You do not need to purchase a pass to attend. Water in the West is presented in partnership with the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group with support from the Timken-Sturgis Foundation.

Evidence-Based Horsemanship with Martin Black and Dr. Stephen Peters

The Western Folklife Center is proud to present renowned horseman and clinician Martin Black and neuropsychologist Dr. Stephen Peters who will discuss their groundbreaking collaborative work recently published in the new book Evidence-Based Horsemanship. The two will present their work during a presentation at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, on Friday, February 1, from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, in the Turquoise Room of the Elko Convention Center.

The two will discuss the development of the horse’s brain, how information is transported through the horse’s brain, the basic brain functioning in the horse, the horse’s senses, and the autonomic nervous system and how it impacts a horse’s behavior (i.e. how to read the horse). They will give examples of horses in various stages of “fight or flight” while discussing how horses learn and how this impacts their brain development. Participants will come away with a better understanding of how these scientific findings can better inform decisions and create best practices in horsemanship.

In addition to being an expert in brain functioning, Dr. Peters trains horses in the vaquero tradition. Black’s life-long experiences working with hundreds of horses provided significant empirical data for their project. This presentation is sponsored by Nevada Humanities and presented in partnership with Great Basin College.

Visit the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering web site.  Sign up for e-news here.

[poster image: "Al Fontanile" (The Water Tank), 1864, by Giuseppe Raggio (1823-1916)]

Posted 12/17

  Excerpts from the January 17, 2013 Western Folklife Center newsletter:

Don't Miss These Unforgettable Shows at the 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

This year's ticketed shows offer something for everyone -- wonderful classic and contemporary poetry as well as lively western music that will keep your toes tapping. Here are just a couple of Friday and Saturday night options for you to consider.

Music North and South brings together Canada's Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertans and Texas' Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs for an evening of music inspired by the far reaches of North America. That's a broad swath of country to cover and these two bands do it right. The Canadian Country Music Association has named Lund "Artist of the Year" seven consecutive years from 2004 – 2010, while Los Texmaniacs have won a GRAMMY® for their unique blend of Texas conjunto, blues and R&B. This show is sure to make you smile! Friday, February 1, 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm, Elko Convention Center Auditorium. Tickets are $30 and $35.

Western Stories and Western Swing offers both music and poetry with the always popular Cowboy Celtic performing their unique blend of western tunes inspired by the Irish and Scottish roots of cowboy music. Colorado poet, singer/songwriter, humorist and yodeler Gary McMahan performs his unique brand of poetry and song, and Gathering newcomers The Saddle Cats close out the night with energetic western swing. Saturday, February 2, 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm, Elko Convention Center Auditorium. Tickets are $30 and $35.

For a full schedule of events, click here. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 888-880-5885.

Learn a New Skill in a Gathering Workshop

People who participate in workshops at the Gathering come away with a deep appreciation for the nuances and complexities of western art and craft, take home new skills and make great friends along the way. Here are just a few of the wonderful workshop experiences that you can participate in at this year's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Baxter Black on Self-Publishing and Marketing
The New York Times has described Baxter Black as "probably the nation's most successful living poet." In this workshop, Baxter Black will explain his self-publishing success and reveal his marketing secrets. He promises to instruct the entrepreneur, inspire the ambitious, and entertain the teeming masses. In preparation, participants are encouraged to purchase and read Baxter’s Lessons from a Desperado Poet, "a mind-tickling romp through the formation, fermentation, and fruition of the author’s career as a poet in a country where publishing poetry is 'practically illegal.'" Lessons from a Desperado Poet is available in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. Friday, February 1, 1:00 – 3:00 pm, Great Basin College Theatre, $25.

Talkin' Songs with David Wilkie and Paul Zarzyski
Esteemed singer-songwriter David “The Man With The Mandolin” Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic partners-up with poet friend, co-writer and wanna-be rock- n-roweler, Paul “Rodeo To The Bone” Zarzyski, to reach deep out into the Musical Universe in search of those cosmic components of music and message, melody and lyric, that lend themselves to taking both writer and keen-eared, soulful aficionado on fresh creative journeys. Whether via instrumental accompaniment, a cappella or bare-bones spoken word recitation, Dave and Paul look forward to offering their most emotionally honest responses to your works-in-progress (no “finished” songs, please). Tuesday, January 29, 12:00 – 2:00 pm, G Three Bar Theater, Western Folklife Center, $10.

Blood Memory: Extending the Great Tradition of Western Song
Songwriter Tom Russell will discuss the process of composing new songs with an eye on the present and future, but with a strong foothold in history and tradition. Tom will speak about his current work and methods, and will encourage dialogue and questions. Friday, February 1, 10:00 – 11:30 am, Great Basin College Theatre, $25.

Lines Drawn Along the Written Word
This workshop explores uses of drawing as well as written "sketches” to capture significant moments, notable subjects and ideas of your life. Cowboy poets and artists Bill Lowman and Sean Sexton have used both to recount their lifetimes of stock handling and pastoralism. Open to those who don’t draw (or think they don’t), this workshop will help you illustrate and crystallize your experiences through drawing, poetry and verbal sketches. The workshop includes a visual scavenger hunt to find and apprehend your own subjects. Materials and encouragement will be provided; bring your own poetry and writing to illustrate. Wednesday, January 30, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Elko Convention Center Gold Room, $150.

For a full schedule of events, click here. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 888-880-5885.

More New Faces at the 29th Gathering

The Western Folklife Center is excited to welcome two new poets and a young singer/songwriter to the 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering line-up for the first time.

If you saw the Young Buckaroo Open-Mic and Talent Show at the Gathering last year, you will remember
Kristyn Harris, an 18-year-old singer, songwriter and yodeler from Collin County, Texas, who has a passion for all things cowboy and western swing. Her singing, songwriting, yodeling and sock rhythm guitar style are inspired by her connection to the ranching lifestyle, and by classic and contemporary western music icons. When she’s not playing music, Kristyn keeps busy with her horses. This 4H national champion has adopted and successfully trained two wild mustangs, riding one of them in a 2012 centennial cattle drive. Kristyn has won the 2012 Western Music Association Crescendo Award and the Female Yodeler of the Year award, and the 2011 Kamloops, British Columbia, Rising Star Award, and the Western Music Association Janet McBride Yodeling Award. Watch a video of Kristyn singing to her horses as she feeds.

Ed Peekeekoot grew up on the Ahtahkakooop Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan where his family was involved in ranching, farming and music. He describes growing up in a “rough and tumble world, riding young bulls, dreaming of being in the rodeo, and playing cowboys and Indians.” Now Ed makes his home in British Columbia, enjoying life as a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and storyteller. His performances include original songs, Chet Atkins and Travis-style guitar tunes, foot-stomping fiddle, and a good dose of Cree humor and philosophy. Ed is a popular performer at Canadian cowboy poetry and music festivals.

Keith Ward has been coming to the Gathering since 2008 where he performed at open-mic sessions. He has been writing poetry since his childhood on a family farm in the mountains of western North Carolina where they raised tobacco, pepper, corn, hay and other crops. In addition, the family raised cattle and horses and cut and saw-milled timber. These days Keith, his wife Tammy, and other family members, operate Dutch Creek Trails, a 132-acre farm and riding facility near Vilas, North Carolina.

See the full schedule of events to discover when each of these artists is performing at the Gathering. Purchase tickets online or call 888-880-5885.

Watch the Gathering Live on YouTube

We are broadcasting the 29th Gathering live on YouTube! The YouTube broadcast will replace the cybercast, but you still get to see all your favorite poets and musicians performing from the Convention Center Auditorium. Most of the performances will have a permanent home on the Western Folklife Center’s YouTube channel, and we will also have a page on our website where we will feature the current year’s performances. So if you can't make it to Elko this year, you will still get to watch many hours of wonderful performances! We are very excited that this technology is available to us because it means millions more people will experience cowboy poetry, music and the Gathering! You can tune in starting Wednesday, January 30 at 7:00 pm (Pacific Time) for Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs and The Quebe Sisters Band. All of the Auditorium shows will be filmed this year. The address for our YouTube channel is

Visit the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering web site.  Sign up for e-news here.

[poster image: "Al Fontanile" (The Water Tank), 1864, by Giuseppe Raggio (1823-1916)]

Posted 1/22

Some news links:

"National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is Jan. 28 to Feb. 2 in Elko," Travel Nevada blog, January 16, 2013

"Bellissimo! 'Wild Women' artists bring it on," Elko Daily Free Press, January 12, 2013

"Lt. Governor invites all to Cowboy Poetry Gathering," Elko Daily Free Press, January 11, 2013

Updated 1/22

  The Silver State Trade Show, with buckaroo gear, silver, rawhide, art, and more returns to the Elko fairgrounds for its seventh year, January 30th through February 2, 2013.

From their description: "Exclusive Rawhide Exhibit, Buckaroo Gear, Silver, Rawhide, Art, Home of the Bunkhouse Circle and the day tables artisans, Used Saddle Corral, Amanda's Saloon, Buckaroo Theatre, free coffee and popcorn all day..."

Hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 9 am to 6 pm and Friday and Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm.

Organizer Shannon Wrango also plans to honor Paula Wright (1952-2012) who started the Silver State Trade Show. Paula Wright was the popular long-time owner of Elko, Nevada's J. M. Capriola company. Find our notice here. People can sign a canvas "Signs of Remembrance" banner, which will be presented to Doug Wright after the show.

The show's collectible poster shown above, featuring the work of Roger Clark, is available at Shannon Wrango's Kansas Saddlery booth.

Find more at the Silver State Trade Show Facebook page here.

Updated 1/22

Some news links:

"Young Woman Perform Music, Poetry at Ellko Gathering," Elko Daily Free Press, January 25, 2013

"Cowboy Poetry Ticket Sales Soar with Solid Lineup, Recovered Economy," Elko Daily Free Press, January 25, 2013

Posted 1/29

Some video, audio, and image links:

Western Folklife Center YouTube channel with Gathering videos

2013 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Photographs by Jessica Lifland

"At the Gathering" a one-hour video

"Cowboy Poetry Gathering," audio from the BBC's The Strand (at 10:00), broadcast February 14, 2013

"Cowboy poetry festival honors heritage," by Rob Reynolds of Al Jazeera, broadcast February 3, 2013

Lopin', Ropin' and Hopin' videos from the gathering

Updated 2/19

  The February 18, 2013 Clear Out West (C. O. W.) radio show with Andy Nelson and Jim Nelson features their visit to the Gathering and all tracks are by gathering performers.

Updated 2/19

  Photojournalist and designer Jeri Dobrowski's February, 2013 Cowboy Jam Session comments on the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Read the column here.

Posted 2/21

  "National Cowboy Poetry Gathering honors SD Poet Laureate Charles 'Badger' Clark," a February 13, 2013 article by Jeri Dobrowski in the Tri-State Livestock News, reports on one of the outstanding events at the Gathering. Read the article here.

Posted 2/21

  "Evidence-Based Horsemanship," a February 19, 2013 article by Jeri Dobrowski in the Tri-State Livestock News, reports on a session at the Gathering. Read the article here.

Posted 3/4

Find a selection of official gathering photographer Jessica Brandi Lifland's 2013 photographs from the gathering on her blog here.

Posted 3/4

  Boise radio host and writer Greg Harness writes about his experience at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in a March 7, 2013 article here, in RootsWorld.


Reports and photos from the event to come...


Visit the Western Folklife Center's Gathering web site for program information, archived webcasts of events,  audio and video coverage, and more.



With special thanks to Archivist Steve Green of Western Folklife Center, in a feature celebrating the 20th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we have program information that includes program covers, information and lists of invited performers for each year's Gathering.  

Other features in that section include:

  • recollections from the performers and from the audience about their "first time" at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
  • poems celebrating the Gathering

We also maintain an index of all of the invited performers to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, since its inception in 1985.  



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