Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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Valentine (Nebraska) October


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October, 2006
15th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days   Valentine, Nebraska

Report and photos by Willard Hollopeter

Additional report and photos below by Slim McNaught


15th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering
and Old West Days

Every year, at the conclusion of the Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days, someone says "this was the best one yet," putting a responsibility on the Old West Committee of getting at least as good of entertainment for next year.

A gathering certainly has to stay on an even keel in quality of entertainment or it will likely soon not be a gathering. Or, if possible, keep improving it, and that might be hard to do after this year's performances.

Ray Owens

Ray Owens started the Friday evening show off with his, "no foolin' around" thought provoking, serious poetry.  There was a complete turnaround when Dennis Gaines came on stage. Dennis is a master at humor. Patty Clayton sang songs she had composed and the duo, Prickly Pair, closed the performance with their great music and Locke's fine Celtic voice.

Dennis Gaines


Patty Clayton

The Saturday afternoon show of music and humor included Prickly Pair; comedian storytellers
Dennis Gaines and Curt Brummett; and a group new to the Old West Stage, Sons and Brothers consisting of Frank Wolking and his three sons.

Chuck Larsen


Lyn Messersmith

The Saturday evening performance was hosted by local poet Lyn Messersmith and was chock full of humor by
Chuck Larsen and Curt Brummett. Sons and Brothers brought the house down with their fine singing, instrumental proficiency and sheer exuberance, finishing the show, and the 2006 gathering, with the audience standing in ovation and demanding an encore.

Curt Brummett


Sons and Brothers


Prickly Pair


Ken Cook, OWD Board Member Duane Bellin, Dennis Gaines, OWD Member Marty Blocker, and Willard Hollopeter

Thanks to Ken Cook for sending us the excellent program book and other materials from the event.

October, 2006
15th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days   Valentine, Nebraska

 Report, photos, and captions by Slim McNaught


Valentine Old West Days

Roundup a bunch of cowboy poets and singers, an old time melodrama, an art and trade show, and good food, and herd all this into a big brick building called a high school. Then open the gates and let in a corral full of spectators eager to take in this whole shindig, and you've got almost more entertainment than you can keep up with.

It's time again to cowboy up at the 15th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days in historic old Valentine, Nebraska, October 5 through 8, 2006. Get in there on Thursday and, among other things, you can take in an old time Melodrama in the Theater that evening. Those folks are sure full of energy and know how. Wonder through this building during the days Friday and Saturday and you'll find performers in the Theater and in the Commons Area doin' their thing both places at the same time. Then stroll into the gymnasium and you'll see art and trade booths where you sure can find things you can't live without.

While you're in there you may hear someone singing cowboy songs at a booth or see a couple of fellers stand toe to toe (or chair leg to chair leg) and recite cowboy poetry to each other no end. Sometimes we draw quite a crowd with these impromptu performances in this trade show area. Loads of fun. Darlene and I have our "Slim's Leather" booth here every year and we spend a lot of time visiting old friends and meeting new ones.

Now you are in cowboy country. These ranchers use lots of horses, as they've been doing for over a hundred years, and some of the top cowhorses and ranch hands come out of this country. This sandhill country with its wet meadows and good grass has some of the largest ranches in the country. And these folks sure turn out to support good, clean, family entertainment like these Old West Days. The whole town of Valentine gets involved with sidewalk food servers on Thursday, including Subway, Pepsi, and Youngs Western Wear BBQ. There are specials in many stores, a downtown parade on Saturday, with square dancing at the Valentine Middle School. On Sunday several churches offer services for the visitors and there is a Sunday trail ride. To top it all off there is the old time Melodrama again that evening.

The poetry and music sessions got under way Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. in the Theater. This is a very nice facility and lots of fun to perform from this stage. There were over thirty performers from as far away as Texas divided into eight groups on Friday. Saturday we were divided into six groups. Daytime poetry and music sessions Friday were hosted by: Wally Bazyn, Sarah Kovar, Bob Petermann, Chuck Larsen, Ken Cook, Lyn Messersmith, Willard Hollopeter, and Rick Buoy. Saturday daytime sessions started with a Cowboy Music Workshop hosted by Les and Locke Hamilton, with the rest of the groups hosted by: Ray Owens, Dennis Gaines, Bonnie Krogman, Marty Blocker, Curt Brummett, and Ken Moreland. We had great audiences to perform for in both stage areas and most of us got to perform in both areas over the two days.

Although I have been writing this poetry for years, I have only recited to live audiences since 2004, but this Old West Days event has been one of my favorites since I started. These audiences are always attentive and appreciate what we do. That makes it lots of fun, and I really enjoy performing for these folks.

The Friday evening featured performers were hosted by the Prickly Pair (Les and Locke Hamilton) and consisted of Ray Owens, Patty Clayton, and Dennis Gaines. The Saturday afternoon featured performers were hosted by Dennis Gaines and were Prickly Pair, Curt Brummett, and Sons and Brothers. The host for the featured performers' Saturday evening show was Lyn Messersmith. The performers were Chuck Larsen, Curt Brummett, and Sons and Brothers. These three shows by the featured performers were sellouts, and there were quite a number of folks expecting to be able to purchase tickets when they got there (some from as far away as Iowa) who were not able to attend. This seems to happen about every year, as the committee that is in charge of entertainment always come up with great performers that draw good crowds.

Since the first Old West Days and Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering started in 1991, Willard Hollopeter has been responsible for hiring most of the entertainers. Willard says, "If it hadn't been for the late great Howard Parker, chances are it wouldn't have gotten started." The poetry committee meets during the winter to choose who will be invited to perform. The Old West Days committee consist of: Jerry Grooms, president; Bob Stetter, vice president; Tina Naughtin, secretary; Jarolyn Crouse, treasurer; with board members Willard Hollopeter, Marsha Bauer, Dave Leonard, Ken Moreland, Marty Blocker, Steve Breuklander, Duane Bellin, and Kim Parkhurst.

The stated purpose of this corporation...."shall be to preserve and perpetuate, commemorate and celebrate, our cultural heritage and traditional values pertaining to the land and its peoples, specifically by hosting and promoting an annual gathering of cowboy poets, writers, artists, collectors and musicians who reflect this cultural heritage." 

And folks, I guarantee you, they "cowboy up and get 'er done."



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