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Ketchum (Idaho) September


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September, 2006
Wagon Days  Sun Valley-Ketchum, Idaho


Report by Smoke Wade with photos by Smoke Wade and by Gary Hoffman


Wagon Days Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Cowboy poets and western musicians gathered in Ketchum, Idaho, on Saturday, September 2, 2006 in conjunction with the annual Wagon Days celebration. Ketchum, once home to miners, lumberjacks and cowboys, is perhaps now best known for the adjacent Sun Valley ski resort.

The poets and musicians arrived in town on Saturday in time to watch the Black Jack Ketchum shootout and the Wagon Days Big Hitch parade. The shootout featured a large cast as the melodrama unfolded on Main Street. After the smoke had cleared, the 100-entry parade began much to the delight of the 15,000 spectators. The parade is touted as the largest non-motorized parade west of the Mississippi. The grand finale of the parade was the City of Ketchum Big Hitch entry. The big hitch consists of six giant sized ore wagons pulled by twenty matched sorrel mules controlled by a single jerk line. The Big Hitch wagon train is over 200 feet long, and in it's day hauled 50 to 70 tons of ore.

photo by Smoke Wade
The Big Hitch

After the parade was over, the poets and musicians gathered in Forest Service Park as an impromptu audience assembled on lawn chairs and blankets. Gary and Connie Hoffman of Ketchum organized the poetry gathering for the second year. The featured poets were Vern Woodbury and Smoke Wade, both of Idaho. Woodbury, known as the funniest cowboy in Idaho, was at his best as he kept the crowd in stitches with his cowboy comedy, sprinkled with poetry recitations of Baxter Black and Badger Clark. 

photo by Gary Hoffman
Vern Woodbury of Mackay

Wade entertained the audience with tales and poetry about life in Hells Canyon of the Snake River. 

photo by Gary Hoffman
Smoke Wade of Lewiston

The rest of the poets were members of the local Not So Dead Poets Society, and they included Jo Ellen Collins, Steve Tompkins, Gary and Connie Hoffman, and Reginald Reeves, all of Idaho, and others. The local poets group had practiced long and hard, and their efforts were noticeable as they recited many of the classics.

photo by Gary Hoffman
Reginald Reeves of Idaho Falls

photo by Gary Hoffman
Connie Hoffman of Ketchum

photo by Gary Hoffman
Jo Ellen Collins of Ketchum

The featured musicians included Jamie Baker of Montana, and Lary Lawson of Idaho. Both delighted the audience with
traditional cowboy music. As the show came to an end, the musicians and others gathered in a sing-a-long of classic cowboy songs.

photo by Gary Hoffman
Jamie Baker of Alder, Montana

photo by Gary Hoffman
Lary Lawson of Twin Falls

As the crowd faded away, the poets and musicians gathered at the home of Gary and Connie Hoffman for a wonderful barbecue. Plans were talked about for the 2007 Wagon Days Cowboy Gathering, and then, as always, the bittersweet
moment arrived when the performers said their good-byes, promising to meet again--soon--somewhere along the cowboy poetry trail

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