Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

Events and Festivals

Gathering Reports


We invite folks to send in reports about gatherings.

Following are reports about events that 
are linked from event listings on the Events Calendar. 

(Some links may be out of date.)

2008 Reports

January - March

Page Two

Arvada (Colorado) January

Ellensburg (Washington) February

Moab (Utah) February

Lewiston (Idaho) February

Kamloops (British Columbia) March

Vinton (California) March


On page 3:

Cartersville (Georgia) March

Thatcher (Arizona) January

Mesquite (Nevada) March


On page 1:

Fort Worth (Texas) January
Lordsburg (New Mexico) February
Pigeon Forge (Tennessee) February
Martin (South Dakota) February

Sierra Vista (Arizona) February  separate page

Elko (Nevada) January  separate page


See April-May reports here

See reports from 2007 here
See reports from 2006 here
See reports from 2005 here
See reports from 2004 here
See reports from 2003 here
See reports for 2002 here
Reports from 2000- 2001 are here


Back to Events page . . .
Back on home . . .


January, 2008
19th Annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Arvada, Colorado

story, photos and captions by Yvonne Hollenbeck


Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. The 2008 Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held January 10-13, in the beautiful Arvada Center in historic Arvada, Colorado, was a successful roundup of some of the best poets and singers in the land. The event was dedicated to the memory of the late Buck Ramsey, a Texas troubadour that left a lasting impression on the West.

Yampa Valley Boys (John and Steve) and Richard Elloyan

The O'Brien Family Band: Kyle, Mora, Dan and Jeanette

Capacity crowds jammed the many venues to hear poetry and western music from featured entertainers such as Jean Prescott, John Nelson, Chuck Pyle, Andy Hedges, Georgie Sicking, Richard Elloyan, Yampa Valley Boys, Jill Jones, Jerry Brooks, O’Brien Family Band, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jon Chandler and the Wichitones, Gary McMahan, Andy Nelson, Bill Barwidk & Sons of the Tumbleweed, Vic Anderson, Dick Warwick, Liz Masterson and Friends, Barry Ward, as well as daytime theme presenters Marty Blocker, Bob Campbell, Ken Cook, Zeb Dennis, Duane Dickinson, Willard Hollopeter, Leslie Keltner, Bonnie Krogman, Mark Gardner, Rex Rideout, Al Mehl, and Diane Tribitt.  International performers were Milton Taylor and Jennifer Haig of Austrailia, and Canada’s Cowboy Celtic and Doris Daley

Zeb Dennis, Doris Daley, Chuck Pyle, Jean Prescott, and Marty Blocker.

Andy Wilkinson of Lubbock Texas also performed, emceed, and played host to a film crew from Texas Tech University set up in a log cabin setting within the confines of the center doing interviews throughout the weekend regarding the impact Buck Ramsey had on the lives of the individual entertainers. These interviews will be a part of the archived collection of Buck Ramsey Tributes held by that University. Bette Ramsey, Buck’s widow, was also on hand hosting sessions and presenting a power point documentary on the life of this great man. These sessions also included entertainers reciting poetry or presenting music written by the late Buck Ramsey, and were popular features of the gathering.

Buck Ramsey Tribute Program: Andy Wilkinson, Andy Hedges, Bette Ramsey, Jill Jones and Joe Wolking of "Sons and Brothers." (Joe accompanied Jill as she sang "Buck's Song" ...a tribute to the late Buck Ramsey.)

Plans are well underway for the 20th Anniversary Gathering to be held in January of 2009, and even though it is hard to imagine that it could get any better…it just might, so mark your calendars for the 2nd weekend in January and plan to attend.

© 2008, Yvonne Hollenbeck

February, 2008
Fourth Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering  Ellensburg, Washington

  report and photos by Doris Daley


A spirit of cowboy camaraderie marked the Fourth Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering in Ellensburg, Washington, February 14-17, 2008. Old friends and new kicked off the event at a meet-and-greet party on February 14—and if Cupid wore a cowboy hat, then surely the next three days were a loving tribute to the spirit and heritage of the west so very much alive in Washington today.

Cowboy poetry and music programs took place during the day at various venues throughout this historic rodeo town. Hats off to Lilly’s Cantina, Rodeo City BBQ, the Moose Lodge and the Clymer Museum of Art for opening their doors and businesses to host the shows. Feature matinee and evening performances were held at the new, state-of-the-art Music Building on the Central Washington University campus.

Nevada Slim and Cimaron Sue with Brenn Hill

Feature shows included Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night, Sunday matinee, and Sunday dinner performances, all headlined with this year’s excellent line-up of featured cowboy poets and musicians: Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, Brenn Hill, Wylie & the Wild West, Dreyer Brothers, Doris Daley, Sourdough Slim, and local Washington favourites the Rockin HW and Nevada Slim and Cimaron Sue. New to many fans, but obviously a consummate performer, was Jack Gladstone, a Blackfeet singer and storyteller from Whitefish, MT. With humour, music and a compelling stage presence, Jack brought a sell-out Saturday night crowd to its feet with a native American view of the spirit of the west. Daytime crowds were treated to a stellar line-up of western singers and poets: Andy Bales, James Emmerson, Stan Kvistad, Jerry Laskody, Dave McClure, Barbara Nelson, Duane Nelson and Paul Wilson.

Alan Halvorson (Rockin HW), Jack Gladstone, and Doris Daley

The planning committee of Spirit of the West: A Cowboy Gathering has developed a fun and efficient format for an autograph session. On Saturday morning, following a dandy Dutch Oven breakfast, featured artists take their places at 6-ft tables which have been placed end-to-end to form one long table the length of the Kittitas County Fairgrounds event center. Starting at one end and proceeding to the other, fans can get 18 to 20 artists’ autographs on posters, ball caps, programs, and souvenir bandanas. Photos, laughter, visiting and wild deployment of ink are the order of the day; it’s a wonderful opportunity for performers and fans to meet and visit.

Bravo to Pendleton Whisky, the Ellensburg Quality Inn, the Daily Record and Puget Sound Energy for their significant sponsorship and to many, many local businesses, retailers and community boosters for supporting this premier cowboy event. Reserve February 13-15, 2009 for the 5th annual Spirit of the West Festival. For more info, visit

© 2008, Doris Daley


February, 2008
Fifth Annual Moab Western Stars  Moab, Utah 

  report by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Throughout its five year history the Moab Western Stars Cowboy Poetry Gathering has continuously grown and gained momentum, but 2008, the festival’s fifth year, was indeed a shining jewel on the landscape of winter western arts events. Despite the flurry of set-up and last-minute worries that inevitably present themselves during the final hours before any event begins, the poetry and song began right on time Friday night at Star Hall. Master of ceremonies Jim Nelson from Clear Out West Radio was there in fine form, and the newly renovated building was truly a beautiful venue in which to perform.

Radio Host Jim Nelson with son Gus Nelson

Friday’s show included appearances by Sid Hausman, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Western Music’s Sweetheart Belinda Gail, Grandpa Don Kennington, and special guest Dave Stamey.

Dave Stamey, who performed throughout the weekend


Belinda Gail

The crowd was enthusiastic and welcomed the “western stars” to the Moab area with great enthusiasm. Throughout the night other performers were making their way into town, and following the Friday opening concert we all gathered at the MARC (Moab Arts and Recreation Center) to devour the hams, potatoes, salads and spice cakes that had been teasing us with their baking aromas all day long. We were all eager for a good show Saturday morning, however, and the jam ended by midnight so we could all get some rest. Performances Saturday began at 9 AM, and the audiences were great right from the first set.

It was a special pleasure to have Utah’s poet Matriarch in attendance, the always gracious Francis Wheeler. The planned highlight of the day was the special lunch with Michael Martin Murphey, scheduled for noon. Murph had a long drive in from his own concert on Friday night, however, and ran into fog on his way.

The eager, sold-out crowd waited patiently, and was treated to some amazing pre-show performances by Peggy Malone and Richard Espinoza, and an impromptu mini-concert with Richard Espinoza and Brian Arnold, which was received with great appreciation.  Belinda Gail entertained with a short set, as did Utah’s funny man Don Kennington, and the room was primed and ready when Murphey made his appearance at 1 PM. As always, Murphey came through with professionalism and fine quality, and the crowd loved him.

Michael Martin Murphey, who entertained the lunch crowd

Throughout lunch and the Murphey concert, festival attendees who weren’t able to get tickets for the upstairs show were thoroughly entertained downstairs by a full contingent of poets and musicians.

“Grandpa” Don Kennington

Dave Stamey educated a delighted crowd by teaching them “how to” yodel, Latigo added an excellent set, and one after another poets took their turn to tell stories.

Mike Kirkwood with musician Brian Arnold

As the afternoon progressed Saturday Sid Hausman took the stage and brought in a few of his “kids” from the week he’d spend working with students at Moab’s elementary school.

Poet and Musician Sid Hausman

Performances continued until 6 PM, when we took a break to set up for the evening concert. The Saturday Night Show was a new type of venue for the MARC, and included a dutch oven dinner. Folks who came—and the show was sold out early on—got a heck of a deal for the price. The show again featured Dave Stamey, and included Kenny Hall, Stan Tixier, Peggy Malone, Jerry Brooks, and Doug Keller.

Stan Tixier

Doug Keller

At the same time Murphey performed at area guest ranch, Red Cliffs Lodge, and CPU poet Gordon Thomas, hired to take care of sound, got a chance to recite on stage there.

Sunday began at 9 AM with one of the best Cowboy Church sessions we’ve ever attended, under the direction of Marion Manwill. Lots of locals from Moab (or folks in town for the gathering) attended the service, and many of our performers added their thoughts and/or talents to the morning.
Regular sessions started up again at about 11 AM, and continued until 6 PM Sunday night. Again, we took a small break before the evening concert, and for 2008 stuck to the same winning campfire format we tried out back in 2007. This year Belinda Gail was joined by Al Clark, Sammi and Bill Snow Jr. (one of the true “finds” for 2008) Sam DeLeeuw, Latigo, and Paul Bliss.

Bill Jr. and Sammi Snow – a couple you just love to love

And I just don’t think the show could have been any better. The MAGIC begin to build almost from the start, and continued until a hugely climactic standing ovation at the end. There were some special moments, however, that I have to mention. Every female in the audience, from nine to ninety, fell in love with the sweet crooning voice of Bill Snow Jr.—and I’d guess the sentiment might be just as strong among the men, directed toward Bill’s lovely wife, Sammi. Together they paint the perfect picture of what a young cowboy couple “ought” to be. They also have a pack of beautiful kids who traveled with them, who behaved themselves and delighted everyone.

Al Clark, with help from Sam DeLeeuw

Al Clark also caught the crowd’s attention, and had us roaring with his rendition of S. Omar Barker’s “Jack Potter’s Courtin’,” helped out by Sam’s natural humor and perfect comic timing.

Ben Ashby, Ken Stevens, Kevin Paul –Latigo

Then, when Latigo stood up to celebrate Kevin Paul with “Orange Blossom Special,” the audience also ended up on their feet and stomping to bring the roof down. It was an almost IMPOSSIBLE act to follow, but Paul Bliss took the challenge and came out winning. Finally Belinda Gail ended the set, and hushed everyone with her exquisite a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace.” People almost couldn’t stand to leave, and folks hung around buying CD’s and chatting for at least an hour after the show. It seems like we always THINK we need a break after a gathering, but I assure you plans are already underway for an EVEN BIGGER AND BETTER event for 2009!

Jo Lynne and Mike Kirkwood, at Moab Western Stars Cowboy Poetry Gathering

© 2008, Jo Lynne Kirkwood

February, 2008
Fourth Annual Lee Earl Memorial Cowboy Gathering   Lewiston, Idaho

  report and photos by Bobbie Hunter

An unbelievably large and exceptionally skilled group of Western performers, one hundred five to be exact, joined forces to pack more than thirty hours of Woodstock-style cowboy poetry and music into a weekend of fun. February 28th through March 2nd marked the fourth annual Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Gathering at Lewiston, Idaho. The talent, energy, and enthusiasm of the participants truly boggled the mind; the audience enjoyed top-notch entertainment from the first hello to the last good-bye.

As in previous years, the gathering was held at the Elk's Lodge which is nestled in the rolling hillsides of Lewiston. A panoramic view of the Snake River flowing serenely below may have been partially responsible for inspiring a memorable weekend of cowboy revelry. [
The gathering is held annually to raise money for a scholarship fund in the memory of Lee Earl (1937-2004).]

The performers traveled from all over the Western United States and Canada to converge at the Lodge. Their talent was topped only by their generosity; the goal was to raise funds sufficient to award two graduating seniors a scholarship of one thousand dollars each. In addition, an ever-growing list of sponsors helped bring to fruition the year-long preparations preceding the event. As the chief organizers, Smoke Wade (Nevada) and members of the Lee Earl family did an excellent job.

Involving the audience in the selection of multiple “People’s Choice Awards” proved to be an ingenious way to generate revenue for the scholarships. Patrons voted for their favorite vendor or performer by putting a dollar or two in cans individually marked with each participant's name. Once the “votes” were tallied the winners were announced at the Saturday night show.

Van and Kathy Criddle (Van won the People's Choice for Tall Tale category)

For the second year running, Van Criddle (Oregon) won the People’s Choice Award for the Tall Tale category. He’s quite a story-teller! Jerry Myers (Idaho) was voted Best Cowboy Poet; Sagebrush Old West Clothing (Washington) won the award for Best Artisan/Vendor; and Best Cowboy Musician went to Shiloh Sharrard (Idaho)—what a big voice from such a petite gal. Proving her popularity, this was Shiloh's fourth consecutive win!

 Jinny Lowe (honky-tonk piano player extraordinaire, and Happy Trails editor)

Among those providing music while the audience enjoyed a delicious dinner were Jinny Lowe (Idaho); Maxine Larson and Friends (Idaho); John Westbrook and Larry Gibson (Montana); and Hank Cramer. Mark Holt (Idaho), Beargrass (Idaho), Jim Aasen Washington), and Shiloh Sharrard also shared the lime-light to ensure that the audience was never without entertainment.

Since the movement of cowboy poetry would wither and die without new blood and fresh faces, youngsters were encouraged to participate. What a show they provided! The People’s Choice award for Little Cowboy Musician went to Dakota White (Idaho) and Dylan Curry (Idaho). Pepper Curry (Idaho) won the Little Cowpoke's Poetry. It's safe to say the future of Western entertainment is safe in their hands.

The raffle quilt is a definite highlight of each Lee Earl Gathering. Virginia Earl (Washington) laboriously transfers poems received from many of the cowboy poets to squares of material. Each square is then pieced together throughout the months leading up to the gathering and eventually becomes part of a well-crafted quilt. In addition to raising money, it generates an enormous amount of interest due to its intricate beauty and unique character. Each creation is truly “one of a kind” and fortunate, indeed, is the person who holds the winning ticket.

Toe Tappin' Tommy Tucker, 2004 A.W.A. DJ of the Year, hosted both the Friday night and the Saturday night shows. He did a phenomenal job with introductions, keeping the shows to a tight schedule, and seeing that everything ran smoothly. An equally important and often challenging aspect of every show is the sound system. Performers rested easy knowing John Westbrook and Larry Gibson (Westco Sound, MT) were behind the controls, using their expertise to ensure that each performer sounded his/her best. Jim Bullard (Idaho) manned the sound system for the Vendor’s stage, doing an equally good job. It takes the cooperation of many individuals (both seen and unseen) to bring about a first-rate show such as the “Lee Earl.”

Jim Bullard (2006 Full Time Male Vocalist of the Year for the Western USA, as named by the Country Gospel Music Association of Branson, MO)

In addition to those who have already been mentioned, other supporters and organizers were Donna Earl (Washington), Ed Earl (Washington), Jinny Lowe (Idaho), and Bodie Dominguez (Washington). Their combined efforts created a sensational gathering.

Each entertainer gave a top-notch performance, and it was especially gratifying to see so many new faces at the gathering.

"Wanigan" (People's Choice for Best Cowboy Musical Group)

Among the new comers were Horse Crazy, three talented gals from Washington whose spirited music and captivating style not only made toes tap, but also inspired folks to cut loose and dance. Another new group was Wanigan, five musicians who really know their way around the bluegrass genre—indeed, they won the People’s Choice Award for Best Cowboy Musical Group.

At the close of each evening’s show, a session of dancing and jamming just naturally fell into place--folks were reluctant to close out the evening, especially in the face of a beckoning dance floor and gifted musicians who were so willing to strum the night away.

Dallas McCord, 2007 A.W.A. Small Area Disc Jockey

Jim Bullard very capably began Sunday's Cowboy Church service with prayer and song. Not only was the audience impressive in number, but they were also very receptive to the words and songs of praise that filled the hall. Among the dozen or more performers who skillfully shared their talent were Dallas and PJ McCord (Oregon), and Dave Nordquist (Washington). The weekend could not truly be over until after the final “Amen.” When that was said, echoes of lingering chords reverberated throughout the hills of Lewiston and hovered sweetly in the air as each performer headed down the road.

Dave Nordquist

Plans are already in progress for the 2009 Lee Earl Memorial Gathering which will be held March 5-8. If you enjoy exceptional cowboy poetry, fantastic music, and well-crafted works of art, plan ahead so as not to miss the event—it will be well worth your time and the drive to be there!

© 2008, Bobbie Hunter

March, 2009
12th Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival  Kamloops, British Columbia

  reports by Doris Daley and

Mike Puhallo, below

with report photos by Liz Twan and Doris Daley

  an additional perspective piece by Susan Parker, below

  report by Doris Daley

Capacity crowds filled every venue, every day show and every evening feature performance at the 12th annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival, Canada’s premier celebration of the cowboy arts, leaving organizers to wonder, “How do we accommodate even more people next year?” This year’s festival celebrated 150 years of ranching in the interior of British Columbia. In 1858 over 30,000 gold prospectors flooded the area in the Fraser River Gold Rush, prompting industry and settlement to follow, including cattle ranching.

From March 6 through 9, over 1800 cowboy poetry and music fans enjoyed the best in cowboy entertainment at Foresters Theatre in the Kamloops Best Western and across the street at Kamloops Cavalry Church. For the 10th consecutive year, Cavalry Church, surely one of the most generous-hearted and community-minded congregations in the country, turned its facility (which accommodates 1,100 people) over to the BC Cowboy Heritage Society for the weekend to host the festival. Three sold-out bus tours from Alberta make the Festival a destination package event, with other fans coming from Washington, Idaho and from as far away as Canada’s Atlantic provinces.

photo by Liz Twan
Ed Peekeekoot

A record number of performers entertained throughout the weekend, with each poet and/or musician featured during a premier matinee or evening show. Kamloops offers an impressive lineup of workshops open free to the public and while topics such as poetry writing, saddle making, yodeling and guitar picking might be expected at a cowboy event, surely this is one of a very select group of cowboy festivals to offer training in can-can dancing. Having the agility to swing your leg up over 1100 pounds of snorting, bucking range horse doesn’t necessarily mean you have what it takes to make it through a performance of the high-kicking Les Folles Jambettes.

The BC Cowboy Heritage Society uses the Festival each year as the public venue for inducting working BC cowboys and artists into the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame. A highlight this year was the presentation of the Joe Marten Award for the Preservation of Cowboy Heritage to Hugh McLennan, host of the long-running and popular Spirit of the West radio program. Host Mike Puhallo could barely finish his presentation before the capacity crowd rose to its feet to giving Hugh a standing ovation for his tireless efforts to preserve and promote cowboy culture in Western Canada and beyond.

photo by Doris Daley

back row: Graham Allen, Jim Peace, Mike Dygart, Chris Schauer, Terri Mason, Phyllis Rathwell, BJ Smith, Ed Brown;
kneeling: Jesse Fowler, Sharky Schauer, Ryan Fritz.

42 exhibitors participated in the Western Art and Gear Show; 56 generous sponsors contribute to the festival over the course of the year to make the Festival a reality. This year’s entertainers included Alan Moberg, Allen Christie, BJ Smith, Brian Salmond and Tom Cole, Buddy Gale, Buddy Edgar, Butch Falk, Chelsea Cunningham, Chris and Sharky Schauer, Davie Longworth, Doris Bircham, Doris Daley, Ed Brown, Ed Peekeekoot, Eli Barsi and John Cunningham, Frank Gleeson, Gordie West, Horse Crazy, Hugh McLennan, Ivan Daines, Jay Snider, Jeremy Willis, Jesse Fowler, Jessica Noad, Kevin Davis, Les Folles Jambettes, Matt Johnson, Mike Logan, Mike Puhallo, Patricia Willestoft, Phyllis Rathwell, Riley Tubbs, Rob Dinwoodie, Ryan Fritz, Shirley Field, Susan Parker, Terri Mason and Tim Hus.

Mark your calendar now for next year’s Kamloops Cowboy Festival. With luck, you’ll be there on Friday, March 13, 2009 when the 13th annual event kicks off in the heart of BC’s cowboy country. (Mike Puhallo says that for those too superstitious to travel on the 13th, there will be a party and jam session for those who arrive on the 12th.)

© 2008, Doris Daley

report by Mike Puhallo

The Best Little Cowboy Fest in The Canadian West, just keeps on getting better.

The 12th Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival enjoyed another 12% increase in weekend pass sales and certainly set a new record for the number of standing ovations as well!  We started with a very enthusiastic full house at the Thursday Night Kick-off Party, and were blessed with a capacity crowd right through the weekend.

In addition to entertainment by some of the best cowboy poets and musicians in the world  this year's stage shows also featured; Native Dancers, Can Can Girls, Trick Roping and the incredible guitar styling of Ed PeekeeKoot. We also drew in the best fans on the Planet and after a 76 hour marathon of clapping and cheering they were still on their feet at 11:00 PM Sunday Night, closing the show out with yet another standing ovation! (after that they followed the most persistent pickers into the trade show area for one final jam session)

The Western Art and Gear Show was very successful again this year with over 50 tables and booths of high quality western products and art. There was everything from custom hats, saddles and tack to books, fine art, metal sculpture and laser carved stonework.

The Art Of The West, Juried Art Show, Sponsored by Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine,  was expanded this year to include Custom Saddles and Sculpture. This proved to be a very popular attraction with a steady flow of  western art enthusiasts passing through to view the fine works on display. Complete Information on winners, people's choice awards etc. Will be posted on our website Special thanks to Chuck Stormes from Alberta for adjudicating the saddle competition.

The BC Cowboy Hall Of Fame inductions on Friday Evening honoured Percy Minnabarriat posthumously for his accomplishments as a rodeo and working cowboy. Allen Fry was honoured for his written work in celebrating Cariboo Ranch life. Jake Coutlee, who has spent fifty two years as a top hand on Canada's largest cattle ranch was joined on stage by Douglas lake Cowboys (past and present) who had rode with him over the years.  It was an incredible, once in a lifetime moment to see nearly thirty of the best working cowboys in Canada standing on stage to honour Jake. The audience was also on their feet showing their appreciation.

photo by Liz Twan

Jake Coutlee is behind the microphone in the brown shirt, to his left in a blue shirt is Pat Ferguson, son of longtime Cowboss Mike Ferguson. Jake's uncle, Joe Coutlee, also worked more than 50 years for Douglas Lake and was cowboss from the turn of the cetury until the 1940's. Pat's Dad, Mike Feruson was cowboss for about 40 years starting in 1948. This photo darn sure includes a couple dozen of the very best working cowboys in North America.

The Joe Marten Western Heritage Award, was presented at the Saturday Night Feature concert to Hugh McLennan for his efforts in preserving and celebrating our western heritage. The crowd also honoured Hugh with a thundering ovation!

BC Cowboy Heritage Society Scholarships were awarded Saturday night to Laura Gudowski and Vanessa Johnson.

Workshops and Educational Presentations, are another important component of the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, sponsored by CJKC Country 103. There were a dozen programs offered to expand horizons on a variety of topics such as; Poetry and Song Writing, Saddle Fitting, Yodeling the Western Way, Guitar picking Styles, Bass Guitar, Promotion on a Poets Budget and Can-Can Dancing. All the presentations were very well attended.

The CJKC Country 103, Rising Star Competition,  ran throughout the weekend with entrants from Three Western Provinces and several US States competing for $1000 cash prizes as emerging stars in Cowboy Poetry or Western Music.

By Sunday Afternoon the field was narrowed down to three  poets and three  musical acts.  The Showdown began at 3:00 Pm in Forsters Dinner Theatre with each performer given twelve minutes. It was an extremely close contest with five judges scoring  competitors from one to ten in eight categories. Mereline Griffith was named top poet and Matt Robertson was the winning singer, each will receive  $1000 while the four runners up each get $500.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of CJKC. Mereline is a rancher and very talented poet from Bonnieville Alberta. (Her grandson's wife was also in the contest.) Matt Robertson is a young working Cowboy and extremely gifted songwriter from Southern Alberta.

So with all that going on, anybody who did not have a good time at the 12th Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival  has only themselves to blame... You should have bin there!

© 2008, Mike Puhallo


Kamloops, British Columbia: Crossing Borders

by Susan Parker

Straining to look out the porthole of the Bombardier Q400 containing 60-plus souls flying from Seattle, Washington to Kamloops, British Columbia, I view a land of vast wildness, the likes of which I have never seen.  With jagged, snow-capped mountains extending through the clouds like monstrous fingers groping, as if to pull the plane down into its massive crevasses, I recall a recently-read series of books written by Richmond Hobson, suggested by my friend Doris Daley to prepare me for the rich heritage of British Columbia. 

Hobson’s Grass Beyond the Mountains is the first in a series of three books, true tales of three cowhands who ultimately conquered the uncharted land of northern British Columbia in the early 1930s.  Enduring tortuous miles across unforgiving mountains and around muskegs, they turned approximately 4 million acres into the Frontier Cattle Company.  Digging trenches using only “foot-pushing hay knives” and “pitchforks with bent tines,” they drained the mud-bottomed creeks, sloughs, and swampland to develop lush meadows and pastureland. The hardships experienced by these men were beyond my comprehension.  Now, seeing this country, I have a tremendous appreciation for their unrelenting tenacity and accomplishments.  I wondered if the people I was about to meet in Kamloops would be such hardy folks. 

Panhandle Phillips was not waiting curbside with his buckboard to whisk me away to the 12th Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival. Instead, Judy, one of 79 volunteers (it takes a village to produce a 4-day event!) was waiting patiently with her van to drive me,Jay Snider, Jason Snider, and Kevin Davis to our hotel. Check-in was a breeze. I couldn’t wait to get to my room, put my feet up, and see whether or not I had cell phone coverage.  Yes!  I could call home to check on my cat…and my husband.

This being my first trip to Canada to perform, I was a little apprehensive about how I would be received, being that there is nothing “ranchy” in my background, just a love of horses since I can remember. That and the fact that I only knew three people here made my knees quake a bit. 

Leaving insecurities packed safely in my suitcase in the hotel room, I headed out for my first performance on Friday afternoon at Forster’s Theatre. I had reviewed the bios of all performers and discovered Ed Peekeekoot, a man of Cree heritage. According to his bio, Ed played a multitude of stringed instruments and the harmonica, but I saw no mention of the native flute. The title track of my new CD, "She Rode a Wild Horse," is followed by a hauntingly beautiful native flute played by Charles Littleleaf. I have always wanted to perform live with the flute playing out the end of the poem but was never in the right situation. I wondered if Ed played a native flute. 

Before our performance I had several opportunities to ask him, but, cloaked in shyness, I didn’t have the courage to approach this total stranger. Imagine my dismay and delight when he showed up ready to go on stage, native flute in hand.  Quickly I told him about my poem and the music of the flute. I asked him if he could play out the last two stanzas. “Yes, I would love to,” he said.  We crept like church mice downstairs to practice for two minutes.  As I finished my set with “She Rode a Wild Horse,” Ed caressed the poem with the soft, melodious music of his flute.  It set the stage for a magical weekend.

Over the next few days I made many new friends.  Excellent, multi-faceted entertainers such as Alan Moberg, Tim Hus (Canada’s answer to Dwight Yoakam!), the gals of Horse Crazy, Rob Dinwoodie, Hugh McLennan, Eli Barsi, Butch Falk, Ed Brown, and Doris Bircham, just to name a few. And appreciative spectators like Donna, aka “Pumpkin,” the lady of many photos; Lynne from Alberta who invited me to come spend time at her ranch; Mike Puhallo’s mom; and many, many others.  Everyone was warm, friendly, and gracious, inquiring as to when I would return. 

The entire 4-day event was one glorious whirlwind of entertainment and new adventures.  Monday afternoon, as I sat in the Kamloops airport awaiting departure for home, I reflected on the weekend.  There is no doubt the folks I met were of hardy stock, tenacious in their preservation of a threatened way of life.  The ranching and cowboy culture in the United States as well as in Canada is like none I’ve experienced; lots of good people with strong values and a caring, nurturing nature. When like-minded folks meet, there are no borders.

© 2008, Susan Parker

[photo of Susan Parker by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.]


March, 2009
22nd Annual Vinton Spring Cowboy Poetry Show  Vinton, California

story, photos, and captions by Jean Myles



During the intermission of Vinton’s 22nd Annual Cowboy Poetry Show, John Wilkison, Master of the Sierra Valley Grange, presented Betty Ramelli a bouquet of flowers in recognition of her longstanding direction of the event.  John also praised talented chefs Helen Robetti and Annie Terrasas, and their kitchen volunteers, for their superb meals, and the Grange and 4-H volunteers ... who welcome guests, collect tickets, set tables, serve beverages, do cleanup, carry garbage, shift tables and chairs ... and run the sound system. These “in the background” people are the heart and soul of the community who make Vinton’s events happen! 

Performers feel that Vinton is the true “heart of the west.”  Those I have spoken with are at ease trying out new ideas, songs and poetry on Vinton’s audiences, and love the local appreciation of old, well loved poems and music. 

Cowboy poet Tony Argento, singer Belinda Gail and poet/singer/humorist Curly Musgrave

Always at ease on stage, Belinda Gail is the picture of “America’s Western Sweetheart,” a well-earned sobriquet. Her red silk scarf, embroidered white satin blouse, and fringed leather skirt complimented the bright red roses on her new hand-painted cowboy boots.  Belinda hales from Gardnerville, Nevada.  Her parents and sister sat front and center, sharing her evening with the audience.

Belinda Gail's new hand-tooled and hand-painted boots were "just made for dancin'!"

Alone, Belinda’s voice has a pure tonal range. “Amazing Grace,” sung without accompaniment, was heart catching. Fellow performer Curly Musgrave also has several well-earned titles, including the Academy of Artists’, Will Rogers Awards for “Male Performer of the Year” and “Entertainer of the Year.”  Joined together in song, their voices create “absolute magic.”  Not my words, this came from Reno Gazette Journal star photographer and Western music aficionado, Marilyn Newton. I do agree. The timing of these two is impeccable. They had the audience rolling with laughter at their sheer delight in performing together.    

At one point Belinda and Curly had the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to local school bus driver, Stacy Spoon.  Stacy will probably grumble at family and friends for this, but what a nice surprise.  Happy birthday, Stacy!

Cowboy poet Tony Argento follows his maternal granddad’s footsteps in telling the tales of the cowboy, his paternal granddad in his lifelong association with horses, ranching and rodeos.  He and his wife Marci live in Reno, and travel the cowboy poetry circuit. Tony was in Kamloops, Canada last week, and will perform at the Calgary Stampede. Tony is helping plan a fundraising event for the Loyalton Pool in May.  More on that later. 

Vinton’s Spring Show is a two-day event. The fall show, September 27th, is one day only. Don’t delay in purchasing your tickets. Seats at the two evening performances last week were full, as was the Saturday Matinee. Betty polled the audience Saturday night. About half were from northern Nevada, the rest from as far as Grass Valley, Downieville and Quincy, with one couple from Pennsylvania.         

At the end of the evening Belinda and Curly blended their voices in “Wind Beneath My Wings.” The three performers complimented Betty, Helen and those behind the scenes.  It was Curly’s first time in Vinton, as he said to the audience and staff: “You ... are the wind beneath our wings.”  I think that we can look to a return for these three.    

Poets and Writer’s Inc, through a grant from the James Irvine Foundation, support the event. Vinton may be small, but it knows how to put on a major event, one that nationally recognized performers look forward to attending.

© 2008, Jean Myles



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