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(Some links may be out of date.)

2009 Reports



"Campfire Tales" at the Fort Worth Stock Show (Texas) January

Fifth Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering (Washington) February

Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering (Arizona) February (2 reports)

Gila River Heritage Round-Up (Arizona) February

Moab's Western Stars (Utah) February

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Nevada) January  separate page

Page two:

Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Texas) February

Texas Crossroads Cowboy Gathering (Texas) February


See March reports here.
See April-June reports here.
See July-August reports here.
See September reports here.
See October reports here.
See November reports here.

See reports from 2008 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, 2009
12th Annual "Campfire Tales" at the Fort Worth Stock Show  Fort Worth, Texas

  report by Charles Williams

  photos by Linda Kirkpatrick
Linda Kirkpatrick photo by Jeri Dobrowski

Twelfth Annual "Campfire Tales" at the Fort Worth Stock Show

Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night may keep the postman from his appointed rounds, but ice can sure play whaley with a Stock Show.  Not to be detoured by an act of nature, inside the West Arena at the Fort Worth Stock Show, performances by the singers, poets, storytellers and musicians kept the weather at bay at the Twelfth Annual Campfire Tales. The show went three days, from January 26th through the 28th, 2009, and once again great talent kept weather trumped all three days. From the opening act, iPokes, Monday noon to the closing ensemble of The Walton Family, joined by the rest of the
performers Wednesday night, highlight after highlight after highlight kept the Arena hopping as new favorites and old friends put on a memorable show.

Charles Williams (Buck Helton in back)

The combination of Lanny Joe Burnett and Royce Smithy, who call themselves "iPokes," started things off on a high note, with a blend of songs and poems. John Pelham added cowboy poetry to get the day started right. The Bremer Family(Charlie, Jessica, Johnny, Garrett, Joseph, Michael and Grant) and the Terry Family (Bob, Johnie and Chance, with a guest appearance by Gwendolyn) kept things rocking with a variety of Western music. Waynetta Ausmus added stories to Campfire Tales (always a welcome addition, both Waynetta and tales). 

Waynetta Ausmus

Cowboy Sunset Serenade (Linda Kirkpatrick, Frank Roberts and Joe Wells) presented their blend of story, song and poetry.

Frank Roberts

Miss Devon (Dawson) then made her first appearance, and she was joined by Jess Medor presenting Western music with the energy and showmanship she always provides. Monty Teel then presented cowboy poetry. He was followed by longtime Stock Show favorites Janet McBride and John Ingram. They were joined by two young but very promising protégés of Janet, Kristyn Harris and Michaela Howeth.   One hopes they stay with it, as they are two very talented young ladies.

Paul Harris with Ralph Hampton of Ralph's Back Porch

Paul Harris then presented a two-hour show in 30 minutes (just kidding, but he sure keeps music and lyrics moving at a breakneck pace).  He was followed by the Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Teresa Burleson, with her special brand of cowgirl poetry.  The Cowtown Opry crew (Devon Dawson (guitar and vocal),Buck Helton (guitar and vocal), Jess Meador (fiddle), Brooke Wallace (fiddle), "Outlaw" Jessie Del Robertson (vocal, saxophone and whistling), Ashley "Texas Red"G ilbreath (vocals) and Al "Cornbread" Connor (vocals, percussion and tub bass—and several other amazing effects)) in various combinations kept the stage and hallway on top buzzing and filled with musical energy. They were helped in this (in the hallway, at least) by Ralph's Back Porch broadcasting live over the internet and generally sparking things up. Ralph Hampton and Tamara Boatright were joined by performers, spectators, vendors and just passers by to immeasurable enrich
the experience for all involved. They made it a lot of fun, too.

The musical bill for Monday had more. The Texas Bluebonnet Playboys, lead by George Uptmore, then provided a hour of Western Swing at its finest. The evening was topped off with another performance by the Wallace  Family.  Paul and his wonderfully gifted crew play an engaging brand of Western Swing, and as they grow older (which they are—Brooke is
in college now!!!!), their sound matures with them.  It's still fresh and energetic, but it's become tighter and smoother.  Brooke, Sally Ann, Bethany, Caleb and Maddie Belle (with Paul on rhythm guitar) just sound better and better. Christy is getting Josh and Seth (who are a handful) ready as well. The really neat thing about them is that besides being so
musically talented, they are the same friendly, down-to-earth folks they started out being.

Tuesday was the Day Of The Ice Storm, and it affected both audience and performer attendance. The day got started promisingly enough with the  Second Annual Pecos Bill Memorial Seminar and Lecture Series. Charles Williams started things off and was followed by BJ Giles, Waynetta Ausmus, Linda Kirkpatrick, and Frank Roberts, who added a touch of erudition and learning to the proceedings.  And if you believe that, you'll believe all the stories they told were true.  Many of the same performers from Monday were joined by poet Francine Robison, storyteller/poet BJ Giles and singer Jimmy Pate, extraordinary musician Sourdough Meyers, and The Lone Phunky Phiddler, Ryan Brewer. Kate Howell was there, but the rest of the student fiddlers were held up by the weather.

BJ Giles and Jimmy Pate\

The Phil R. Monic Orchestra and Chorus was lead by Buck Helton and Devon Dawson, and featured every musician and poet who stuck around as the sleet and ice began to fall in Ft. Worth. The Texas Trail Hands showed the true professionals they are by finishing off the night on a high note.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, but it took until mid-day to clear the roads enough so people could travel.  It turned out to be a great show, in part because the people that were there just relaxed and let 'er rip. The Ackermans, a popular and talented musical duo from Dallas and around the world, gave a reprisal of their hugely varied repertoire and highly popular show from last year. Bob plays guitar and Sally plays bass—and spurs.  You had to be there to see (and hear) it. Curley Butts made his 2009 debut, with traditional Cowboy poetry. The Phunky Phiddlers added Ana Esperanza and sounded very good.  The rest of the day was a mixture of poetry songs emphasizing the Cowboy.

Unfortunately, Ralph Hampton and Tamara Boatright (and Lydia Hampton) got caught in the ice, and had to leave early. It was especially distressing to Ralph, because Wednesday was supposed to be a day of Reining Competition, and Ralph may be one of the few who understand it—and is a fan besides.  On the other hand, it was canceled because of the weather.

Tamara Boatright tries calf fries for the first time

Campfire Tales ended on a high note, as the Walton Family (Jack, Jessica, and Aaron) presented a high-energy and very
entertaining set.  They were joined by the remaining performers for the traditional close of "Happy Trails."

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram gave us excellent press coverage, as always. Matt Brockman and all the members of the Stock Show staff once again provided us with support, encouragement and, most important, a place to play.  Despite the ice, Campfire Tales was once again a success.  In the words of one of our many fans, "I don't know how you keep improving year
after year!"  The answer is simple: great performers having a great time.


February, 2009
Fifth Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering  Ellensburg, Washington

report by "Toe Tappin'" Tommy Tucker
photo of Tommy Tucker by Smoke Wade

photos by Smoke Wade
photo of Smoke Wade by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


As I could have predicted, the 5th annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering held on February 13th through the 15th, 2009, in Ellensburg, Washington, was again a smash hit! Though scaled back from previous years, the gathering lacked nothing. There was outstanding entertainment from the likes of Ian Tyson, Baxter Black, Dave Stamey, Paul Zarzyski, Yvonne Hollenbeck and Wylie & The Wild West performing at afternoon and evening concerts.
This was the first time I've been able to see legendary Ian Tyson and what a tremendous show it was. With a two-piece group backing him, he captivated his audience with his songs and stories for over an hour, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation at the conclusion from the near-capacity audience. Baxter Black again demonstrated why he is a master of his trade. The celebrated poet and author delivered a stellar performance, keeping his audience enthralled with his poetic wit. Dave Stamey, probably best known for his song writing abilities, proved that he could also hold his own on the stage as well. And with anybody!

Dave Stamey

Yvonne Hollenbeck and Paul Zarzyski also kept their audiences thoroughly entertained with their great abilities as poets, and also their keen sense of humor. Then there's Wylie & The Wild West. A Wylie concert isn't just a concert, it's a happening! With great music and showmanship, they again proved why they are one of the top groups in the cowboy music genre. You can usually tell by an audience whether a show was great, or not, by their expressions after it's over. Just look for smiles! And I saw a lot of smiles after these performances.

Alan Halvorson (of Rockin' HW) and Andy Bales at jam session

The four downtown venues didn't lack for outstanding performances either, with STAMPEDE!, Rockin' HW, Van Criddle, Smoke Wade, TR Stewart, Dave McClure, Andy Bales, Kevin Barnhart, Barbara Nelson, Ray Doyle (who is also a part of Wylie & the Wild West), Paul Wilson, Stan Kvistad, "Coyote" Joe Sartin and Duane Nelson providing the entertainment.

Van and Kathy Criddle


STAMPEDE!  Steve Taylor, Terri Taylor, and David Anderson

The vendors building again was filled to capacity with a wide variety of booths featuring western art, crafts, fashions and curios. Dutch oven cooking was available throughout the gathering. Various workshops were presented over the weekend.
Kudos to the organizers of the Spirit of the West as they again presented an outstanding program. As a matter of fact, I kind of liked the scaled-back show this year. It seemed there was more time to enjoy the entire gathering. In years past, a person was always in a hurry to catch the next show. This year, one could take it all in by spending more time at the downtown venues, at the fairgrounds viewing the displays and at the main concerts. Instead of seeing four entertainers for 30 minutes each, a person saw two performers in full concert mode. I think I would have felt slighted if Ian Tyson had only been on stage for 30 minutes.
The Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering in Ellensburg is a partner with the Make-a-Wish Foundation to help support children with life threatening medical conditions in Washington State.
Make your plans for 2010, as February 12 - 14 will be the next "Great" Spirit of the West.

February, 2009
Moab's Western Stars  Moab, Utah 

  report and photos by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Moab Western Stars Cowboy Poetry Gathering

We promised good weather for the Moab Western Stars Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and by golly we had it! While all around us storms were rearin' their icy manes and halting traffic, Moab kept her skies blue and her streets free from snow. We did have a brisk wind, but no matter how you look at it that valley of the Colorado, sheltered in the shadow of Blue Mountain, is a safe haven in February for those of us who like to hide away from the worst onslaughts of winter. This year the gathering, held annually on Presidents Day Weekend, coincided with Valentines Day—and there was a little extra thrill in the air.

Beginning with the first performances Friday afternoon, crowds were strong and the entertainment was spectacular. Special
highlights from the weekend began with the campfire concert Friday night, which is an annual tradition at the festival. Andy Nelson took the stage, along with Cary Hobbs, Jill Jones, Sid Hausman, Kenny Hall, Bimbo Cheney, Jeff Carson, Brooke Turner, and Sammi & Bill Snow, Jr. As always, the show was sold out, and the response from the crowd was intense. After the show performers all gathered downstairs at the MARC (Moab Arts and Recreation Center) for another annual tradition, the opening night dinner and jam session. Although we all wanted to be wide-eyed and perky Saturday, no one got to bed very early Friday night!

Along with the usual excellent performance sessions at the MARC, Saturday brought a series of new events to the gathering. This year Western Stars introduced a trail ride, in association with area Back Country Horsemen. Poets Paul Bliss and Skylar Harward, and musician Brooke Turner accompanied about forty riders on what they all assured us was a truly spectacular ride through the unparalleled red-rock country along the Colorado. At the MARC, balladeer Don Edwards met with a select group of musicians for an acoustic guitar workshop, during which sculptor Jeff Wolf began the process of creating a bronze sculpture of Don. Lucky workshop participants were able to learn from the master musician, while in the presence of one of the west's most talented sculptors, Jeff, actually at work with his art.

The Dutch oven dinner is always well attended at the Moab Western Stars Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and this year was no exception. Although servers were mighty efficient, the line stretched around the building and eager appetites waited for the tasty offerings. The event is a contest, and the cooks who enter truly are cowboy chefs. There was plenty for everyone,
though, and folks were well fed.

At two o'clock, reciter Jerry Brooks and musicians Jill Jones, Cary Hobbs, Kenny Hall, Jan Erickson, Richard Espinoza and Rollie Stevens, along with the Rockin' M Wranglers, joined Don Edwards for a Tribute to Marty Robbins at historic Star Hall. The concert was a real treat for the audience, who applauded enthusiastically as one musician after the other shared renditions  of works first performed by the beloved crooner, Marty Robbins. And throughout the concert, Jeff Wolf stood on stage and proceeded to capture in clay the essence that is Don Edwards. Clearly this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those of us who were fortunate enough to be in attendance.

Jan and Judy Erickson

Saturday night at Grand County High School Auditorium the show began with the antics of Andy Nelson, then poets Sam Deleeuw and Phil Kennington got the crowd giggling. Later, Rollie Stevens and the Rockin' M Wranglers performed Marty Robbins songs for one last refrain from the Matinee. And when Suzy Bogguss took the stage, she thrilled the packed house with cowboy and rodeo favorites. Folks had a hard time letting her go, and called her back for encores, which she graciously provided. But the evening was by no means over, because this year offered another first for the gathering, the soon-to-be-annual community cowboy dance. The Sawmill River Band, who provided the dance music, claimed they'd never had quite so much fun at a dance. Rowdy folks good-naturedly filled the dance floor, and even the kids were line-dancing or learning two-step.

Sunday morning began with Cowboy Church, hosted by Utah poet Marion Manwill. The spirit was very strong, and the room was so full some folks had to stand outside peering in through the glass doors. But soon as church finished, the poetry and music stages began again, and there were plenty of folks on hand to make good audiences.

Another unique feature of the gathering this year was the presence of Susan Jensen and Paul Singer, who are the creators of the Vaquero film documentaries. Throughout the gathering people slipped into a special theater room at the MARC, to catch a showing of one of the five films in the series. And the DVD's were a fitting preview for the horsemanship event at the Old Spanish Trail Arena on Sunday afternoon.  Beginning at three o'clock, poets Curly Syndergaard and Paul Bliss joined with musicians Brian Arnold and Kenny Hall for an arena performance, then the cowboys and buckaroos took center stage for a highly informative two hours contrasting the varying styles of working cattle these distinctly separate groups employ. James Dixon, an authority on cutting horses, talked about his methods of breaking horses while the cowboys headed up by artist (and cowboy!) Don Weller demonstrated using cutting horses with cattle. Then Bill Boswell, long-time buckaroo, displayed articles of clothing and tack he'd either created himself or traded for, and shared a variety of roping methods used by buckaroos on the range. Joining Bill were Jeff Wolf (artist and buckaroo!) and an arena filled with flat hats.

Bill Boswell & James Dixon:  The Buckaroo and the Cowboy

Other performances at the MARC included Gordon Thomas, who was busy providing sound for the event most of the weekend, but found time to join Marion Manwill for a song or two. Mary Kaye thrilled us all, and Carl Ellison was there to share his song-writing and musical skills. CR Wood acted as host for the MARC stages, along with Curly Syndergaard and Lynnie Espinoza. Doug Keller graced us with his unique humor, and poets Ray Lashley and Al Clark are gathering favorites.

Shows at the MARC closed down at six, to allow folks to slip over to Star Hall for the final concert of the weekend. At six-thirty local entertainers, the Bar M Wranglers, treated the already full-house to a sampling of the music they'll perform for patrons all summer, then Andy Nelson showed up to entertain the folks with his high humor and introduce poets Jo Lynne Kirkwood and Paul Bliss, who reminded folks that this was, after all, a cowboy POETRY event. Jill Jones then added her Texas-expertise to the mix, along with a few yodels just for kicks, and the audience was well-primed for Don Edwards when he took the stage.

Just before Don came on stage, however, auctioneer Greg Harwood picked up his gavel and the still-unfinished but exquisite sculpture Jeff Wolf had spent the weekend creating was auctioned off. Two casts were sold, one purchased by Dennis Hunter who has essentially become the gathering's unofficial Celtic "piper," and a second by a couple from Colorado, James and Nettie Hales. Casting costs and other necessary expenses will be deducted  from the sales, with the balance donated to the MARC to help with the future viability of the gathering.

New Owners with Don Edwards and Jeff Wolf

Easily acknowledged as the top cowboy musician of them all, Don Edwards then stepped up to the microphone and reminded us what it is we love about this guy. The show seemed too short, although our watches told the true story. Don, too, earned standing ovations from the audience and the gathering most assuredly ended on a strong note! But the weekend was not yet tied up. One last time all the performers gathered at the MARC for dinner and a farewell jam, and good friends who sometimes only find each other at gatherings once again made their farewells. Moab's Western Stars Cowboy Poetry Gathering was again a huge success, and a big thank-you is certainly due to Bayley Rogers, MARC Director, along with Mike and Jo Kirkwood, and the many other  volunteers who made the event possible. Come for the gathering—and the weather! next year. We're always on Presidents Day Weekend!

Ed Carter & Dahl Farnsworth, with Mike Kirkwood


February, 2009
17th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering  Sierra Vista, Arizona

  report by William Merritt 
photo by Lori Faith Merritt 

  photos and captions by Lori Faith Merritt,
photo by April Visell

[Additional report below by Jo Lynne Kirkwood]


17th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering

Steve Conroy and Bob Fusco are the Co-Chairs Chairman of the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering. And as they know well, the event goes like this: Start early Friday with the performing artists going into the local Sierra Vista schools to perform for students, then there are headline stage performances Friday night, Saturday night and a Sunday matinee. During the daytime on Saturday though, the public is invited to the Buena Vista High School where the main auditorium, the library, the choir and band room and other spaces become forums for the fifty or so visiting artists at no charge to the public. Hundreds of people come and go. So, in theses “tough economic times,” someone leaned in to Steve Conroy Saturday afternoon and asked him, “How come you don’t at least charge $5.00 a head?” His answer was quick and easy, “It is our give-back to the community.” 

Along that same line, there is something that is part of every artist’s set during the main stage performances at this gathering, which is to thank their host families for making them feel at home. Year after year, local families in Sierra Vista open up their homes for artists to stay at. Sure, this hosting program was started long ago to help defray costs so after you hear performer after performer take time to thank their host family, one may begin to wonder if this is polite stage patter. But on or off stage, the performers truly get choked up with gratitude. Yes, it’s very real. for they feel like they have a home away from home. 

The one exception is Kerry Grombacher. He lives in New Orleans but his mother lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona. So, coming home is quite literal. There is one glitch in this whole set-up for Kerry, though. The events organizers send the same letters to all the hosts advising them on host protocol. To Kerry’s dismay, the letter instructs that they are only obligated to provide one meal to the visitor … breakfast. Kerry mused, “Hopefully they will explain to my Mom that this doesn’t apply all the time!”

Friday night’s headliner line-up started with Peggy Malone. No one takes the stage like Peggy Malone and she doesn’t need an amplifier for that charm either. Cowboy poet Doris Daley came down from Alberta Canada to grace the stage. If Julie Andrews performed cowboy poetry, she would probably be much like Doris Daley except Doris is much funnier (Sorry, Ms. Andrews).  

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,
Doris Daley:
The “Julie Andrews” of the Cowboy Poet ladies graced the main stage twice.

The local Sierra Vista school system participates in the Western Heritage Program where students are encouraged to submit cowboy poetry. From almost 2,000 contributions the winners are chosen, awarded a scholarship prize and are provided an opportunity to perform on the main stage. Accepting the honor to do so on Friday night were student cowboy poetry winners Jovanni Blanco, Keiran Zehmisch and Erika Withers.  

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,
Buckshot Dot on the stage at Big Nose Kate’s at the artist’s welcome party

They were followed by the stories and songs of Trails and Rails. With a vast array of musical talent they played a medley of folks tunes and original ones like “10 More Miles” and the alluring “Dona Maria” written by their winsome bass player, Bruce Huntington. After the intermission, multi award winning poet Jay Snider was followed our own Western thespian, Buckshot Dot (who can do it all and then some) and she was followed by the charm and depth of local poet Bud Strom. Capping the Friday night offering were first-time visitors STAMPEDE!

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,
STAMPEDE!  was at the gathering for the first time and really wowed the audience.

Starting Saturday morning at 10:00 the Headline and Participating artists shared the spectrum of cowboy poetry and Western music with the hundreds that came to sample and enjoy them. Along with the Headliner performers were this year's Participating artists: Tiffany Jo Allen, Joe Baer, Bill Barwick, Les Buffham, Steve Conroy, Dean Cook, Jack DeWerff, Mike Dunn, Rolf Flake, Ken Graydon, Joe Green and Purly Gates, Kerry Grombacher, Sue Harris, Sid Hausman, Tom Hiatt, Allen “Hook” Hill, Randy Huston, Jim Jones, Katy Creek Band, Nona Kelley Carver, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Deanna McCall, Jon Messenger, Ken and Lyn Mikell, Anita “Nika” Nordbrock, Tony Norris, Susan Parker, Gary Robertson, Peter Rolland, Gregory Scott, Sandy Seaton, Georgie Sicking, Laurie Wood, Cora Wood, and Joyce Woodson.

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,

Cora Wood, Sue Harris: Sue Harris sings to an attentive Cora Wood,
while parents Laurie and Duane Wood look on.

Saturday night Juni Fisher opened up the show on the main stage. So many accolades and awards have been associated with Juni and she showed the crowd why she deserves every single one. Cowboy poet Pat Richardson, who could never be accused of being shy and boring, was kind enough to let everyone to catch their breath from laughing so hard over and over.

Youth poetry award winners Kyla Nogales, Kacy Sandlin and Brianna Judd performed and were followed by one of the only acts that could follow three kids, the excellence that is known as Prickly Pair. After Yvonne Hollenbeck wowed everyone she was followed by the 2008 winner of the Western Music Association’s Male Performer and Entertainer of the Year award, Dave Stamey, who with his signature dry wit, commented to the crowd, “I am a cowboy singer…apparently.”  

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,
Juni Fisher, Locke Hamilton: Juni Fisher looks on as Locke Hamilton of Prickly Pair sings to an
enraptured audience during the free Saturday sessions

And in one of the oddest occurrences at any festival, an errant fire alarm went off during the performance of a poem by Diane Tribitt. “I don’t know if that was a standing or a running ovation. I’ve never had an entire audience run out on me before!” When the alarm went off and the audience came back, she re-took the stage, started the poem again and with true professional ease, “won” the audience over as if interruption never occurred. 

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,
Diane Tribitt performs on the main stage, continuing after the entire audience was started
in evacuation due to a fire drill and had returned.

Closing out Saturday was one of the best Western bands playing today and a returning favorite, The Desert Sons. They released a new CD with the original line up of Skelly Boyd and Slim Tighe along with founding members, John “Buck” Ryberg and Benny Young.  

Sunday night’s main stage performance was kicked off by Mike Moutoux and followed up by rancher/poet Peggy Godfrey from Moffat, Colorado (where the word “cowboy” is a verb). Youth poets Christian Tagle and Tony Moschetti performed with a repeat recitation from Saturday night’s performer, First Grand Prize Winner, the 10 year old Kyla Nogales.

Doris Daley, Pat Richardson and Trails and Rails performed on the main stage again. The Daughters of the Purple Sage took the final bows of the evening to a grand swell of appreciative applause. 

photo by Lori Faith Merritt,
Les Buffham, Terri Taylor: Terri Taylor sings to Les Buffham in the green room during intermission.

“Better, not bigger” is Steve Conroy’s motto. The gathering’s philosophy is to make the guest and performer experience better each time. He has been asked, prodded and tempted to start earlier, double up on the headline stage performances, charge for an otherwise free event or maybe choose another venue, “But what you lose is, I think, the freeness and the comfortableness of the gathering. It flows very nicely and everybody has time to get enough and not too much, they don't feel rushed, they don't feel like they've missed anything. What we have said is, ‘If it works, let's not break it.’ and let's just make it nicer and nicer.”

Steve Conroy has three pillars of success for this gathering: “The first is the school program, the Western Heritage Program, and teaching our children the history of the Arizona Territory and getting them involved with Cowboy Poetry and seeing their joy when they write their own poetry … the gift that they get from creating something of their own. The second pillar is providing superb talent and performances for our attendees. And the third pillar is to ensure that our artists have a truly wonderful experience when they come here and that they get taste of what our community is really all about which is a really loving and giving community.”

He adds, “You could look at the talent and we probably had some of the best artists in the business here this year. I think we had the best lineup we’ve ever had across the board for featured and participating artists.”

Of course, the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering works tirelessly to make each year better and without taking feedback to heart, the many volunteers, sponsors and the support of the community at large it wouldn’t happen.

Performers who are new to this event sometimes comment to Steve Conroy how overwhelmed they are by how organized everything is. “We have some something the other communities don't have and that is we are a military community so we have a lot of military retirees. Which means that most of us grew up with organizing, it’s kind of second nature. Most of us do it, it gets done and take it for granted that is the rest of the way the world works. Obviously, from everything we hear, it is not!”

Next year, please join us the second full weekend in February. Keep an eye on for details. To view and purchase images from the gathering, please visit the website of the official photographer for the gathering,


 report by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

[additional report above by William Merritt]


Sierra Vista Wrap-up—The Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering

Seventeen years and spectacular, the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering played to packed houses and enthusiastic crowds once again, February 6 - 8 2009. Themed this year as a celebration of the territorial ranches in southern Arizona, this annual festival has itself become an historic event, attracting hundreds of visitors to the area. The gathering is centered at the local high school, although area businesses and other schools also host many of the venues.

We arrived in town Thursday evening, quickly became firm friends with out host family, then set out for the city of legends, Tombstone. The Thursday night get-together, featuring performers  destined to visit area schools on Friday, took place at Tombstone's famous Big Nosed Kate's Saloon—which was a entertainment unto itself. The old town is an adventure to visit and the ideal spot to set the stage for a weekend of western showmanship. Performances were lively, and everywhere we turned we ran into long-lost friends—some of whom we were meeting for the very first time.

On Friday we got up early and headed for our school. Happily, I was partnered with two highly talented cowboys, Randy Huston and Rolf Flake. We spent the morning with a group of elementary school kids, and, although just possibly we had even more fun than the kids did things went well and everyone seemed happy to be there. The festival has been interacting with the schools since its early days, and the school poetry contest hosted by the gathering is an enduring success. The students in our group proudly pointed out a winner from a prior year, and most claimed to have participated in 2009. And I heard similar stories from dozens of other gathering participants, who spent the morning in schools. The performer school visits has become a  highly successful program at Sierra Vista, and the gathering deserves high praise for the great job they're doing there.

Throughout the day Friday Sierra Vista City catered to the comfort of performers in town for the Gathering, with a delicious red-meat meal at a local restaurant, then a reception at the Windermere Hotel and Conference Center later in the afternoon. Musicians and poets entertained sponsors and artists, and humorist Dennis Gaines had the crowd nearly rolling in the aisles with his witty rendition of a visit to the fair. The Friday night show at the high school kicked off at seven, but for many folks the fine entertainment to be had at the jam session (which continued at the Windermere well-past midnight) was every bit as much fun.

All the day sessions take place on Saturday, at the high school, where according to the literature over 5,000 people come to enjoy performances by dozens of poets and musicians. This year the performer list included: Buckshot Dot, Doris Daley, Daughters Of The Purple Sage, The Desert Sons, Juni Fisher , Peggy Godfrey, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Peggy Malone, Mike Moutoux, Prickly Pair, Pat Richardson, Jay Snider, David Stamey, Stampede!, Bud Strom, Trails & Rails, Diane Tribitt, Tiffany Jo Allen, Joe Baer, Bill Barwick, Les Buffham, Steve Conroy, Dean Cook, Jack DeWerff, Mike Dunn, Rolf Flake, Ken Graydon, Joe Green and Purly Gates, Kerry Grombacher, Sue Harris, Sid Hausman, Tom Hiatt, Allen “Hook” Hill, Randy Huston, Jim Jones, Katy Creek Band, Nona Kelley Carver, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Dennis Gaines (who stood in for Rusty McCall, absent due to illness), Deanna McCall, Jon Messenger, Ken and Lyn Mikell, Anita “Nika” Nordbrock, Tony Norris, Susan Parker, Gary Robertson, Peter Rolland, Gregory Scott, Sandy Seaton, Georgie Sicking, Laurie Wood, Cora Wood, and Joyce Woodson.

The Saturday schedule is arranged in fifty-minute sessions, on eight different stages all operating at the same time. The challenge was to figure out how to be at multiple locations during the same session! But folks were happy, crowds were huge, and the event was unquestionably a tremendous success. Fond thanks to Gathering co-chairs Steve Conroy and Bob Fusco, and a special farewell to Bob, who is retiring from his position with the gathering. Also, credit must be given to artist liaison Vivian Bruns, and to the over 200 community volunteers who work so well together to make this gathering the success it most definitely is. Congratulations to Arizona's Cochise Cowboy Poet and Music Gathering, for one more year of pure inspiration. And we hope to see you all in Sierra Vista again, February of 2010!


February, 2009
2nd Annual Gila River Heritage Round-Up   Thatcher, Arizona

  report by Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")

photos and captions  by Ralph Smith


What? Say you never heard of the Gila River Heritage Roundup down in Arizona in the historic Gila Valley? Well, let me tell you that was one terrific little gathering. This was the second annual event and took place the 24th of January in 2009 at the Graham County Historical Society Museum and Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona.

Jack DeWerff

With only seven imported performers, the directors of this event managed to provide free entertainment all day at two venues. The poetry of Jack DeWerff and Mary Abbott brought many a laugh and even a few tears, while Steve Lindsey's "When Hell Freezes Over" was right on target with the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl. Sam DeLeeuw's antics in "Spreadin' Sunshine" were a real crowd pleaser.

Sam DeLeeuw at her best.

The fine voices and excellent guitar work of Randy Huston and Joe Baer provided outstanding music. The evening concert moved along smoothly under the able direction of Master of Ceremonies Neil Abbott. A highlight of the program was the presentation of the Western Heritage award to the Salazar Family in recognition of four generations of Graham County ranching.

Randy Huston was a big hit with the crowd.

Bunny Dryden and one of our student poets

In addition, there was a plethora of local talent in the persons of 4th and 5th grade students who presented their own prize-winning poetry, plus the Eastern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers featuring Don Eskue. Don is a member of the Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Hall of Fame. There was the newly dubbed group called the "Gila Valley Dudes" to provide real foot-stompin' music.

The Gila Valley Dudes: Mayor Ron Green, Don Wriston and Ralph Smith

Wait! Wait! That’s not all. There was a terrific chuckwagon barbecue at noon on the museum grounds. The Lark Wilkins outfit cooked up over 70 pounds of beef along with Dutch oven biscuits, beans and taters. Ummm! Any cowboy can attest that this was some feed. There was an art exhibit and museum tours (and ladies and gentlemen, it's one grand little museum, well worth the cost of a trip to Arizona's historic Graham County in itself).

This dandy festival is sponsored by Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. It's a little gem. Roundup officials must be mighty proud! Be sure to put it on your calendar for January 23rd, 2010.

Postscript by Ralph Smith:

"Buckshot" Dot was too modest to mention her own terrific performances at the Roundup. What a crowd-pleaser this grand lady of cowboy poetry and music is! Like the "energizer bunny," she keeps going and going! We appreciate her complimentary report on our gathering.

L-R Mayor Ron Green, our MC Neil Abbott, Mary Abbott, Randy Huston, Buckshot Dot, Jack De Werff, Sam DeLeeuw,
Joe Baer, Steve Lindsey, and Ralph Smith, giving the "thank you."


We invite you to send in reports about gatherings and other events.



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