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(Some links may go out of date.)

2011 Reports



22nd Annual Colorado Cowboy Gathering, Denver, Colorado, January (two reports)

11th Annual Saddle Up! Celebration Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, February

7th Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering  Ellensburg, Washington, February

Page 2

25th Annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Alpine, Texas, February

3rd Annual Texas Crossroads Cowboy Gathering, Van Horn, Texas, February

19th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, Sierra Vista, Arizona, February

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

See reports from 2012 here
See reports from 2010 here
See reports from 2009 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


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February, 2011
7th Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering  Ellensburg, Washington

 Report by Doris Daley;

   photographs by Molly Morrow,  
(Molly Morrow photograph by Annie Alley)


Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering
February 18-20, 2011

Such is the pervasiveness of great American traditions that even foreigners know there will be parades on July 4, turkey on the fourth Thursday of November, and tailgate barbeque at local football games. But what do Americans do to celebrate Presidents Day Weekend? Chop down a cherry tree? Read the Declaration of Independence?

If I lived anywhere near Ellensburg, Washington, you can be sure I would celebrate every Presidents Day Weekend by attending the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, an extravaganza of music, poetry and art in this historic rodeo town in central Washington. Congratulations to this year's organizing committee for staging its 7th—and many would say its best yet
festival, where even Mother Nature was onside with big blue skies, clear roads and warm February temps.

February 18-20 was one jam-packed weekend, as evidenced by a jam-packed parking lot at the rodeo fair grounds. Entertainment and activities came in many configurations: ranch roping competition, chuckwagon cook-off, square dance lessons, gun show, a fiddle contest, kids corral, whisky tasting and pine needle, spinning and needlework demonstrations. Whew!

© 2011, Molly Morrow Photography,
Chuckwagon cook Rod McGuire from Paradise Rose Chuckwagon Catering, Arlington, Oregon


And then there's cowboy poetry and music, both on the main stage at Central Washington University concert hall, and throughout town during Friday and all-day Saturday shows at five different venues. The level of sponsorship and local involvement at Spirit of the West is a tribute to the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce, the downtown merchants and the local hotels.

Unique to this gathering is a Saturday morning autograph session. In my mind it's one of the social highlights of the Gathering. Purchase your poster or bandana, or simply get out your program, and proceed down the long, long, long table of artists to get your souvenir signed by all 25-30 performers on the program. It's a great opportunity to greet old and new friends, snap a souvenir photo and enjoy a great cup of Andy Mills Dutch Oven coffee.

Another strong component of this festival is the school involvement. Teachers and students demonstrate their own spirit of the west by getting on board weeks earlier with artwork and poems. The results are then displayed in the Kittitas Valley Event Center: galloping horses, bodacious cowboy boots and dazzling poetry remind us all weekend long that there is a whole new crop of cowboy poets, artists, storytellers and culture-keepers on the horizon.

© 2011, Molly Morrow Photography,
 Keith McGowan, the 2011 Chair of the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, welcoming the audience to the Friday night show.

Thank you Clymer Museum of Art, Fitterer's Furniture, Rodeo City Bar-B-Q, Gard Vintners and Pine Street Mall for welcoming the following musicians and poets to your venues throughout the weekend: Rockin' HW, The Ridge Ridin' Boys, Jim Aasen, Andy Bales, Kevin Barnhart, Hank Cramer, Kathy and Van Criddle, Jessica Hedges, Stan Kvistad, Dave McClure, Matthew McCravey, Barbara Nelson, Duane Nelson, Coyote Joe Sartin, TR Stewart, Paul Wilson and Mountain Aire.

© 2011, Molly Morrow Photography,
Rich O'Brien, Don Edwards, and Waddie Mitchell

I was honored to be on stage at the CWU theatre with a fabulous line-up of cowboy entertainers:
Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, Dave Stamey, Juni Fisher, Adrian, and Rich O'Brien (who hit a home run as a solo performer and who then added his exquisite guitar work to shows by the Sons and Don and Waddie).

© 2011, Molly Morrow Photography,
Juni Fisher

It's no wonder why many performers brag on Spirit of the West as one of their favorite gatherings. Hospitality, excellent shows, a great western town, and some of the best cowboy fans in the world make it one of the's definitely where you should celebrate Presidents Day Weekend next year (February 17-19, 2011)!

© 2011, Molly Morrow Photography,
Alan Halvorsen of Rockin' HW, Doris Daley, and Barbara Nelson


Thanks to PRCA photographer Molly Morrow, who has many additional images
from Spirit of the West at her web site,




February, 2011
11th Annual Saddle Up! Celebration  Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

  Report by Yvonne Hollenbeck; photos by Jim Hamblin and courtesy of Saddle Up!

11th Annual Saddle Up!
February 24-27, 2011

In these days where all the news seems to be about a depressed economy, it was quite refreshing to be a part of an event where everything was on a positive note. Not only attendance, but the whole festival in general was “up” during a very successful 11th annual Saddle Up!

photo courtesy of Saddle Up!
The Quebe Sisters

Most performances were held at the wonderful Smith Theatre, featuring Wylie & the Wild West (with band member Ray Doyle also doing a solo act), the Quebe Sisters Band, Brenn Hill, Gary & Jean Prescott, and poets Chris Isaacs and Yvonne Hollenbeck.

photo © 2011,  Jim Hamblin
Ray Doyle and emcee Phil Campbell

As a special treat, audiences were treated to a performance by Carla Hulen, a young and talented poet from Texas’ Cal Farley's Boys Ranch (and Girls Town USA).

photo © 2011,  Jim Hamblin
Brenn Hill, Carla Hulen, and Chris Isaacs

A number of other activities were held throughout the city including a visit to the Old Mill Square where folks were treated to sample cornbread prepared by chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins, cornbread made from fresh ground corn meal direct from the mill and made at his chuckwagon over an open fire. Speaking of chuckwagon cooking, there was a chuckwagon cookoff with several delicious meals provided from this old West manner of food preparation.

photo courtesy of Saddle Up!

The festival played host to its first ever “Saddle Up ‘n Get Hitched” event ceremony which was a Western wedding renewal where many couples renewed their wedding vows at a ceremony presided by Mayor Keith Whaley. Music was provided by the Gary & Jean Prescott, and each couple received flowers, cake, a wedding certificate, photographs, and could even take a nice carriage ride. This activity took place at the Belz Outlet Mall where there was also a Western trade show as well as book and CD sales and autograph sessions by the entertainers. Following the wedding ceremony, a Western Swing Dance was held with music by Wylie & the Wild West.

photo courtesy of Saddle Up!
Wylie & the Wild West

Happy Trails Sunday, February 27, found folks gathered at Stages West for a chuckwagon breakfast and Cowboy church, which again featured most of the festival entertainers, and like all events, was very well attended and enjoyed by the many people who have found this to be one of the most enjoyable and entertaining events in the country.

photo © 2011,  Jim Hamblin

Jim Hamblin and Brenn Hill

Contact for information on next year’s event, February 23-26, 2012, or check in on  for news relating to this great event.


January, 2011
22nd Annual Colorado Cowboy Gathering  Denver, Colorado

 Report by Doris Daley; photos by Bill Patterson and Susie Knight

(Additional report by Rex Rideout below)


Colorado Cowboy Gathering
January 21-22, 2011


In a cowboy poetry re-make of Field of Dreams, the Colorado Cowboy Gathering committee built it...and the people came.

Huge crowds turned out in waves to support the 22nd annual Colorado Cowboy Gathering, held this year Jan. 21-22 at Ranum Middle School Auditorium in Denver. The Gathering underwent a dramatic year of upheaval when the committee lost its venue at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. With less than four months to regroup, secure funding and find a new location, organizers Liz Masterson, Diana Raven and Jerry Cunningham had to first decide whether or not they would even hold the event.  Performers, fans and volunteers from all over the west rallied with support. "We were flying by the seats of our wranglers," said Liz, "and didn't have a clue if an audience would come. We just knew that after 21 fabulous years, we couldn't get knocked down and not try to get back up."

photo by Susie Knight,
Liz Masterson and Riders in the Sky

As it turned out, the fans came in droves. Over 550 people attended both the Friday night show (featuring Riders in the Sky) and the Saturday night show (with special guest Waddie Mitchell). Most dramatic were the daytime crowds. The morning began with a stampede of patrons that immediately filled all three session rooms to standing room only. Impromptu stages sprang up in the school cafeteria and the auditorium to handle the overflow. Anyone with a ukulele or a trick dog was likely to be pressed into action to entertain. Thanks to quick-thinking volunteers and the organizing skills of Victoria Ward, performers were summoned from green rooms and hallways, sound systems were adjusted, room dividers were flung up, and good natured fans herded toward the new venues. Performers like Miss V the Gypsy Cowbelle, Patty Clayton, Zeb Dennis, and Tom Corona, who weren't even on the program (who were just there to show support and enjoy the show), lent their talents and pitched in in a thousand different ways.

photo by Susie Knight,
Diana Raven, Waddie Mitchell, and Liz Masterson

"Marketing and publicity was a challenge," explained Diana, "because we were consolidating mailing lists, uncertain of our new location and worried that last-minute ticket sales wouldn't materialize. " In what might be a first for cowboy poetry advertising, Mark Richardson, owner of Bear Creek Ranch, actually got a special permit to parade down Denver's 16 Street Mall with a longhorn steer (no BS) proving that even the bovines were ready to help promote this great event. Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley re-enactors handed out flyers.

photo by Bill Patterson
Al "Doc Mehl

photo by Bill Patterson
Pop Wagner

Making up this year's international roster of performers were Jon Chandler and the Wichitones, Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout, Susie Knight, Liz Masterson, Al "Doc" Mehl, Andy Nelson, Deb Carpenter-Nolting, Tim Nolting, Barry Ward, Pop Wagner, Yampa Valley Boys (Steve Jones and John Fisher), Carol Heuchen (Australia), and Doris Daley (Canada). Poet and chuck wagon cook John Schaffner not only recited poetry but outdid himself with two fabulous authentic meals cooked in Dutch ovens over open flames. Volunteers were helpful and enthusiastic in every way. Crowd favourite and brilliant poet Milton Taylor was sorely missed; he was home in Australia recovering from a health problem.

photo by Bill Patterson
Yampa Valley Boys, Steve Jones and John Fisher

photo by Bill Patterson
Andy Nelson

A unique and very successful component of the CCG is its extensive History and Traditions outreach program to schools. Coordinated by Pop Wagner, the classroom outreach program is enthusiastically received by elementary, middle, and senior schools all over the Denver area.

Plans for funding and sponsors are already afoot for next year. No-one knows better than the committee that  some details need to be refined, especially for improved crowd logistics (i.e. they'll be ready when the tidal wave of fans hits!). But all agreed, what a nice problem to have! A favourite cowboy that was on the brink of being snuffed out...has been pulled back from the edge and it's now full steam ahead.

Note to fans reading this report: don't assume you are on the CCG's mailing list just because you received emails in previous years. Visit the website ( or email to ensure you are on the new promotion list for all future gatherings.


 Report by Rex Rideout; photos by Bill Patterson

(Additional report by Doris Daley above)

Colorado Cowboy Gathering
January 21-22, 2011

Liz Masterson and Diana Raven did it again. The Colorado Cowboy Gathering was a great success.

This was no small task as [the previous sponsor] pulled out of this event leaving Liz and Diana less than four months to find other sponsors and a new venue. Many hours, days and weeks later, with much work and creative advertising the well-attended Friday night show featured Riders in the Sky.

While that turnout was impressive, a bigger surprise was the crowd for the Saturday daytime sessions which were about double what was expected. The rooms for the sessions were instantly standing-room-only with far more waiting to get in. What to do? Perhaps the response could have been, "Sorry folks, we cannot accommodate you." Or maybe, "Our computers are down, you'll have to come back later." That just isn't cowboy. No sir, everyone got to it, created new sessions, rounded up any entertainment catching their breath and we all pitched in.

photo by Bill Patterson
Pop Wagner knows the ropes!

Some of our saddle pals, Patty Clayton, Miss V the Gypsy Cowbelle, Zeb Dennis, and Tom Corona were not even scheduled to be there; they were there to offer support and take in the shows. In short order they were setting up new sessions and performing as well. The scheduled performers were Jon Chandler and the Wichitones, Mark Gardner, Susie Knight, Liz Masterson, Al "Doc" Mehl, Andy Nelson, Deb Carpenter-Nolting, Tim Nolting, Barry Ward, Pop Wagner, The Yampa Valley Boys and me.

photo by Bill Patterson
Doris Daley weaving words

The event took on an international flair with poets Doris Daley from Canada and Carol Heuchan all the way from Australia. Famed Australian Bush poet Milton Taylor was scheduled to be there as well but health issues prevented it. How we hope he will be able to grace us with his art next year.

John Schaffner did double-duty in reciting poetry and serving the overflow crowd a dandy chuckwagon dinner. Happy and well fed, the ample crowd settled in to the Saturday night show featuring Waddie Mitchell.

photo by Bill Patterson
Waddie Mitchell had us in stitches

Liz, Diana and all their friends are to be congratulated for creating, promoting and delivering a most successful show. Keep a watch for this one next year. While it was stalled for a short time, it is rolling, gaining momentum and will only get bigger.

photo by Bill Patterson
Liz Masterson singing so sweet with Jon Chandler & Ernie Martinez (Carol Heuchan seated)


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



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