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Spearfish, South Dakota's Heritage of the American West Performance Series returned in November, 2009 under the direction of Francie Ganje.
From the producers:
Since 2001, the Heritage of the American West Performance Series has a name recognition all its own. From its unique campfire theatre stage in a museum, to its approach of pairing performers to themed pre-show exhibits and receptions, the Heritage stage has become a "must see" for entertainers and show goers alike.
Produced by Francie Ganje, the show offers performers strong media support and promotion along with high visibility in a tourism area. Add to that an attention to sound, lighting, and product marketing, and it's apparent that show organizers make every effort to enhance performer appearances on the Heritage stage located in the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, South Dakota—part of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming experience!
With a venue that is a tourist destination, the Heritage of the American West plays every month to audiences from around the country. Combine the live stage show with recording for radio play in a five-state listening area, and the fun of touring a world-class cowboy/pioneer museum that houses multi-state collections, this 90-minute production is entertaining and informative whether you’re the cowboy purist …. or tourist. It extends a welcome and a tip of the hat to all Travelers of the West!
Find the monthly shows' schedule here at the High Plains Western Heritage Center web site.
Find reports and announcements below.
Information is posted as it is received from Heritage of the American West show
Other 2011 dates
Heritage of the American West Performance Series Returns
July 21, 2011
“Ridin’ for the Brand”
Entertainers match talent, experiences to poetry and music for a stand out performance
In some ways, it’s an unusual pairing: cowboy poet Ken Cook and singer/songwriter Paul Harris. On the surface, the contemporary mixed with the conservative, might be enough to make a person wonder. It for sure grabs enough attention to make a person listen.
Paul Harris and Ken Cook
And then you understand. It’s a sound that makes rooms for the differences—respects them even
—while letting individual talent shine through.
They are the same, these two….only different.
That describes a certain cowboy ethic. And it’s put to words and music masterfully in the duo production of original works (with an occasional cover vignette thrown in) in poetry, lyrics and melody by Ken Cook and Paul Harris.
“Along with the set selection, timing is everything in a show such as this,” says Heritage of the American West Performance Series producer Francie Ganje, “especially so in this performance which isn’t a comedy. With humor, you have a little more room. This particular set selection of music and poetry (a mix of cowboy life with a little whimsy) was going to sink or swim based solely on content and delivery. It soared.”
The symmetry between the two makes it hard to know where a song begins and a poem ends. Larger works are mixed with brief melodies that take the listener effortlessly through a performance that while original in content, feels like an old friend.
For all walks of life, the message in this performance is universal; hard work, honor, winning, losing all matter. But at the end of the day, it's faith, self, family and friends (of the two- and fou-r legged kind) that make us who we are. “The audience was captured by the performance,” notes Ganje. “I could look out and see the mix of rural and city; show goers from Texas to Massachusetts, California to Kansas, Arizona to North Dakota, and I knew they ‘got it.’ It’s one of the finest examples of how a successful production of western entertainment will enthrall a diverse audience, not bore them or make them feel left out.”
Both Harris and Cook have been developing new material throughout the winter. With Paul in Arkansas and Ken in South Dakota, blending their work gave them something to look forward to through the long winter months. “Producing is not an easy task,” observes Ganje, “even for the most seasoned performers. They came on stage and from start to finish, it flowed like a dream. The story in poetry and song was colorful, heart breaking, hopeful, matter-of-fact. Just what you’d expect of cowboying.” She adds, “Comparatively, strong instrumentals and vocals from Paul holds their own with Ken’s poetry that speaks to the deep-seated emotions of family and ranching. It just works.”
She adds, “Ken and Paul together remind me of the quote, 'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' I can’t say as I’ve ever fully understood Aristotle’s words. But I think these two are as close as I’ll get.”
The pre-show exhibit and reception for the performance of "Ridin' for the Brand" hosted members and memorabilia from the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association that implemented the brand in Dakota Territory and administered it for over a century. Brand laws date back to 1862.
Chronology of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
South Dakota Stockgrowers Vice President Shane Kolb, Executive Director Margaret Nachtigall and long-time former Chief Brand Inspector Jim Reed.
Image of sculpture of Oakley Lamphere, among the founders of the High Plains Western Heritage Center and a longtime member of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
Paul Harris with son Caleb and Ken Cook just before the show
Visiting before the show, Slim McNaught, Robert "Jingle Bob" Dennis, and Ken Cook
The show announcement:
Ridin’ for the Brand……
National Performers, Historical Brand Exhibit Featured at Heritage of the American West Show
Spearfish, SD – From the pharaohs to the vaqueros—and on to the vast ranges of the West
the practice of branding remains as a means through which ownership is documented.
Brand laws for South Dakota’s Dakota Territory date back to 1862; the history of livestock brands in Wyoming dates to 1899 and were at the center of the dispute that sparked the Johnson County War; the first state-recorded brand in Montana was in 1873. The Poindexter and Ore brand is known as the compass and square which was a Masonic symbol; Nebraska branding history dates to 1888; and among North Dakota’s oldest cattle brands is the Long X. The brand has been used on the Long X Ranch, founded by brothers W.D. and George T. Reynolds near Watford City (pop. 1,435), since the 1880s.
Telling this time-honored story of the West in music, poetry and song along with historic exhibits is the theme for the performance “Ridin’ for the Brand,” a Heritage of the American West Performance Series set for Thursday, July 21st at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, SD.
The popular live stage performance that celebrates the Great American Cowboy is produced in a theater….in a museum, making it one of the more unique stops for visitors and locals alike.
In celebration of the upcoming National Day of the Cowboy over the weekend, a pre-show exhibit and reception begins at 6pm and features the Heritage Center’s extensive history of branding including one of only three complete sets of South Dakota Brand Books in existence.
Then, learn more about how people lived and thrived in the early-day West by taking a tour of the Frontier Room that includes saddles of early day South Dakota Stockgrowers Association members, the organization that managed brand recording and inspection for over a century.
In addition, the centerpiece of the Founder’s Hall, a 17 foot plaster stage of a bronze of famous trail drover Tennessee Vaughn, also includes the floor to ceiling map of the Chisholm Trail (the largest map of its kind in existence) that traces the movement of cattle from the South to the Northern Plains, where drovers and pioneers stopped to settle along the way in places like the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.
Beginning at 7pm, these stories and more can be heard in music and poetry with award winning performers taking the stage to bring the music, poetry and song of the Great American Cowboy to the audience.
Academy of Western Artists Poet of the Year, Ken Cook spends his days ranching and writing in South Dakota. He has gathered cattle out of tough country, saddled up on many a dark morning, and been run over by an embarrassing number of mama cows. Ken shares his poetry on stages across the West including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. His is an authentic voice, bringing a deep respect for past generations to cowboy poetry.
He has been selected as the Lariat Laureate by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry and has recorded three CD’s and has appeared as a guest poet on the The BAR-D Roundup CDs.
Pairing real poetry from a real cowboy with original music and songs by Paul Harris promises an authentic experience in cowboy culture. From Arkansas to Nashville and every place in between, Harris never lets his guitar go idle and fuses it with a love for cowboy’n. His music has been featured with the Western Music Association and on stages throughout the country. Still, ask him what he most loves to do and he’ll tell you, “lookin’ at the south end of a north bound cow.” Ask him where he calls home and he’ll tell you, “out West, where the wind meets the wire.”
The doors to the Heritage Center and Theater open at 6:00 pm. Admission includes touring the museum and complimentary pie at Perkins Family Restaurant in Spearfish.
Tickets for the Heritage of the American West Performance are $9 advance and $12 day of show, available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, SD or by calling 605-642-9378.
See the Heritage of the American West on the web at Facebook, Twitter, CowboyPoetry.com and at TravelSD.com.
Commemorative Brand Tiles Support History, Legacy of Stockmen
“….there’s a sayin’ in cattle country—it’s called “Ridin’ for the Brand.”
It’s known by all cowpunchers who are any kind of hand.
“Ridin’ for the Brand” means loyalty to the outfit where you work,
It means true dedication
to a job you never shirk.”
Spearfish, SD – Those words by Weldon Rutledge are as true today as when they were first penned. As part of the High Plains Western Heritage Center’s ongoing commitment to preserve a legacy while presenting the history of the West to contemporary audiences, the Brand Wall holds the ‘mark’ of ‘ridin’ for the brand.’
The Center, that houses collections from five states, opened its doors in 1989. As is so many things in the storied West, this began as a dream that eventually became a reality. It’s authentic memorabilia and presentations serve not only to entertain the touring public but also as an archival and research center; think of it as over 20,000 square feet and 40 acres of classroom
for those who have lived the West and those who want to know the real stories that are a part of settling the vast Great Plains region.
Toward that end and to raise funding to continue the mission, the Heritage Center offers Commemorative Brand Tiles. Professionally created and displayed in the Frontier Room, these markings tell a story that is more than what one might see in the movies, or read in a book, or watch on television. This is the West.
For those who want to share their family or individual brand, it’s an opportunity to help preserve the culture and customs of what remains a very real way of life. The story continues, with every brand added.
For more information and to order a Commemorative Brand Tile, contact Executive Director, Peggy Ables with the High Plains Western Heritage Center, 605-642-9378.