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Francie Ganje

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Find the most recent information page one.

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!

The show also airs later on KBHB 810AM Five State Ranch Radio, Sturgis, South Dakota and KBFS 1450 AM & KYDT 103.1 FM The Country Twins, Belle Fourche, South Dakota.




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

July, 2011
April, 2011

Other 2011 dates

December, 2010
November, 2010
October, 2010
August, 2010
July, 2010
May, 2010
April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010

December, 2009 
November 2009

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

n 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 evenwhile 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 Westthe 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 dedicationto 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 classroomfor 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.

April 21, 2011

Cowboy Culture….
Heritage of the American West Presents Award Winning Cowboy Humorist

Spearfish, SD – Riatas, rangelands, remudas, cowboys, cattle and spurs; it’s all part and parcel of cowboy culture and the stories that cowboys tell.

And few tell it any better or with more humor than Andy Nelson, poet, author and radio personality awarded by the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists, who will bring his unique brand of cowboy wit and wisdom to the stage for the Heritage of the American West Performance Series, Thursday, April 21, 2011.

Nelson is a modern day cowboy with a somewhat twisted funny bone.  Not a somber poet by any means, his poetry captures the essence of the stockyard more so than the courtyard.  "Andy has extraordinary stage appeal,” says Margo Metegrano, editor of Cowboy Poetry.com. “He wins over a crowd immediately with his hilarious tales and physical humor, and he's a master at keeping up the pace throughout a performance."

Held at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, SD, the performance is a tip of the hat to Cowboy Poetry Week, celebrated around the country April 17 – 23, 2011.  In South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed an official Proclamation noting the observance that celebrates written and oral history and contemporary stories of cowboy and western culture. Designations from neighboring states of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Nebraska, along with the original Senate Resolution creating the designation of Cowboy Poetry Week, will all be on display prior to the stage performance.

As part of the preshow exhibit and reception beginning at 6:00 pm, visiting authors and poets, Pat Frolander, Sundance, WY and Roberta Saggo, Spearfish, will sign and discuss their most recent works, Grassland GenealogyBlack Hills Gold Rush Towns, and Spearfish.

Legendary saddle maker Jerry Croft, Deadwood, SD, will host a Riata Roundup Exhibition open to anyone who would like to share their expertise as well.  “The use of the riata traces its history from Spain and Mexico”, relates Heritage Center Executive Director Peggy Ables.  “The vaqueros made them and used them for work but also for entertainment. Very few people know how to handle a riata like Jerry – it’s quite a show.”

With ticket purchase that includes free admission to the museum, people are encouraged to tour the blacksmith exhibit and the leather shop exhibit in the upper level.  The connection to blacksmithing with performer Andy Nelson comes by way of his and brother Jim’s farrier business – and the inspiration behind some of Nelson’s prose and stories.  The leather shop exhibit is a replica of Jerry Croft’s famous saddlemaking workshop and includes many of his personal memorabilia.

The live stage performance gets underway at 7:00pm and pays tribute to the first recipient of “The Badger… Excellence in Cowboy Poetry” presented to Elizabeth Ebert, Thunder Hawk, SD.  “From the greater High Plains Region come poets and writers whose work is performed from Carnegie Hall to the Alzada Community Hall to the Smithsonian Institute and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  These writers and orators and their compositions are national treasures, comparable to the country’s most well known traditional cowboy poet, Badger Clark," observes Heritage Performance Series producer Francie Ganje.  “This recognition is about preserving the works of writers who we are so fortunate to call friend and neighbor in this five state area of the Heritage of the American West Performance Series and the High Plains Western Heritage Center.”

Elizabeth has been an invited performer to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko, Nevada, many times, has received Best Female Poet for the Academy of Western Artists and others honors.  Among her current publications and recording are a book, Crazy Quilt and a CD, Live from Thunder Hawk. She is also part of the acclaimed CD, Where the Buffalo Rhyme, which was recorded with her friends, poets Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rodney Nelson, and Jess Howard.  Her poetry is included in many anthologies, including Cooling Down, Cowgirl Poetry, Humorous Western Verse, and Graining the Mare.

Long-time admirer Baxter Black, well known in cowboy western poetry and entertainment, notes, “To say that I admire Elizabeth's writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it's like her pen has power steering.  There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory.”

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.

Francie Ganje adds:

There will be guest appearances by: Yvonne Hollenbeck, Slim McNaught, Pat Frolander, and Elizabeth Ebert.

A recording of the show will be broadcast on the radio Saturday, April 30, 2011, on KBHB 810AM at 1:05 pm (MT).


2011 Dates

Announced to date...

January 20, 2011  Cabin Fever Party!
Safe At Home...a reunion performance!
The Harmonic Wonder of Black Hills Quartet, Lyle, Doug, Rick & Paul

February 17, 2011  Classics In Country
Style, Talent & Sass….it’s all here!
The Potter Family … in concert!

March 17, 2011  Cowboy Irish
The Sounds of Ireland and Cowboy Lore….
Heirs of Bairds (Fiddler’s 3)

April 21, 2011  Cowboy Poetry Week
Here is a storyteller that will have you laughing, crying and spellbound!
Andy Nelson

May 19, 2011 Women of the West
2010 WMA Female Vocalist of the Year!
Mary Kaye Knaphus

June 16, 2011 Way Out West
2010 WMA Crescendo Award Winner!
Richard Lee Cody 

July 21, 2011 As Cowboy As They Come
Celebrating National Day of the Cowboy
poet Ken Cook, 2010 AWA Poet of the Year & Lariat Laureate at CowboyPoetry.com
singer/songwriter Paul Harris

Tickets are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Advance tickets $9; Day of show $12


December, 2010

December 16, 2010: Young Guns

Young Guns…
Heritage of the American West Features The Next Generation of Music, Stories of the West

For as long as anyone can remember, the stories of settling the West have come up through the generations; stories as diverse and colorful as the people and places they are about.

As each new generation begins to come of age, the question is invariably asked; “Who will carry the torch?"

To answer that, the Heritage of the American West Performance Series has brought together kids, from the country and from town, the next generation of voices of the West.

The live stage performance of “Young Guns” is set for Thursday, December 16, 2010 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota. Combining talents in strings, vocals, piano and poetry, the young group of musicians and writers come highly recommended by their instructors who will be directing the performers off-stage while nationally known performer Gordy Pratt, directs them on-stage.

From the class rooms of Mary Pochop, private instructor and Adjunct at Black Hills State University, Maria Wong Rantapaa, piano and music theory studio, and Reva Potter, educator at Belle Fourche Middle School, comes an array of talent representing yet another generation of storytellers and musicians of the West, that will also be broadcast on radio.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to work with experienced professionals and to be able to host them and students on the Heritage Stage,” says producer Francie Ganje. “When there is an opportunity to showcase talent and dedication like theirs, while shining a light on another generation of storytellers in music, song and poetry of the West, well, the pleasure is all ours.”

Appearing on stage will be two young poets, noted for their original works and delivery.
"Western and cowboy poetry is such an integral part of western lore and tradition," says Ganje. "If it's to continue, as both a means of retelling history and representing contemporary western living, we should seek out those young people out who enjoy writing and presenting—in all forms—and give them a stage."

Two students from Reva Potter's class at the Belle Fourche Middle School, Belle Fourche, South Dakota, will be performing original works in addition to honoring the memory of two well known poets; Georgene Conley of Belle Fourche, who passed away in 2008 and Rod Nichols of Houston, Texas who loved the Black Hills and wrote often of it. Rod passed away in December 2007.

Tucker Chykta, 12, the son of well known sculptor Tony Chytka, is a bit of a renaissance man. He enjoys rodeo, including participating in saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding and roping. Throw in his creative side that includes leather working and jewelry making, and you begin to see an artist in the making. Tucker's writing encompasses everything from biographies to poetry to song lyrics.

Sara Crim is 12 years old and a 4-H member with the Young Riders in Butte County. She has been in two full-length plays at the middle school level and enjoys literature of all kinds. Her family lives on a ranch southwest of Belle Fourche where they raise sheep and enjoy their horses. Her parents, Kristina and Steven Crim, both grew up in California around Santa Rosa.

"Gold Rule Days" by Mick Harrison

The Young Guns performance will also feature the work of western artist Mick Harrison. Or rather, one piece specific to Mick's portfolio that depicts the school setting of long ago. "These young entertainers who will be on the Heritage stage come from country school, home schools, schools in town," notes Ganje. "This painting by Mick—titled 'Gold Rule Days,' is such a wonderful representation of what some think of as a vanishing way of life but what I think of as one that remains vibrant and alive—just in different environments and learning mediums."

Performers (ages 7 to 17) and instructors:

Belle Fourche area musicians Kortney Brunner, Sarah Maher and Lucy Cole, August Maher
Students of the Maria Wong Rantapaa Piano and Music Theory Studio, Spearfish, Gavin and Ethan Hopper, Natalie and Wesley Yang, Christopher Lister, Stephanie Chen, Faith Burnett, Olivia Moore, Alex Doyle and Will Junek

Peggy Creek Ranch, Reva, South Dakota, Phil and Jill Jerde and family, Payton, Emmy, Eva, Hannah, JD, Bo, Jack, and Jesse

Students of Mary Pochop, Adjunct at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, Logan, Noah, Anna, and Maia Pochop on strings

Reva Potter, Arts & Language, Belle Fourche Middle School, Tucker Chytka and Sara Crim, poetry

“Range Boss” Gordy Pratt

The doors to the Heritage Center open at 6:00 pm. Admission includes touring the museum. Theater doors will open at 6:45 pm.

Tickets for the Heritage of the American West Performance are $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults and are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota or by calling 605-642-9378.


November, 2010

November 18, 2010: Sweethearts in Carhartts (Jean Prescott, Liz Masterson, and Yvonne Hollenbeck)


It's Christmas On The High Plains at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota, where artisans and entertainers converge for an evening of western entertainment.

Set for Thursday, November 18, 2010, the event is part of the monthly Heritage of the American West Performance Series that plays to a live audience in the Heritage Theater housed in one of the region's premiere historic and art centers.

Beginning... at 6 pm, displays in the Founder's Hall will include artisans in painting, photography and leather along with other specialty items for show goers to browse.

At 7 pm the group Sweethearts in Carhartts take the stage, launching their Holiday Tour that promotes a new Christmas album, Sleigh Belles. Fresh from nominations by both the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists, the award-winning trio of Jean Prescott, Ovalo, Texas; Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, South Dakota; and Liz Masterson, Denver, Colorado, bring great harmonies and humor to a show set filled with award winning music and stories of the West.

Tickets for the Heritage of the American West Performance are $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults and are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, or by calling 605-642-9378.

Find out more about the Sweethearts at www.thesweetheartsincarhartts.com.

October 21, 2010 

In between the European migration to America and from the South to the North after the Civil War—and the more popularized stories surrounding the Black Hills such as the Deadwood Gold Rushthe origins of "The West" were being played out on the vast Great Plains.

Traced through family letters, legend, and covered wagon trails that remain yet today as part of the landscape, these are stories that are the basis of what visitors from around the world come to see and learn more about.

These are the stories of the cowboys.

This is where it began.

1902 Cowboys, Gypsy Cowman Feature Of Heritage of the American West Performance

The music, poetry and song of the Great American Cowboy plays out on for the Heritage of the American Performance Series set for Thursday, October 21, 2010 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota.

Beginning at 6 pm with a pre-show exhibit and reception, the performance brings the stories of the West together in exhibits, displays, music and poetry
all settings that offer something for everyone.

In its pre-show feature, the Heritage Center showcases the collections of the 1902 Cowboys
a group of people and their descendants who were a part of what many consider to be the last great roundup in the region. Among those are families who trace their roots to the town of Hereford, SD.

“The stories and the people who settled that community and in the area are so colorful,” says Francie Ganje, producer of the Heritage of the American West Performance Series. “And one story leads to another
from the importation of horse studs from France and purebred seedstock from England, to Duhamel saddles, to wide open spaces and the last of the big roundupsit’s all there. There’s even a connection to the Wyoming lawman (and some say outlaw) Tom Horn, which will be of interest to our Wyoming audience.”

Also included in the pre-show portion of the evening is the story of one of the performers who will be on the Heritage stage. “This region of the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska is rich in cowboy history and lore,” says Ganje. “It’s all a part of many standing exhibits at the Center
which makes it relevant there.

“And it’s also a part of the stories of cowboy music and poetry
a tradition that traces its roots to the Great Migrations of cattle and drovers from Europe and eventually from the South to the North following the Civil War.

In addition to the story of 1902 Cowboys and the settling of Hereford, SD, the show will feature the story of "The Gypsy Cowman....a Vanishing Breed.” It’s the story of
Owen Badgett, who like his father before him, runs his herd of cattle on land in Eastern Montana he does not own. It’s a rare type of cattle contract
all settled on a handshake.

On hand will be the producer of the documentary by the same title, Linda Lou Crosby, Inyokern, California. She is the daughter of former Roy Rogers leading lady Linda Hayes and the sister of actresses Cathy Lee Crosby and Lucinda Crosby. She grew up with a love of Western values ... and western movies.

The stories of Owen Badgett are reflected in his original poetry and are also expressed through the music of cowboy singer/songwriter Bob Petermann. Both from eastern Montana, these two veteran performers will open the live stage performance at 7 pm.

“This is one of these performances where the Old West really does come alive,” says Ganje. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to see and hear actual cowboy historyand then sit back and enjoy a show that also tells the story….in music, poetry and song.

Tickets are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, 605-642-9378. The cost is $7 for seniors/kids (under 12 free) and $12 for adults.

Rebroadcast on radio:

Wednesday, October 27th 6 pm (MT)
KBFS 1450AM, Belle Fourche, SD
KYDT 103.1FM, Sundance, WY

Saturday, October 30th 1:05pm (MT)
KBHB 810AM, Sturgis, SD

[Find an event report and photos by Linda Lou Crosby here.]

August 26, 2010

The Anniversary Performance of the Heritage of the American West set for Thursday, August 26th, is proud to showcase the Rodeo Cowgirl! A rich legacy of performing cowgirls from the early 20th century can be found right here and we're bringing it—in the form of guest museum exhibits, special cowgirl guests, documentary film makers and movies and cowgirl entertainer, Juni Fisher.

The Tri-State Museum of Belle Fourche, South Dakota (that provided this standout photo of Helen Rue at the Black Hills Roundup) counts Mable Strickland and others in its collections. From Newell, South Dakota, the Newell Museum joins us with its western collections. And the facility where our home stage is located, the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota, offers permanent exhibits that include exclusive items of Mattie Goff Newcombe, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, the Toupe Sisters, Marilyn Freimark (the first Miss Rodeo America) and more.

Invitations are being extended to many of these cowgirls who will be in the seats the night of this special performance of, "Let 'er Go, Let 'er Buck, Let 'er Fly!" ...the anniversary event for the Heritage of the American West Performance Series.

Tickets for the Heritage Performance Series Anniversary Show are $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults and are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota, or by calling 605-642-WEST (9378).

July, 2010

Heritage of the American West Performance Series presents "Way Out West," a 90-minute live stage show (which also airs later on KBHB 810AM Five State Ranch Radio, Sturgis, South Dakota and KBFS 1450 AM & KYDT 103.1 FM The Country Twins, Belle Fourche, South Dakota).

Held in the Heritage Theater at the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, the show is set for Thursday, July 15th and features rising stars in the cowboy western music industry, Richard Lee Cody and Mary Kaye of Heber, Utah.

The pre-show exhibit and reception begins at 6 PM with "Headin' West," the story of wagon trains and trail drives dating from the mid-1800s to present day. This special exhibit includes memorabilia and western collectibles representing collections from five states. Special guest is Jerry Croft of historic Croft Saddlery....saddlemaker to the stars!

Show time is 7 PM with original western singer/songwriters Richard Lee Cody and Mary Kaye.

Admission includes touring the High Plains Western Heritage Center, the premiere cowboy, western and pioneer museum in the Northern Black Hills.

Tickets are Seniors/Kids $7 and Adults $10.

Call the Heritage Center for more information and tickets, 605-642-9378.


May, 2010

photograph © Lori Faith Merritt, www.photographybyfaith.com
Kerry Grombacher


The Road Less Traveled….
Troubadour Tour Covering Six States Debuts On Heritage Stage

The Main Street of North America is in the Heartland; home to hearty souls, colorful characters and more than one salty tale. And between Canada and the Republic of Mexico is a single ribbon of highway where a traveler will find it.

U.S. Highway 281 begins at the International Peace Gardens in North Dakota, then covers the ground that the Lewis & Clark Expedition traveled over in South Dakota. It takes those on the road less traveled to the world’s largest shamrock in Nebraska and on to the Home on the Range in Kansas where the song originated, to the Indian Capital of the Nation in Oklahoma and finally to the famous wildflowers and cultural border towns of Texas.

Now imagine that journey in song.

“Seeing it through your windshield is like watching an ever-changing canvas,” says western and folk singer/songwriter Kerry Grombacher of his Hwy 281 Troubadour Tour, “the open range and farm ground of North and South Dakota, Nebraska’s Sand Hills and Kansas’ Gypsum Hills, the prairie of Oklahoma and the Hill Country of Texas.” Traveling the mostly two-lane highway through rural America, Grombacher sees his role as one of a modern-day troubadour. “In taking stories in song from town to town, it’s a reminder to us all that there are others who have stories to share from places much like our own—wherever we might call home.”

The Heritage of the American West Performance Series will host the debut performance of the US Highway 281 Troubadour Tour, as Grombacher sets his sites on The Buffalo City (Jamestown, ND) to begin an 1,800 mile odyssey of exploring rural America...in music.

Set for Thursday, May 20, 2010 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, the 90 minute live stage performance begins at 7 p.m., and also features a pre-show exhibit and reception beginning at 6:00 p.m.

A book signing with educator, historian and author Donovin Sprague will introduce his newest book in the Images of America Series, titled Ziebach County: 1920 – 2010. Sprague, a recent nominee to the prestigious USA Artist Fellowship, has also traced and recorded the histories of four Plains Indians Tribes as well as the history of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In addition to the Ziebach County centennial edition, he was a contributor to the Timber Lake: 1910-2010 Images of America centennial edition.

The Heritage of the American West Hwy 281 Troubadour Tour debut performance and Images of America book signing will open its doors at 6 p.m. at the Heritage Center. Tickets are $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults. For more information, call 605-642-9378.

The live debut performance of the Highway 218 Troubadour Tour will be broadcast on Thursday, May 27th on KBFS 1450 AM (Belle Fourche, SD) and KYDT 103.1 FM (Sundance, WY) at 6 p.m. and on Saturday, May 29th on KBHB 810AM at 1:05 p.m. (both Mountain time).

April, 2010


The celebration of Cowboy Poetry Week, April 18 – 24 is to not only mark the history of a time-honored form of storytelling, but to also recognize today’s voices of the working West. 


The Heritage of the American West Performance Series puts that at the top of its list all year long, bringing the music, poetry and song of the Great American Cowboy to audiences from across the region with its monthly live stage shows.


During Cowboy Poetry Week, its performance set for Thursday, April 22 and titled “Cowboy Culture” brings original sounds of the West to the stage with South Dakota’s Original Singing Cowboys and award winning cowboy poet Slim McNaught.


Held at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, the show includes a pre-event exhibit and reception that begins at 6 p.m.  The Center’s newest collection will be featured. Titled “Women of the West,” it represents a large collection of original oil paintings by Carol Cox. Also in the line up of historical displays will be the Russ Madison Collection.  Madison, a nominee to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, is regarded as the individual who brought organized rodeo to the Black Hills region. 


Show time is at 7 p.m. with South Dakota’s Original Singing Cowboys, the Heritage Cowboys, a trio of professional musicians dedicated to the presentation and preservation of the music of the Old West. Led since 1977 by Old West Trails Foundation award winner Jim Lovell, the Cowboys have performed on A Prairie Home Companion and other National Public Radio shows. Their music portrays the strength, quiet faith, humor and tragedy faced each day as ancestors pioneered west across America.


Academy of Westerns Artists award-winning poet, Slim McNaught, New Underwood, writes and performs poetry that reflects a lifetime of cowboying. His performances have been enjoyed  on RFD-TV and at the Western Music Association Festival. His latest CD, titled Reminiscin' (he has published five books and two CDs) was selected as the top Cowboy Poetry Album by the AWA in 2009.


Tickets are $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults.  Call the Center to order at 605-642-9378.


An encore performance of Heritage of the American West and “Cowboy Culture” can be heard, Wednesday, April 28th at 6PM (mt) on KBFS 1450AM, Belle Fourche, SD and KYDT103.1FM, Sundance, WY and on Saturday, May 1st at 1:06PM (mt) on KBHB 810AM, Sturgis, SD.



Cowboy Poetry, Song on Heritage Stage During Cowboy Poetry Week!

While the story of famed cowboy poet and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking of Kaycee, Wyoming played on the big screen in the Founder's Hall, a steady stream of people browsed an extensive display of official documents and memorabilia, celebrating Cowboy Poetry Week.

As South Dakota's original singing cowboys—the Heritage Cowboysand Academy of Western Artist award-winning cowboy poet Slim McNaught finished last minute sound checks before appearing to a packed house, show goers enjoyed the classic, glass framed poster from the 1987 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, with pictures of all performing poets from that year.

Vintage and heirloom quilts (some dating to the mid 1800's) and steamer trunks accompanied the "Women of the West" exhibit featuring original oil paintings by Colorado artist, Carol Cox. Turn of the century vintage clothing, antique silver tea services provided by High Plains Western Heritage Center volunteers graced tables especially prepared for the coming Mother's Day weekend. Included were first edition western books, published by early day Plains women.

Contemporary offerings represented cowboy poets and western writers from the five state region of Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota and Nebraska and proved to be a popular draw with audiences.

"We titled this show, "Cowboy Culture" and I think we pretty much covered it," observed Heritage of the American West Performance Series producer Francie Ganje, wrapping up the April 22nd performance with a smile.

It all began earlier in the week with live, on-air interviews with Editor Margo Metegrano of CowboyPoetry.com, followed by more interviews with librarians in the Black Hills region where the focus was Cowboy Poetry Week and the Center for Cowboy and Western Poetry's Rural Library Project.

In addition, several libraries hosted cowboy poetry and western writing programs and displays throughout the week. "I think it was among the more visible Cowboy Poetry Week events we've had," says Heritage show producer Francie Ganje. "People from five states were in touch with state officials, all successful in securing official mentions. That, along with local events, really kept the focus on the recognition of the importance of 'hearing' the working voices of the west."

There were also community-wide presentations such as the one in Spearfish, S. D., where well known cowboy poet Slim McNaught, New Underwood, S. D. accepted the community's city-wide Proclamation. [read more about that below]

"It was definitely a group effort," says Ganje. " I'd have to extend a special thanks to Slim and Darlene McNaught who put so much time into this Heritage performance. They along with Executive Director Peggy Ables of the High Plains Western Heritage Center really did a wonderful job of putting the pieces together. It wouldn't have been the week-long list of great
events it was, without their expertise and help."

 Artist and Heritage Center supporter Mavis Madison, cowboy poet Slim McNaught
and Executive Director of the Heritage Center, Peggy Ables.


March, 2010

Cowboy Irish Comes To The Heritage Stage

From the Celtic influence in buckaroo tunes to the Gaelic immigrants whose presence can still be felt in abandoned ghost towns in the Black Hills, the Irish/Scottish sounds and superstitions will all be a part of the Heritage of the American West presentation of “The Cowgirl and The Celt.”

The show is set for Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota. Pre-show activities begin at 5 PM and will take place in the Mining Exhibit Area where the story of gold, silver and coal exploration and immigrant expansion converge to tell part of the story of the settling of this region of the West.

A new book, titled Nuggets To Neutrinos: The Homestake Story will premiere with author Steven T. Mitchell on hand to discuss and autograph. In addition, a visual tour of ghost towns of the Black Hills will greet show goers.

“The Irish and Scots certainly have a big part in the evolution of cowboy music and in settling up the Black Hills,” says Heritage show producer, Francie Ganje. “For example, there is an interesting and entertaining story to be heard about the Molly / Conner Hog Fight that occurred in the now abandoned town of Galena in 1879.”

Add the traditional and original lyrics and melodies of The Prickly Pair & Cactus Chorale of Dubois, Wyoming, and you’d be hard pressed to add any more color to this performance….green or otherwise. Winners of multiple industry awards and nominated for six Western Music Association awards in 2009, Les and Locke Hamilton and bass player Norman Winter make up The Prickly Pair & Cactus Chorale. With a masterful handling of instruments and melodies, the trio lives up to the cowboy measure in music; big, original sounds, sounds that also appeal to folk fans by incorporating and melding Western, Swing, Bluegrass, Celtic and Gospel.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for seniors and kids and are available by calling the Heritage Center at 605-642-9378 and at the door.

February, 2010

Heritage of the American West Presents Prairie Idol: songs of the plains

Put two veteran performers on a stage.

Add an exhibit and reception on prairie skyscrapers.

The result is a live stage show representing musical and cultural icons for the upcoming performance of the Heritage of the American West.

Set for Thursday, February 18th, "Prairie Idol: songs of the plains" features the dynamic instrumentation and vocals of Boyd Bristow and Kenny Putnam, both who have played national and regional venues. The 90 minute performance is also broadcast on radio.

Doors open at 6:00 PM with an exhibit on historic barns and information from the popular Smithsonian Institute Barn Again Museum on Main Street Tour. The program was retired from service in 2006. But its selection in 2000 of the High Plains Western Heritage Center as one of only two locations in the state to be included in the Tour, insured the Center would retain materials and information that are as relevant today as they were during the Tour's eight year run.

Adding more localized flavor, Leo Orme of Spearfish will share select images from more than 2,000 barn photographs and history representing structures in Lawrence County that had been collected as part of the
original Barn Again display at the Center.

Show time is 7:00 PM with a great pairing of two musicians and entertainers, Boyd Bristow and Kenny Putnam. Red hot instrumentals and beautifully sung ballads is what the audience can expect to hear. Bristow' s most recent CD release, Cloudless Sky is a celebratory collection of folk, country, R&B, gospel and rock and roll. Putnam comes with his latest work Sure Beat Me, a collection laced with soul and swing. Kenny's string playing is well known. He toured and recorded with The Roy Clark Show for several years, appearing on The Grand Ol' Opry, The Tonight Show and HeeHaw regularly. Putnam has also been invited to the Smithsonian Institute to participate in The Festival of American Folklife, demonstrating violin-making and playing. He is a two-time South Dakota fiddle champ.

Ticket prices are $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults and are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish. Call 605-642-9378 for tickets.



December, 2009 program with Ken Cook and Bob Petermann:


Ken Cook and Bob Petermann


Bob Petermann and Ken Cook join the Live! With Jim Thompson Show on Thursday, December 17th at 1PM Mountain....just ahead of their evening performance at the Heritage of the American West!


From Francie Ganje 12/10/09:


Of Trains and Tales and Cowboys….
Heritage of the American West Performance Series Looks To A Brand New Year

All aboard the New Year Heritage Express when the Heritage of the American West Performance Series prepares to welcome in a New Year. 

Set for Thursday, December 17, 2009 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, “The Heritage Continues” features award winning cowboy singer/songwriter Bob Petermann, Wibaux, Montana and cowboy poet Ken Cook, Martin, South Dakota. Both entertainers  have produced multiple CD’s and books and have performed at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, presented by the Western Folklife Center.

“It was like getting an early present,” says Heritage show producer Francie Ganje.  “When both of these veteran cowboy entertainers said yes to performing together and in the midst of winter no less,  we’d be hard pressed to bring any greater talent to the stage to tell the story in cowboy music, poetry and song , of  new beginnings.” 

Discussions on the show theme brought the suggestion from Ken and his son to title it “The Heritage Continues.”  He notes, “Folks are putting their heads, hands and hearts together to keep this show on the stage and on the air; lending a hand is how we do things.  And we’re just ahead of a brand new year.  The title seemed to fit.” 

The pre-show exhibit and reception begins at 6:00 PM and explores the role of the steel rails in settling  the West and the Black Hills.  Visit with well known historians, collectors and authors and tour historic standing displays that are a part of the Center’s  early-day transportation collections.       

“Railroads were the artery in the settlement of the High Plains frontier,” notes Heritage Center Executive Director, Peggy Ables.  “They brought people West and supplies and  goods; those things that build a place.”

As the trains came West, it created and left lasting legacies along the way.  It would turn early day communities like Belle Fourche into the cattle shipping capitol of the nation for a time.  A diorama depicting that story can be viewed among the Heritage Center permanent exhibits. 

“The tale of railroads in South Dakota and the Black Hills is fascinating,” observes historian, collector and train set builder Bill Fuller, of Spearfish, South Dakota. “I swear, half of the towns out there (the Plains of South Dakota) are named after wives, sweethearts, lovers, or directors who sat on transportation boards ….all with some association to the Milwaukee Railroad.”  

A sampling of Fuller’s train sets will be on display including the 2010 New Year Heritage Express Locomotive. “It’s a festive passenger train,” says Fuller in his description,  “pulled behind an old steam locomotive that is absolutely guaranteed to reawaken the nostalgia of traveling by train across this part of the country up to the mid-20th Century …. not to mention the excitement many will recall of a train set under the Christmas tree!”

Additional features during the pre-show event include displays for the 1880 Train (which uses a portion of the original Burlington track from the late 1800’s) and the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, (also see Featured Events at: www.hillcitysd.com) a new attraction that will open in Spring 2010.  Both are located in Hill City.

Also on hand will be wood artisan Lynn Hawkins, Sturgis,  whose original barbwire collector boards and stirrup clocks will be on display and available for purchase. 

The 90 minute live stage show (that  airs on radio stations) gets underway at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $7 for seniors/kids and $10 for adults and includes admission into one of the region's premiere cowboy and pioneer museums.  Call the Heritage Center for tickets at 605-642-9378.

For more information on this performance and the 2010 Heritage of the American West Performance Series,  contact Ganje at 605-720-5968 or Email: heritageshow@gmail.com

Find a report from this event here at CowboyPoetry.com.

Heritage of the American West presents…..

Christmas on the High Plains with the Cambria String Band


Spearfish, SD—The stories in song of the opening of the northeastern Wyoming Territory during the 1800s include the tale of a canyon bottom where the Little Oil Creek ran.  Known by a number of names including Bloody Gulch, it would become the place known as Cambria; home to miners, cowboys, industrialists and investors from the East.


The Heritage of the American West features the music and song of that time with a band named after the history they represent; the Cambria String Band blends the genres of country, folk, and gospel…all performed with a bluegrass flair. Dynamic three-part harmonies and out-of-this-world picking make the music and history of the 1800s coal camp their named after come to life, on stage Thursday, November 19 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish.  


“Developing shows where the back story is just as relevant as the stage entertainment is a part of what sets the Heritage of the American West Performance Series apart from other venues," says organizer Francie Ganje.  “Our goal is to tie those elements together. When they align like they have for this show, it’s fun, entertaining and informative. And a great way to tell the stories of the West.


“My thanks to the High Plains Western Heritage Center and the Anna Miller Museum in Newcastle, WY, both of which have provided insight,  inspiration and support to this performance.” 

And if you’re not a history buff, no worries. Cambria String Band’s contemporary play list includes original music and covers of Allison Krause, the Eagles, John Denver and Bob Dylan. Add the bands hilarious stories about growing up in the Black Hills and you’re in for an evening of great entertainment.


By 1887—and by some reports much earlier than that—coal mining was underway  in Cambria Canyon.  Meanwhile, construction of the railroad had come to a halt near Alliance, Neb., due to the high cost of providing eastern coal for the locomotives. But the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was ready to lay more steel to the West if there was a reason to. They found it in Wyoming in the form of coal. 


The first car of coal was loaded in 1889 with 2,700 tons. Up on the ridge, the Home Ranch provided food to a growing community and an idyllic place to house investors from the East. Miners and their families—some 1400 people—would eventually enjoy the use of a hospital (with electricity!) the company store, a hotel, railroad stations, a recreational hall with bowling billiards, schools, churches and an opera house.


But before that, entertainment in the coal and cowboy camps of Cambria was self-created with harmonicas and fiddles.


It’s all part of the show being presented by the Heritage of the American West, titled “Christmas On The High Plains.” The pre-show exhibit and reception that opens at 6:00 PM features well-known regional authors, artists, and photographers, among them Mick Harrison, Belle Fourche, an 2005 Art Spur designee at the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. The show uses his award-winning art, “A Christmas Tale,” as its theme.  


Also in the lineup is Custer author and Black Hills historian Paul Horsted with his newest book, Crossing The Plains With Custer and cowboy and landscape photographer Les Voorhis, Spearfish. In addition, Gift Baskets & Beyond offers holiday creations and the Heritage Center’s Bookstore will be available for browsing for Christmas gift giving ideas.


Tickets are available at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, $7 for seniors/kids and $12 for adults. The show is set for broadcast on area radio stations with date/time to be announced.  Watch here for details along with the availability of the show online as a new website is developed.


For more information about the Heritage of the American West, contact Francie Ganje at Francie@rushmore.com.


Heritage of  the American West Performance Series Returns (November, 2009)


Spearfish, SD—Efforts are underway to bring a western entertainment mainstay back to the stage and radio with the continuation of the Heritage of the American West Performance Series.


The show, in its 10th year, was the creation of Jim Thompson and Kay Jorgensen, former partners in Creative Broadcast Services, Inc, a radio programming company and producer of the popular regional talk show, Live! With Jim Thompson.


Approached by the High Plains Western Heritage Center (a cowboy/pioneer museum with collections representing five states) to assist in generating interest and attendance at what was then a newly opened facility, CBSI created what would become known as the Heritage of the American West….Music, Poetry & Song of the Great American Cowboy!


Jorgensen, who had been instrumental as a volunteer and early-day executive director for the museum, brought together the expertise of an award-winning broadcaster in Thompson, with the museums new facility and unique historical representations of the westward movement.


It would become a 90 minute radio show where a live audience was invited to watch top quality cowboy poets and singer/songwriters from around the country perform on stage in the Bruce Miller Theater in the Heritage Center.


Along with a network of radio stations carrying the show, CBSI pioneered the advent of western entertainment on line when it added live web streaming of the monthly event.


Most recently, economics and future developments for CBSI in other areas necessitated making some hard changes, among them discontinuing the monthly Heritage of the American West, with the August performance being its final show.


Since then, interest has been such from many different areas that the initial commitment has been made to continue with the highly-regarded performance series. Francie Ganje (who had been the director of the shows under CBSI), along with assistance from others, has been reorganizing and putting details in place for the 90 minute show that will be on the stage Thursday, November 19th for its return performance.


“There are many details to continue to work on,” says Ganje. “For example, we won’t have the web presence initially that the show enjoyed.  But we will, hopefully by the December 17th event. 


“The many people who are putting their heads together and providing the elbow grease, are all excellent promoters in their own right. The one thing we all agreed on at the onset was that we needed to get the show back on stage as soon as possible while continuing to put other elements together. That’s the plan.”


Watch for ongoing developments as the Heritage of the American West returns to its home stage, bringing quality western entertainment to live show audiences, radio and the web.









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