A unique event takes place in late summer in beautiful and friendly Kanab, Utah: the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, conceived and produced by our past Lariat Laureate Sam Jackson, held in conjunction with the popular Western Legends Roundup.
Beginning with a day-long writing workshop and followed by a day and a half of intense competition before standing-room-only audiences, the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo's focus and accomplishment is "excellence through competition."
The accompanying Western Legends Roundup event offers days and evenings full of entertainment that included well produced evening shows, open mic sessions, an outdoor fair with Western arts and craft booths, demonstrations from blacksmithing to Navajo dancing, daily free outdoor stage shows, Western movie star events, an exciting parade down Main Street, and more.
You can read more about beautiful Kanab and more background on the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and the Western Legends Roundup in other features here at CowboyPoetry.com, including:
About the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo
What is Cowboy
Poetry and How do You Write It?
The 2005 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and Western Legends Roundup
photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights
The silver buckle and trophy winners on the Saturday night stage: Lanny Joe Burnett, Jane Morton, Dick Morton, Doug Keller, Michael Robinson, Phil Kennington, Jay Snider, and Byrd Woodward.
If you could harness the excitement, you could light up the state of Utah. The tense competition is electric. And the impressive talent of the participants fuels it all: the world's only Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, conceived and produced by poet Sam Jackson, presented in Kanab, Utah, in conjunction with the popular Western Legends Roundup each August, the weekend before Labor Day each year.
The event draws competitors and its audience from across the country, and the winners receive buckles, trophies, plaques, and their share of a purse of more than $5000. They appear on the Western Legends Roundup evening
shows, along with headliners (this year that included Baxter Black, Sons of the San Joaquin, Curly Musgrave, and Belinda Gail).
In the Rising Star Division, Lanny Joe Burnett of Bonham, Texas, took home the silver buckle for Serious Poetry; Jane Morton of Colorado Springs, Colorado and Mesa, Arizona won the Humorous Poetry award; Dick Morton, top reciter and Jane's husband, won the Serious Reciter buckle; and Doug Keller of Kanab won the Reciter Humorous award.
In the Silver Buckle Division, which includes previous winners and those willing to challenge them, Michael Robinson of Draper, Utah took first in Serious Poetry; Phil Kennington of Sandy, Utah, took the Poet Humorous award; and Jay Snider of Cyril, Okalahoma walked away as the top Reciter in both Serious and Humorous Categories. Snider and Kennington were just a half point apart in two of the categories. Last year, his first time at the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Jay Snider won the Humorous Reciter buckle in the Rising Stars division.
photo by Smoke Wade
The winners at the Old Barn Playhouse, where the competition takes place. From left, Michael Robinson, Jay Snider, Lanny Joe Burnett, Dick Morton, Jane Morton, Phil Kennington, and Doug Keller
A special award was given to Byrd Woodward of Mayer, Arizona, as Most Improved Poet.
The focus of the event is "excellence through competition," and past competitors such as Pat Richardson and Doris Daley, are examples of poets who competed and didn't win their first time out. Both say they became better poets because of the competition. Pat Richardson became the AWA Male Poet of the Year in 2003 and Doris Daley was named AWA Female Poet of the Year in 2004. Yvonne Hollenbeck, who took first in both Serious Poetry and Humorous Poetry in 2004, is this year's AWA Female Poet of the Year.
This year's competitors came from 13 states, and in addition to the already-mentioned winners, included Jay Jones of Missouri, Jim John of Kansas, Geff Dawson of Kansas, Charles W. Bell of Utah, Smoke Wade of Idaho, Clint Nielson of Utah, Janice Gilbertson of California, Rick Pitt of Wyoming, Verlin Pitt of Wyoming, Delores Tozer of Colorado, Harold Roy Miller of Nevada, Diana Jo Miller of Nevada, Bruce Satta of Ohio, John Silveira of California, A. K. Moss of Oregon, Geff Dawson of Kansas, Mike Moutoux of New Mexico, Ken Whitecotton of Arizona, Linda Kirkpatrick of Texas, and Jerry Brooks of Utah.
Jerry Brooks and Linda Kirkpatrick
The 2005 judges were poet, writer, and Cowboy Magazine Editor and Publisher Darrell Arnold; poet Yvonne Hollenbeck; author Brad Hainsworth; Clear Out West radio co-host Jim Nelson; and poet Ed Nesselhuff.
photo by Sam Jackson
A view of the 2005 judges: front row, poet, writer, and Cowboy Magazine Editor and Publisher Darrell Arnold; poet Yvonne Hollenbeck; author Brad Hainsworth; and second row, Clear Out West radio co-host Jim Nelson; and poet Ed Nesselhuff, along with announcer Brent Owens and timer Barbara Hall.
Colen Sweeten, Sam Jackson, and Ed Nesselhuff presented a writing workshop the day before the competition began.
photo by Linda Kirkpatrick
Sam Jackson, originator and producer of the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo,
on stage at the Western Legends Roundup
The Cowboy Poetry Rodeo isn't just about competition. There's a lot of support among the poets and lasting friendships are made. Before it's over, there's always a lot of talk about looking forward to the next year.
Jane Morton agrees, "The first time I went to the rodeo, I feared the competition. I feared it might set the poets against each other. However, I soon found that was not the case. Poets helped each other, encouraged each other, cheered for each other. Each person tried to do his individual best, but if that wasn't good enough to win, then they came back the next year to try again. I feel that the poets there and at other gatherings are a community. We see each other several times a year and when we do, we catch up on family and lives while we've been apart. Newcomers are welcomed too and made to feel as much a part of it as the old timers. The scenery is beautiful, the townspeople are friendly, and the whole experience left Dick [Dick Morton] and I feeling that Sam and the Kanab rodeo were helping raise the bar to a new level for cowboy poetry."
photo by Linda Kirkpatrick
Winner Lanny Joe Burnett performs on stage
at the Western Legends Roundup
Lanny Joe Burnett comments, "I thought I had seen it all...but I had not had the pleasure of being involved with the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. It is without a doubt the best run, best attended, and best competition I have ever been a part of. The organization was superb. Sam Jackson and his cadre of volunteers can take a major bow. The competitors were the overall best I have ever experienced at one gathering. When a town truly supports an event like this, it makes everyone feel like they are right at home. Even a three thousand mile round trip will not deter me from returning. Kanab does it the way it's supposed to be done. I believe they 'wrote the book.'"
photo by Byrd Woodward
Geff Dawson, Smoke Wade, and Michael Robinson at the Old Barn Playhouse
photo by Byrd Woodward
photo by Byrd Woodward
The winners: Michael Robinson, Jay Snider, Lanny Joe Burnett, Dick Morton, Jane Morton, Phil Kennington, and Doug Keller
Verlin Pitt, Rick Pitt, and Michael Robinson
Popular Cowboy Poetry Rodeo announcer Brent Owens
Jane Morton, Woody Woodward, Byrd Woodward
See additional information, including a list of runners-up, in our feature about the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo here.
Read Linda Kirkpatrick's story on the associated Western Legends Roundup here.
Visit the Western Legends Roundup site for more information about the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and other festivities at their annual gathering.
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