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April, 2005
Lee Earl Memorial Cowboy Gathering   Lewiston, Idaho

SmokeWade.jpg (8364 bytes)  

Report by Smoke Wade, photos by Bodie Dominguez, Happy Trails staff photographer

First Annual Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship

Cowboy Gathering Report

April 8-10, 2005

Lewiston, ID - When a handful of organizers got together and first conceived the 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Fair in Upstate New York, little did they realize what would develop from their meetings. Needless to say, the event exceeded their expectations both in the number of performers and the size of the audience. Likewise, the organizers of the First Annual Lee Earl Memorial Cowboy Gathering on April 8-10, 2005 in Lewiston, ID were equally surprised.

The gathering was organized in the memory of Lee Earl, Cowboy Poet, 1937-2004, who was instrumental in the success of many Western Gatherings and was a favorite of the young people as he brought cowboy poetry to local schools. He was a member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho and the Palouse Country Cowboy Poets. He will be remembered through the Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Fund and it is the intent of the fund to present two $1000.00 scholarships each year in the areas of English Literature/Composition and Music to local graduating high school seniors.

The event took place at the Lewiston Elk's Temple and was organized by Virginia Earl (Lee's wife), his daughter, Donna Earl Peer, AWA award winning
Toe Tappin' Tommy Tucker of the Western Heritage radio show on KRLC 1350 AM, Johnny Kit Carson of Louisiana Hayride fame, the trustees of the Elk's Lodge, Jinny Lowe, publisher of Happy Trails, and cowboy poet, Smoke Wade. With a small budget and a few performers that had signed up, it was decided the show would be free to the public thanks to the sponsors, Happy Trails, the Lewiston Elk's Lodge, and KRLC radio. Money would be raised through a series of raffles, auctions, and donations. The unique donation concept was to let the audience select various People's Choice Awards by putting donations in coffee cans with each performer's name on the can. A dozen vendors were lined up along with a couple of demonstrations including horse shoeing and packhorses.

photo by Bodie Dominguez
Bodie & Terri Taylor performing "Jambalaya"

When the festival kicked off on Friday at noon, it was announced that the event would run like Woodstock. The show would start on noon Friday and end at 10:30 on Sunday. Sixty-five performers had signed up including the event headliner, Stampede! featuring Steve and Terri Taylor, and David Anderson of Ogden, Utah. Other performers included musicians Bodie Dominguez, Jim Aasen, Jim Bullard, Dave McClure and Eric Larson of Washington, Sam Mattise, Jinny Lowe, and twelve year old Shiloh Sharrard of Idaho. Musical groups also included Silver & George of the duo, Northfork, of Washington.

photo by Bodie Dominguez
Eric Larson, president of the Palouse Cowboy Poets Association

photo by Bodie Dominguez
Silver & George

The poets included Howard Norskog, Mark Johnson, Bruce "Loose Lip" Pinson and Smoke Wade of Idaho, David Rustabakke and Dave Nordquist of Washington, and Roger Traweek of Oregon. Many other fine musicians and poets also performed.

The day sessions started at noon on Friday and continued through Saturday. A buffet dinner was served each night with nightly entertainment by The Banana Belt Old Time Fiddlers and the crowd pleasing group, Beargrass. The band members from Idaho, Shane, Alane, Delvin and Julie Watkins, played a mix of classic country and bluegrass. After each dinner session, there was a two hour evening show emceed by Toe Tappin' Tommy Tucker. Following the evening shows, local musicians joined with featured performers in a jam session dance that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The sound system was donated by the band, Cowboy Cadillac, and operated by Chad Earl.

Highlighted events included the children's hour at noon on Saturday featuring Shiloh Sharrard, Natalie Wren, Pate Earl, Zane Earl, Wyatt Kirkwood, Kade Fischer, Deven & Garrett Robinson, and Madeline, Lucy, Maria & Carmen Eggleson. The Eggleson sisters have performed with Eli Barsi in the past. Donna Earl Peer hosted the children's event. The People's Choice Award for Lil' Cowpoke Poets was presented to Keeley Kibbee and Jaidon Doherty. The Lil' Cowpoke Musician Award went to Natalie Wren who also opened the Saturday evening show.

photo by Bodie Dominguez
Smoke Wade presenting awards

photos by Bodie Dominguez
Participating youth poets

Also Highlighted was the Tall Tales Contest hosted by Lewiston's champion teller of tall tales, Smoke Wade. The People's Choice Tall Tale Award was presented to Randy Moore. The appropriate plaque contained a varnished five-pound dry "bull" pie attached to it.

Raffle presentations were presented during the Saturday evening show including a copy of The Big Roundup, a cowboy poetry quilt made by Virginia Earl and an overnight Steelhead fishing trip for four. Also there was an awards presentation of the People's Choice Awards. The Musician Group Award went to Stampede!; the Arts and Vendors Award went to Darlene Norskog and Gayle Marek for their booth, The Happy Cookers; the Poet Award went to David Rustabakke and the Musician Award went to 12 year old Shiloh Sharrard.


photo by Bodie Dominguez
Stampede! with Donna Earl 
(from left,
David Anderson, Donna Earl, Terri Taylor, Steve Taylor


photo by Bodie Dominguez
Dave Rustebakke 

The highlight of the Saturday evening show was the announcement of a donation to the Lee Earl Scholarship Fund of $1783.10 from the Charlie Russell Western Heritage Association. Donna Hatton had presented the check in confidence in February at the Seventh Annual Lewis-Clark Festival in Lewiston.

The event concluded on Sunday morning with a well attended Cowboy Church hosted by
Howard Norskog of the Christian Cowboy Balladeers.

After all the performers said their good-byes, and hugged each other a dozen times, the organizers huddled together and counted the money. With the donation of $1783.10 by the Charlie Russell Western Heritage Association, and more than $3300.00 raised from the raffles and People's Choice Awards, the event was deemed a success! The scholarship program is funded for two years and plans have started for next year's event, which will take place in Lewiston, ID. The tentative date has been set for the first weekend after Elko in February 2006. Performers may contact Smoke Wade or 208-746-7652.

Donations to the fund may be sent to:
Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 88
Asotin, WA 99402 

Like the organizers of Woodstock, the committee didn't fully realize the magnitude of what had taken place until the event was over. Now that the glow of success has waned, the Lee Earl crew would like to thank the sponsors, the audience, and especially the sixty-five cowboy performers who donated their time through 30 hours of performance on the main stage to help send kids to college. And everybody is invited back next year.

Read some of Lee Earl's poetry here.



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