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Lewiston (Idaho - Lee Earl Gathering) February


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February, 2006
Lee Earl Memorial Cowboy Gathering   Lewiston, Idaho


Report and photos by Smoke Wade 

2nd Annual Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship

Cowboy Gathering Report


If you organize it, they will gather, and gather they did at the 2nd Annual Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Cowboy Gathering in Lewiston, Idaho on February 9-12, 2006. More than eighty western musicians, cowboy poets, youth entertainers, tall tale tellers, western artists and musical groups gathered under clear blue skies at the Lewiston Elk’s Lodge for a weekend of western entertainment.

The event was organized in the memory of cowboy poet Lee Earl, (1937-2004), who was instrumental in bringing cowboy poetry gatherings to Lewiston as well as involving the local schools in cowboy poetry writing competition. The Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 2005 and presented one thousand-dollar scholarships to two graduating seniors with majors in English and music in June, 2005.

The gathering got under way on Thursday night with a social dinner get-together attended by forty performers at Rowdy’s Texas Steak House & Saloon. The evening naturally developed into a late night jam session where the performers took over the establishment much to the delight of the other customers.

Tony & Sam:  Musicians, Tony Reed and Sam Mattise at the Rowdy's Steak House Jam Session

Poet, Cindy Worth at Rowdy's Steak House Jam Session

Poet Dolly Reed jamming with the musicians

Bill Chiles at the Rowdy's Jam Session

The scheduled entertainment got under way at 10:00 a.m. on Friday with live performances on the Western Heritage Radio Show, KRLC AM, hosted by AWA award winning deejay, Toe Tappin' Tommy Tucker. Many performers presented their talents at local school assemblies throughout the day. Day sessions ran from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at three separate venues with larger than expected day audiences. A few selected western entertainers sang for their supper at local restaurants.

Artists and vendors included: award winning bronze sculptor, John Geis, Idaho; saddle maker, Ed Earl, Washington; silversmith, Don Mallory, Oregon; Tennessee Mule Artist, Bonnie Shields, Idaho; cowboy wood furniture maker, Dave Smith; and many other fine vendors and artists.

The dinner entertainment got under way at 5:00 p.m. as the Elk’s Lodge served a wonderful buffet dinner of bite size steak and all the trimmings. Jinny Lowe, publisher of Happy Trails, played honky-tonk piano followed by Bev Crozier and friends, a group of local musicians.

Entertainment chairman, Smoke Wade, welcomed a standing room only crowd to the night show that ran from 6:30-9:00 p.m. Thirteen-year-old Shiloh Sharrard sang a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem followed with a welcome by event organizer, Donna Earl on behalf of the Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Fund. The master of ceremonies for the evening was Toe Tappin’ Tommy Tucker.

Featured performers included: cowboy poets, Dave Nordquist, Washington; Roger Traweek  and Van Criddle, Oregon and Bobbie Hunter, Idaho. The musicians included: Larry Gibson, Montana; Sam Mattise, Oregon; Eric Larson and Bodie Dominquez, Washington. An especially entertaining performance was presented by the music/poetry duo, Alan Halverson and Mike Whitaker, Washington, of the group, Rockin’ HW.

Roger & Van:  Poets, Roger Traweek and Van Criddle waiting for their stage time

Roger Traweek presented a poetic melodrama that he had written especially for the event that told of a cowboy poet and his gang of toughs coming to town and taking things over with their verse. A local heroine saved the day.

After the night show was over, western musicians took the main stage and presented a well attended jam session dance that lasted until almost midnight.

Eric Larson: Fire Pit Jam Session

Bev Crozier at Fire Pit Jam Session

With little sleep, the western entertainers regrouped on Saturday morning as three separate venues were presented from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., again with a larger than expected audience.

At noon, the Lil’ Cowpokes took the stage for an hour as fifteen youth performers recited poetry, sang songs and played their instruments while Donna Earl hosted the session. The group included winners of the school poetry contest, exceptional fiddle playing by ten-year old Kade Fisher, Washington, the Eggleston Sisters Quartet from Oregon, eleven year old singing sensation Natale Wren from Idaho, and seven year old cowboy poet, Pate Earl – grandson of Lee Earl. The Eggleston Sisters and Natale Wren were invited to perform on a night show at the 2007 Lee Earl Gathering.

Following the youth hour, the Tall Tales contest got under way with thirteen contestants in a session hosted by local Tall Tale champion, Smoke Wade. The event is always a crowd favorite, and the group spun their yarns to a standing room only audience.

The Saturday evening dinner crowd was treated to another session of honky-tonk piano presented by Jinny Lowe, followed by the local band, Beargrass. The band played a mixture of dance music and blue grass while the audience enjoyed a sirloin steak dinner served by the Elk’s Lodge.

At 6:30 p.m., Smoke Wade welcomed the audience followed by a moving presentation of the National Anthem by Eric Larson, president of the Palouse Country Cowboy Poetry Association. Wade spoke of Lee Earl and then announced that the first poet of the evening would be Lee Earl himself as a track from Earl’s CD, Shot from the Hip was played. Then Donna Earl, along with other members of the Earl family, presented a special tribute to Lee as family members recited some of his poetry. With the audience roused to a "level three" applause by Smoke Wade’s antics, Toe Tappin’ Tommy Tucker took the stage as host for the evening to the delight of a standing room only audience.

Jim and Linda Aasen

The "Cowboy Woodstock" program included: cowboy poets Orvil Sears and David Rustebakke, Washington; A. K. Moss and Leon Flick, Oregon; and Howard Norskog, Idaho. The musicians included: Jim Aasen and Tony Reed, Washington; thirteen-year old Shiloh Sharrard and "Windy" Bill Chiles, Idaho; John Westbrook, Montana; and the award winning musical group, Stampede!, Utah. Terri Taylor, lead vocals of Stampede! recently was awarded the 2005 song of the year award by the Western Music Association for her song, "Colors (Of the West)." The group is composed of Steve & Terri Taylor and David Anderson. As Westbrook, Stampede! and Bill Chiles closed out the program; the audience maintained "level three" applause.

Chiles & Stampede :  Bill Chiles, Stampede! (Dave Anderson, Terri & Steve Taylor)

Raffle ticket winners and an auction took place during intermission. Following the night show, event organizers, Smoke Wade and Donna Earl, took the stage for the People’s Choice awards presentation. The first award was presented to Toe Tappin’ Tommy Tucker, of KRLC AM radio, by president of the Western Music Association, Steve Taylor, for being voted the WMA 2005 Radio Station of the year.

Cash donations made for the scholarship fund in the name of individual performers determined the People’s Choice Awards. In each category, the performer that received the largest amount was selected the winner. The People’s choice winners were: Musical Group – Stampede!; Musician – Shiloh Sharrard; Cowboy Poet – Smoke Wade; Tall Tale Teller – Mike Medley, Washington; Lil’ Cowpoke Poet – Pate Earl; Lil’ Cowpoke Musician – Kade Fisher; and Vendor/Artist – Ed Earl, saddle maker. Following the awards presentation, a Cowboy Poetry quilt raffle winner was selected. The quilt, made by Virginia Earl, is the primary fund-raiser for the event. Many of the attending poets and musicians had contributed autographed poems for the quilt.

Cowboy Poetry Quilt made by Virginia Earl

People's Choice Award Donation cans


As the sound man, John Westbrook, of Westco Productions, began tearing down the exceptional sound system, musicians once again gathered in the Elk’s lounge for a late night jam session.

The gathering was closed out on Sunday with a Cowboy Church hosted by Howard Norskog of the Christian Cowboy Balladeers. The church took place at the Asotin County Fairgrounds across the river in Washington. Performers included: Jimmy Bullard, Marlene Pederson, Dolly Reed, Larry Price and Glen Bair, all of Washington; A.K. Moss; Van Criddle; Smoke Wade; David Nordquist; Shiloh Sharrard and others.

As the performers prepared for their homeward journeys, they shared their sadness of parting and promised to return, to gather again in "Cowboy Woodstock" style at the 3rd Lee Earl Memorial Scholarship Gathering to be held at the Lewiston Elk's Lodge, February 16-18, 2007 in Lewiston, Idaho.

Redheads:  Smoke Wade and his red head fan club clowning around



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

Read some of Lee Earl's poetry here.



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