36th Gathering Celebrates Black Cowboys

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“Trail Blazers,” a Marion Coleman quilt, from the collection of Arkainee Ervin.

For 36 years during the heart of winter, thousands have traveled to Elko, Nevada to listen, learn, and share stories of ranching and the rural West through poetry, music, and stories. People of all backgrounds identify with the beauty and challenges of the cowboy lifestyle, from the Mississippi Delta bayou to Buckaroo country, Oklahoma rodeo grounds to the streets of Oakland and Los Angeles. This year the Gathering will feature men and women from these ranching and horseback communities to explore and celebrate the often under-represented historic contributions and contemporary culture of Black cowboys, from bull-doggin’ to blue-yodellin.’

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Dom Flemons, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Dom Flemons, known as “The American Songster,” will return to Elko for his third appearance at our event. His GRAMMY-nominated album, Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys, was released in 2018 on the Smithsonian Folkways record label in conjunction with the National Museum of African-American History. “I am so proud to celebrate the legacy of the Black cowboys at the 2020 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada,” says Flemons. “In 2016, I was invited to the Gathering and I was inspired by this incredible community of cowboy poets, musicians, artists, and historians. I’m honored that the Elko community helped me spread the powerful message of these true American heroes to diverse audiences worldwide!” Fellow musician-historians Pipp Gillette, Lloyd Wright, and Andy Hedges (host of the podcast Cowboy Crossroads) will join Flemons to highlight the influence of Black cowboys on Western music and culture in the “Blues on the Range” show.

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Artwork courtesy of freepik.com.

The importance of rodeo as a place where people come together will be celebrated with shows like “Straight Chutin’ Champions” featuring Oakland Black Cowboys favorite Miko Marks, Rodeo poets Paul Zarzyski and Henry Real Bird, and bull-riding musician Cat Clifford. There will also be storytelling sessions where barrier-breaking bull rider Myrtis Dightman (the first Black cowboy to compete at the National Finals Rodeo) and other rodeo competitors will talk about their experiences in and out of the arena.

Representing the South is Creole cowboy and rancher Geno Delafose from southwest Louisiana. Geno and his band French Rockin’ Boogie will join Wylie and the Wild West and Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans for “Battle of the Bands” and lead the Friday night zydeco dance.

2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Geno Delafose, photo by Charlie Ekburg.

The Wiegand Gallery of the Western Folklife Center will feature exhibits centering the African-American experience. Vintage Black Heroes: The Chisholm Kid Exhibition, a display of the first color-print comics to feature a Black hero, and the first about a Black cowboy, travels to Elko from the Museum of Uncut Funk. Created for the Pittsburgh Courier in 1950, The Chisholm Kid pays homage to the 5,000 to 9,000 Black cowboys who drove cattle along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas after the Civil War. Award-winning artwork from Marion Coleman’s Blacks in the West quilt series and Rory Doyle’s “Delta Hill Riders” photography project will also be on display during the Gathering.

Film, stories and talks scheduled throughout the week will bring focus to both the historical and contemporary, rural and urban. Catch a glimpse of the complexities of Compton’s cowboy culture in the film Fire on the Hill. Explore the cultural phenomenon of Lil’ Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and the yeehaw agenda. Hear about the heritage of African-Americans in the West through talks, presentations, and films presented throughout the weekend.

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These are just a few of the exciting things happening at the Gathering in 2020. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more! Tickets to the 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering are now on sale. Choose a Single-Day Pass or 3-Day Deluxe Pass to enjoy the 90+ intimate and informal daytime poetry, music, and storytelling sessions, film screenings, discussions, and open mic performances. Supplement your pass with tickets to themed shows and workshops.

The 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is supported by the Nevada Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, the City of Elko, Elko Recreation Board, Wells Fargo, and many other sponsors and individual donors.

Announcing the Featured Artists of the 36th Gathering!

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

The Western Folklife Center is pleased to announce the artist line-up for the 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 27-February 1, 2020. Tickets go on sale to Western Folklife Center members beginning September 3, and to the general public on October 3. Members also get a ticket to one of two free members-only shows and a discount on the price of a 3-Day Deluxe Pass, which is $60 during the member pre-sale period and $80 starting October 3. To purchase or renew a membership, click here.

Featured Poets & Musicians

An American Forrest, Enterprise, OR
Mike Beck, Manhattan, MT
Cat Clifford, Porcupine, SD
Dylan Clough, Spanish Fork, UT
Doris Daley, Black Diamond, AB, Canada
Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, Eunice, LA
John Dofflemyer, Lemon Cove, CA
Carolyn Dufurrena, Winnemucca, NV
Maria Lisa Eastman, Hyattville, WY
Dom Flemons, Hillsborough, NC
Patricia Frolander, Sundance, WY
Pipp Gillette & Lloyd Wright, Crockett, TX
DW Groethe, Bainville, MT
R.W. Hampton, Cimarron, NM
Andy Hedges, Lubbock, TX
Carol Heuchan, Cooranbong, NSW, Australia
Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, SD
Hot Club of Cowtown, Austin, TX
Chris Isaacs, Eagar, AZ
Randi Johnson, Hines, OR
Jarle Kvale, Dunseith, ND
Ned Ledoux, Northeastern KS
Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertans, Southern AB, Canada
Annie Mackenzie, Jordan Valley, OR
Miko Marks, Oakland, CA
Waddie Mitchell, Twin Bridges, NV
Marinna Mori, Tuscarora, NV
Tracy Morrison, Boise, ID
The Munsick Boys, Dayton, WY
Joel Nelson, Alpine, TX
Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND
Jonathan Odermann, Medora, ND
Vess Quinlan, Florence, CO
Henry Real Bird, Garryowen, MT
Brigid Reedy, Whitehall, MT
Randy Rieman, Choteau, MT
Jake Riley, Riverdale, NE
Trinity Seely, Ojai, CA
R.P. Smith, Broken Bow, NE
Jay Snider, Cyril, OK
Dave Stamey, Orange Cove, CA
Gail Steiger, Prescott, AZ
Michael Stevens, Alpine, TX
Tom Swearingen, Tualatin, OR
Jessie Veeder, Watford City, ND
Wylie and The Wild West, Conrad, MT
Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls, MT

We love this lineup, and are sure you will, too. For more information on the artists, ticketed shows and workshops, buying tickets and more, visit nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org – we will be constantly updating our site as the event nears!

Waddie Mitchell and Dave Stamey react to a piece by Rodney Nelson at the 2019 Gathering. Photo by Charlie Ekburg.

 

 

Western Folklife Center Presents Mike Beck: Acoustic

Mike Beck at the 2019 Gathering, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

On July 18, 2019, acclaimed contemporary cowboy singer/songwriter Mike Beck returns to Elko and the Western Folklife Center stage for a one-night concert of acoustic music and stories. Add even more fun to your evening before the concert with a free guided walking tour of our downtown Elko storefront exhibition, Portraits of the Gathering!

Start the evening out with a walking tour of the storefront exhibition, Portraits of the Gathering at 5:30 pm. Meet our tour guide in front of the Western Folklife Center, then visit a fraction of the many portraits available for viewing (more tours coming up), enjoy the portraits and poetry – and use your mobile device to access a QR code to listen to the poem, performed by the artist, and learn more about each artist on a special website.

The late Elko County ranchers Jack Walther Portrait and Irene Walther art, featured at Blohm’s Jewelers in downtown Elko, Nevada. Photo by Meg Glaser.

The Pioneer Saloon doors open at 6:00 pm, serving refreshing beverages and offering delicious snacks provided by The Star Hotel. While you’re here, enjoy a walk through our Wiegand Gallery exhibitions, more great photography of early Gathering artists in Portraits of the Gathering and the amazing work in I’ve Got Spurs. The doors to the G Three Bar Theater open at 6:30 pm.

Tickets to the concert are $15 general, $10 for students, seniors and Western Folklife Center members, and $5 for kids – available now at the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop or at the door on July 18.

Known for his guitar wizardry and acclaimed Western songwriting, Mike’s mellow sound combines real cowboy experience with a unique blend of Western, rock and Americana styles.

“An accomplished guitarist and distinguished songwriter,
he writes some of today’s most transcendent, relevant songs about the West.”
– Margo Metegrano, Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry

This event is made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Arts Council and the Star Hotel.

Graduation Week at the Western Folklife Center

Looking for something to do with the family during Graduation Weekend? The Western Folklife Center has several activities for the whole family to enjoy. Whether it’s taking in some great cowboy poetry and music in a concert Saturday night, finding something special in our Gift Shop, enjoying the You’ve Got Spurs exhibition in the Wiegand Gallery, or doing the Portraits of the Gathering walking tour around downtown Elko, the historic Pioneer Hotel is the place to be in the heart of old Elko.

Photo by Hal Cannon.

At the Western Folklife Center, take in the amazing Portraits of the Gathering and You’ve Got Spurs exhibitions in the Wiegand Gallery, watch “Why the Cowboy Sings” in the Black Box Theater, and find a last-minute graduation present in our Gift Shop, which has a little bit of everything, including: jewelry; wallets & purses; soaps & lotions; pottery and fine art from note card size to wall hangings, watercolor to metal; books and music – many items from local artists.

While in the Gift Shop, pick up a walking tour map for our Portraits of the Gathering storefront  exhibition —featuring 24 cowboy poets who took the stage in the early years of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering—then use your cell phone to scan QR codes for a full audio experience.

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

And on Saturday night, get ready as the Western Folklife Center presents a very special evening featuring Texas-based cowboy music historian & musician Pipp Gillette, and Elko’s own cowboy poet, Waddie Mitchell. These two friends will provide an evening of entertainment for the whole family with their mix of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and music. Waddie Mitchell brings the cowboy’s West to the stage through classic tales and original verse, while musician Pipp Gillette shares favorite songs on guitar, banjo, harmonica, bones and more. Opening the evening will be a performance by young Tuscarora singer/songwriter Marinna Mori.

Poster artwork by Teresa Jordan.

About Pipp & Waddie

Pipp Gillette raises cattle on the family ranch near Lovelady, Texas, where his grandfather started raising cattle and cotton in 1912. Drawing on a lifelong interest in Western history and music, Pipp plays traditional cowboy music on guitar, banjo, harmonica and bones. His historic Camp Street Café & Store in Crockett, Texas, is a live music venue featuring performers from around the world. Pipp and his late brother Guy Gillette recorded eight albums of cowboy music and were recipients of three Western Heritage Wrangler Awards for their work.  Pipp’s latest CD is Pipp Gillette with Lloyd Wright.

Waddie Mitchell was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining as a boy on the Nevada ranches where his father worked. In 1985, Waddie helped organize Elko’s first Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Since then, he has kept busy writing, publishing and recording. In 1994, Waddie helped found the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA); it’s continuing mission is creating scholarships and crisis funding for working cowboys and their families. Inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 2011, Waddie was honored in 2012 with the Nevada Heritage Award from the Nevada Arts Council. In 2017, he released Cohorts & Collaborators, an album featuring top Western artists with whom he has co-written songs.

Waddie Mitchell and Pipp Gillette at 2016 National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Awards, photo courtesy of Pipp Gillette.

The ongoing collaboration of Waddie and Pipp has resulted – so far – in two Western Heritage Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:

2016 Music – Outstanding Traditional Western Album
Pipp Gillette & Waddie Mitchell
“Singing Songs by Waddie & Pipp”

Wrangler Award

2013 Music – Outstanding Original Western Composition
Song by Pipp & Guy Gillette for “Trade Off,”
Written by Waddie Mitchell

For more information, contact Brad McMullen at bmcmullen@westernfolklife.org or (775)738-7508x 223.

The mission of the Western Folklife Center is to use story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world.

Be a Tourist in Your Hometown

Be a tourist in your home town! Between the Western Folklife Center, Northeastern Nevada Museum, and the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum there is something exciting happening every day in Elko between Monday, May 6 and Saturday, May 11. Pick up an Elko Museums Passport for the kids, then have fun checking out each of our three Elko area museums to win a Passport prize!

Join the Facebook Event Page to stay current on the exciting things that are happening.

Photographs by Kevin Martini-Fuller

May 6, Monday: At the Western Folklife Center, take in the amazing Portraits of the Gathering exhibition in the Wiegand Gallery, watch Why the Cowboy Sings in the Black Box Theater, plus find that special something in our Mother’s Day Sale. 15% off all items except consignment in Gift Shop: jewelry; wallets & purses; soaps & lotions; pottery and fine art from note card size to wall hangings, watercolor to metal; books; music and more.

While in the Gift Shop, pick up a walking tour map for our Portraits of the Gathering storefront  exhibition locations ̶ featuring 24 cowboy poets who took the stage in the early years of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering ̶ then use your cell phone to scan QR codes to a full audio experience.

Still photo from A Trilogy: Builders of the Iron Road, film by Min Zhou

May 7, Tuesday: 1:00 pm showing or 6:00 pm showing – In celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the sesquicentennial of Elko County, the Northeastern Nevada Museum is proud to present A Trilogy: Builders of the Iron Road, a film by Min Zhou, a journalist and filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay area. The trilogy explores how Chinese workers were integral in building the Central Pacific Railroad, and how their descendants are proud of their many sacrifices and accomplishments in spite of discrimination. Admission is free and the movie lasts about 1.5 hours.

May 8, Wednesday:


3:00–5:00 pm, Lay Down Your Brand on the sidewalk: time to do some ‘branding’ chalk art at the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum!


6:00-8:00 pm, All musicians and music-lovers are welcome to Jam On! at the Western Folklife Center, playing a mix of old-time fiddle tunes, folk songs, country tunes, ballads and more: anyone can lead a song for the group or join in on tunes introduced by others. There’s often room to dance and the bar is open. Facilitated by members of Southwind and other community musicians. Admission is free to this family-friendly monthly event.

Photo courtesy of Forrest Van Tuyl

May 9, Thursday: Let’s Dance! and An American Forrest dance concert! This Western Folklife Center event begins at 6:30 pm with Let’s Dance! Our experienced dance teachers will lead a class in the basics of the Two-Step so everyone can join in on the dancing later in the evening. At 7:00 pm, the main doors will open, and at 7:30 pm An American Forrest will be in concert. Join us for Forrest Van Tuyl, Margo Cilker, Cooper Trail and Ben Walden at the Western Folklife Center. The Pioneer Saloon will open for business at 6:30 pm. Click for more information.

May 10, Friday: At 6:00-9:00 pm, it’s the annual Halleck Bar Party at the Northeastern Nevada Museum! Everyone is cordially invited to the most raucous and woolly wild west affair in Elko County. Dress as your favorite silent film bandit, outlaw, or villain. Good guys and gals welcome, too! The best costume wins the evening’s grand prize. Enjoy music, libations, appetizers, paella, and a silent auction with the toast of the town. Click for admission and more.

May 11, Second Saturday in Elko

9:00 – 11:00 am at the Northeastern Nevada Museum, enjoy a story in the unique museum theater and then make a magnetic gift for mom in the Halleck Bar Gallery. All children and their families will be able to explore the museum after the activity.

10:00 am, the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop and Wiegand Galley opens.

From 4:00-7:00 pm, be sure to include the Western Folklife Center and the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum in your Peace, Love & Wine Walk in downtown Elko. Produced by the Downtown Business Association: be prepared for a great time – there’s a costume contest for best hippie! Must be 21 years old with valid ID * designated driver program * $25.00 per person * all Second Saturday “Walks” begin at the Commercial Hotel.

May 12, Sunday: Happy Mother’s Day!

Western Folklife Center Community Events a Hit in Elko

We’ve been sponsoring our community events for several years now, and such “parties” as the upcoming Southwind St. Patrick’s Day celebration coming up this Saturday, March 16 are definitely the place to be in Elko. It’s 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (or maybe…8:30 if the band forgets to step down)…you can plan on a great time, with a happy crowd wearin’ the Green and a bit of the ol’ Irish sing-along, and more.

Pioneer Saloon back bar with Southwind instruments.

The unique Celtic, Americana and Folk sound of Southwind brings a breath of “fresh aire” to the Pioneer Saloon every 3rd Wednesday night with a family friendly concert – – as long as a cool event such as St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween doesn’t prompt a date change to allow for proper celebrations in pure Southwind style, and we’ll always note the new date in our event calendar.

Photo by Mark Hayward.

They’re well known for bringing in local Elko musicians/singers/songwriters to share a set as well. This versatile band has hosted Matt Downs, Marinna Mori, Nick Palacio, Troy Eden, Mercedes Mendive, Ken Grandjean, Rick Palagi and more. We like to say, toe-tapping required, and libations and space for dancing are always available.  Follow Southwind —Carolyn Steninger, Susan Lawrence and Ken Harriman—on Facebook, and join us every 3rd Wednesday of the month, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

An evening with Southwind, photographer unknown.

Jam On! gives new life to our original Bunkhouse Fridays jam sessions ~ once a month in Elko, musicians of all types of instruments get together from 6:00pm to 8:00 pm in the historic Pioneer Saloon to tune up and share a musical interlude. The old room has heard everything from accordion to washtub base, although a typical Jam will always feature a nice array of guitars.

Jam On! at the Pioneer, photographer unknown.

Musicians of all experience levels and cross-genre are welcome, too: whether if you’re into perfecting a Jerry Garcia or a John Prine tune, or know a tune so well you can’t wait to bring it forth for everyone else to play, we invite you to grab your instrument and share it with the group. The evening is informal and fun, coordinated by local group Southwind. 6pm, 2nd Wednesdays of the month – spectators welcome and the bar is open.

More music at the Pioneer, photographer unknown.

Let’s Dance! And speaking of dancing, this Western Folklife Center-sponsored event is a proven winner! The Elko Let’s Dance group does a magnificent job scheduling of dance lessons in all kinds of dance styles, often looking ahead to various Elko events and matching the lesson, from the annual National Basque Festival (lessons in Basque dancing), California Trail Days (Old-time dances), to the Silver State Stampede and our own National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Two-step, Rodeo Swing) and much more. We try to keep up with the scheduled lesson on our website events calendar, but you can also find more on Elko Let’s Dance Facebook.

Basque dancing lessons at Let’s Dance!, photo by Amber Adeline.

Let’s Dance! evenings are every 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month in the G Three Bar Theater. They always begin at 6:00pm with an hour-long dance lesson, $5 per person. For some folks, it’s a date night, but you won’t need to bring a partner – and often during the lesson the dancers (if they’re willing) are switched around so you can get comfortable dancing with different partners. And after the lesson? It’s open dancing to recorded music and the Pioneer Saloon is open to serve you.

Salsa lessons at Let’s Dance!, photographer unknown.

 

Note: We’d love information on our unknown photographers, please let us know.

Remembrances of our 35th Gathering

The 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was a lot of fun, and we’re thrilled to have been able to share our event with so many wonderful folks, returning and new. If you’ve not made it to Elko yet, it’s not too early to start planning for our 36th, January 27-February 1, 2020. Here are a few of the great moments, captured by photographer Charlie Ekburg of Sweet Light Photography. Enjoy!

Trinity Seely and Waddie Mitchell kick it all off on Monday night.

Pioneer Saloon Jam Sessions and Sing-Alongs, led by Liz Dreisbach and Eugene Jablonsky.

Corb Lund

Ned LeDoux

An Elko County ranch family…with hats.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott joins Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives on Thursday night.

Enjoying the Friday Night Dance with Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie.