We’re Moving…

We’re moving our blog! It’s been a good time here on WordPress, and now we invite you to join us on the Western Folklife Center’s website for the latest news on special programs, exhibitions, events and more, with our blog post leading off the Home page and everything within a click or two away from the pull-down menu, link or button.


The posts you’ve seen here aren’t going away. They are all included in the blog section of the website, and available for re-reading at any time by clicking the ‘Read More’ to enter the most current blog, then scrolling through the list available there. See you on the website!

Announcing the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering’s Rodear Year

Cowboy Rounding Up Cows. Photo courtesy of Jon Griggs, Maggie Creek Ranch, Elko County, Nevada.

We may not be able to gather in Elko, but we’re not going to let that stop us! In ranching, a rodear happens when cattle are gathered together and held in a circle, typically in a remote location where there are no corrals available. This allows the cowboys to perform their work. We find ourselves in a similar position this year—unable to hold our beloved event at headquarters. In the spirit of rodear, that just means we’re going to have to ride out into the landscape and improvise. We will visit poets, musicians, storytellers, cooks, and artists, mostly on their home ground, and offer a range of experiences from rural ranch country that audiences can connect with online. We’ll seek out both the familiar and new, examining the touchstones, storied places, landmarks, favorite vistas and watering holes while making new discoveries all along the way. Think of this one-day event as a digital campfire, a way to still bring people together while also sharing a taste of the Gathering with family and friends who have yet to attend in real life.

Join us late January, 2021. It’s free for members!


The Art of Jack Malotte

Jack Malotte, Untitled, 1995. Private Collection

The Western Folklife Center is honored to host The Art of Jack Malotte, a major retrospective exhibition showcasing the breadth of Malotte’s career, organized by the Nevada Museum of Art, opening July 11 in Western Folklife Center’s E. L. Wiegand Gallery, 501 Railroad Street, Elko.

An enrolled member of the South Fork Band of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone, Jack Malotte makes artworks that celebrate the Great Basin with a unique focus on contemporary political issues faced by Native people seeking to protect and preserve access to their lands.

Watch a short video of Jack discussing his work at the Nevada Museum of Art’s 2019 exhibition in Reno.

For many years Malotte produced graphics and illustrations for the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc., the Western Shoshone Sacred Lands Association, and the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice. This work will be on view alongside drawings, sketches, and prints from early in his career.

Jack Malotte, The Cowboy Guy, 1981.

Malotte, who is Western Shoshone and Washoe, infuses wry humor into his work, even as he delves into subject matter that is sometimes serious and sobering. His most recent work reconsiders historical narratives and myths of the American West, refers to Western Shoshone and Washoe traditions and legends, and highlights longtime political, environmental, and legal struggles of Native communities.

Jack Malotte, Shot in the Heart, 2015. Collection of the Nevada Museum of Art.

Born in Schurz, Nevada, Malotte lived in Lee, Nevada as a young boy, and eventually moved to Reno where he attended local schools including Wooster High School. At the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California (1971-74), he was influenced by the work of Arthur Okamura, Jack Mendenhall, and Chuck Close. Malotte also worked as a U.S. Forest Service Firefighter. Malotte currently resides in Duckwater, a rural community located in central Nevada.

Curated by Ann Wolfe, The Art of Jack Malotte exhibition is on loan from the Nevada Museum of Art and is funded byThe Satre Family Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada; Nevada Arts Council, Sandy Rafeallil/Bill Pearce Motors, Kathie Bartlett, National Endowment for the Arts, Anonymous, KUNR Reno Public Radio, and Sierra Nevada Media Group.

All images courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art.

From the Western Folklife Center

WFC Pioneer Hotel , 2009

The Elko County Commissioners published a letter to our board recently in the local Elko Daily Free Press expressing their wish for us to reconsider the cancellation of the 2021 in-person Gathering. We are so grateful for all the positive notes we’ve received from you in support of our decision and want to share with you our board’s response:

“On May 27, 2020, the Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees made in all likelihood the most difficult decision any governing body would have to make. After significant discussion and by a unanimous vote, the Trustees voted to cancel the 2021 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering due to obvious health and safety concerns as well as uncertainty regarding financial risk surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Many Trustees have attended the annual event for decades. We reside in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Idaho, and Virginia. Five of us are local Elko County residents.

“While we are a diverse group of poets, artists, folklorists, craftsmen, ranchers, and people with traditional business backgrounds, we share one overriding passion—and that is to ensure the Gathering endures for our next generation. There is no playbook for this pandemic, other than guidelines issued by federal, state, and local officials. Given the safety, health, financial and potential reputational risks associated with moving forward into this uncertainty, the Board made a prudent decision.

“In our deliberation, the Board clearly recognized the impact cancellation would have on the local community, including those who have supported the Gathering financially. We reviewed three operating scenarios, all of which showed the Folklife Center losing substantial money (from $280,000 to up to $1.2 million) by proceeding ahead and trying to hold the Gathering. As just one consideration, current State of Nevada guidance prohibits live performances with spectators.  Gatherings of up to 50 people wearing masks are, however, allowed. We took a look at what revenue could be expected with guideline limitations, using an optimistic assumption that performances might be possible with smaller audiences next January 2021.  The Pioneer Building G Three Bar Theater normally, with a full house, nets about $10,000 per show. With social distancing guidelines, however, that number drops to less than $1,700 In revenue. The numbers just do not work for a non-profit organization that essentially breaks even every year.

“The Western Folklife Center is exceptionally fortunate to have been supported by not just the Elko County community, but folks from all over who see the Gathering after 36 years as a national treasure. Unlike many non-profits, we are blessed with an endowment that helps us underwrite years where maybe things do not go as well as planned. But to be clear, the Board has a fiduciary duty and governance responsibility that can be shared with no other person, business, or government organization. Losing up to one-half of the endowment in one year by deciding to proceed in the face of uncertainty is simply irresponsible.

“We understand that some of our local supporters do not like the decision and for that we can only say we are sorry. This is balanced by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received from artists, members and attendees. One group of 38 patrons from the Salt Lake City area attends just about every year. This group purchased $10,000 worth of tickets in 2020 and no one has expressed anything but relief at the news of the cancellation. While we are sympathetic to the impact this will have on the Elko economy, we must give priority consideration to the health and safety of our patrons, employees and volunteers.

“Our sincere hope is that this pandemic is addressed by the scientific and medical community and government clears a path to normalcy in due time. We are fully committed to the 2022 Gathering and the benefits it will bring to Elko County.”

Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 2021 Update

The Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees has decided to forego an in-person event for the 2021 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, originally planned for January 25-30, 2021. While it was a difficult decision, the board unanimously took this action after consideration of the potential risks posed by uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In its place, the Center will offer online programming rooted in both archival recordings as well as new performances and other productions filmed on location and in its iconic G Three Bar Theater in Elko, Nevada.

The organization’s top priority is concern for the health and safety of everyone who makes the Gathering a success each year, including Elko residents and the thousands of attendees who travel to the small Northern Nevada community from all over the United States and beyond. Additionally, the board acted to manage financial risk that could jeopardize the longevity of the organization and event.

“After significant exploration and thoughtful discussion with our board, it became quite clear that a full-blown Gathering like we are all used to cannot be in the cards for the 37th year of this event we all hold so dearly,” said Kristin Windbigler, the organization’s executive director.

“Despite the inevitable sadness we all feel about this decision, we remain hopeful and even a little excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. The Western Folklife Center’s archive of more than 40 years of audio and video recordings, along with the addition of a new multi-camera television studio in our theater will enable us to share online the full breadth of the Gathering year-round while also keeping Elko on the public’s radar as a travel destination once it’s safe to do so again,” she said.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering — often referred to simply as “Elko” — has brought together communities bound by shared interests to celebrate the magic of Western lands and lifestyle through live performances, workshops, and much conviviality each January. It is a community-wide experience, with businesses all over town offering hospitality and dining as well as trade shows, exhibitions, and open mics. The Western Folklife Center’s programming injects millions of dollars into the local economy during a time when Elko needs it most.

Paul Caudill, chairman of the Center’s board of trustees offered on behalf of the governing organization, “We are clearly aware of the impact this decision will have on the local economy, but feel strongly that health and safety must come first. But, in the face of adversity comes opportunity. We are committed to deliver a first-class program that will serve to keep our broad community together through the balance of 2020 and Gathering week in 2021. We ask for your continued support through a trying time.”

Western Folklife Center & Wiegand Gallery Re-Open Monday, June 1

Western Folklife Center, Elko, Nevada

Photo by Hal Cannon.

We’re happy to announce the re-opening of the Western Folklife Center’s Gift Shop and Wiegand Gallery with Black Box Theater! These areas have been reconfigured to provide a safe environment for our visitors. Forgot your mask? We’ve got plenty of bandanas and are happy to share!

Hours: Monday – Friday, 10am to 5:30pm and Saturday, 10am-5pm

Other areas of the historic Pioneer Building – business offices, Pioneer Saloon, G Three Bar Theater, and lower level including restrooms – remain closed at this time due to ongoing concerns of the COVID-19 crisis.

While we have enjoyed sharing images of the “I’m Gonna Take My Horse…” exhibition with you on Instagram (@cowboypoetrygathering), nothing compares with seeing Marion Coleman’s amazing Blacks in the West quilts in person. Rory Doyle’s award-winning Southern Riders photographic series is also a treat to behold. The entertaining and historic comic series panels ofThe Chisholm Kid, and Vania Kinnard’s video tribute to “African American Western Pioneers” are also on display through Saturday, June 13, 2020. The Black Box Theater is currently showing Why The Cowboy Sings.

And of course, you can join us anytime online for music, poetry and other interesting and entertaining programs of the Western Folklife Center. Watch videos on Vimeo and YouTube, listen to interesting and entertaining audio pieces, explore through online exhibitions, join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

Thank you for your patience and for your continued support. We continue to periodically check phone and email messages, and we are happy to have you be part of the Western Folklife Center.

Western Folklife Center Staff

Western Folklife Center Building Temporarily Closed

Photo by Hal Cannon.

Due to increasing health concerns, we are taking a precautionary measure to maximize social distancing and minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. Beginning today, Monday, March 16, 2020, the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop, Wiegand Gallery, and administrative offices will temporarily close until further notice.

We invite you to join us online for music, poetry and other interesting and entertaining programs of the Western Folklife Center. Watch videos on Vimeo and YouTube, listen to interesting and entertaining audio pieces, explore through online exhibitions, join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

The Western Folklife Center staff will be periodically checking phone and email messages. Online orders from the Gift Shop may be delayed. Thank you for your understanding. Stay safe!

Report on the 36th Gathering Ranch Tour


Ranch Tour and Coach USA bus, photo by Michelle K. Min

“This was A++! Enlightening,
Informative – interesting
with good humor;
the hospitality was A+
and the food was A++.
Our bus leader for the day was
So! Interesting and knowledgeable.”
– tour workshop participant

The tour, photo by Michelle K. Min

This year, the 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering sold out Ranch Tour offered partakers the unique opportunity to visit two northeastern Nevada multi-generational ranching operations. The hour-long bus ride to and from Clover Valley included narrative by tour host Ron Torell about the settlement of the West, history and ranching way of life in rural Nevada, and discussion on public lands grazing. Participants visited the Dalton Ranch (settled as a homestead in 1868), sitting at the north end of the valley, and the Brough Ranch (dating back to 1869) at the south end the valley. A traditional Dutch oven lunch was served at Wells Rural Electric Company, with a brief talk and information from the Nevada section of the Society for Range Management and the Nevada Association of Conservation Districts.

Dutch Oven, photo by
Jessica Brandi Lifland

Participants agreed upon reflecting on the tour that while it is easy to get caught up in the romance and nostalgia of the cowboy way of life, ranching in the desert range environment is not without a lot of hard work and risk and Dalton and Brough Ranches serve as prime examples of northeastern Nevada operations that have persevered through several generations of hard work and commitment to the life style they have chosen.

“Delightful hosts and great knowledge of host speakers.
Weather was unbelieveable and hayride super.
Lots of time; never felt rushed.”
– tour workshop participant

This event supported by:  Coach USA, Wells Rural Electric and Luciano’s

Announcing Michael Martin Murphey and the Rio Grande Band

Photo by Joe Owensby



Michael Martin Murphey presents a special performance of songs from his over 40 years of performing…all with his stellar Rio Grande Band featuring Gary Roller, Ollie O’Shea, Ryan Murphey, and rising star Carin Mari. Come see this exceptional performance never before seen at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, with such hits as “What’s Forever For”, “Wildfire”, “Cowboy Logic”, and selections from his recent Cowboy Christmas tour that has been touring annually for over 25 years. We hope you enjoy this brilliant night of hits, stories, and cowboy songs.

Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 8 pm, Elko Convention Center Auditorium – Tickets on sale now

Michael Martin Murphey and the Rio Grande Band perform (members Gary Roller and Carin Mari shown)

Horses, Cowboys, Veterans & Family Ties

The 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering delivers again with a line-up of exciting, thought provoking, and educational special discussions and compelling speakers. There will be something for everyone in the scope and number of discussions and special sessions presented January 26-February 1, 2020.

Not to be missed on Thursday, January 30 is the Gathering’s opening Keynote Address, a conversation that will explore the value and growing relevance of horses in contemporary society and how we might regain the important connection horses once represented between rural and urban communities. Ghuan Featherstone, South Central Los Angeles native and founder of Urban Saddles (above, lower left); Derek Knapp, executive director of the ground-breaking Restoration Ranch (above on right, second from bottom); and Bryan Neubert, horseman/buckaroo, and colt starting, horsemanship, and cow-working expert (above on right, second from top); will come together to share their different everyday experiences with horses and their communities.

The Gathering sessions continue to honor the horse and celebrate the horse-rider connection by offering Conversations: Horses and Riders I and II. Join Pete Taylor (above, top left), Ghuan Featherstone, Derek Knapp, Mike Beck, Maria Lisa Eastman (above, top right), Maddy Butcher (above, middle left), Bryan Neubert, and Randy Rieman (above, bottom right) in these discussions and learn from their variety of backgrounds of the use of science as well as tradition to optimize outcomes for horses, in rural or urban settings, contemporary therapeutic centers and working ranches.

In exploring this year’s theme honoring and celebrating the historic contributions and contemporary culture of Black Cowboys, the Gathering will feature many illustrated talks and conversations.

Myrtis Dightman, Sr.

Historian Les Sweeney explores the legendary buckaroo and National Cowboys of Color Hall of Famer Henry Harris. And Myrtis Dightman, Sr., who in 1964 became the first Black cowboy to compete at the National Finals Rodeo, will make the trek to Elko from his Texas home to share some of his amazing life stories. Mr. Dightman will also participate in a Rodeo Stories session along with rodeo veterans Luke McKay, Gabe McKay, Jim Brooks, Rodney Nelson, and Cat Clifford as they take listeners behind the chutes, into the arena, and down the road, through hearty stories of the ins and outs and ups and downs of rodeo life.

The McKay family of Juntura, Oregon

And in Stories & Film: The McKay Family, we invite you to get better acquainted with an eastern Oregon ranch family that includes six adoptive children from Haiti with a rich exchange of stories, music-making, and more from father Joe McKay and Gabe, Clare, Luke, and Anna Rose – including the additional treat of a short sneak preview of daughter Clare McKay’s film-in-progress about their family and her two rodeo-chasing brothers.

Additional talks that you’ll experience at the 36th Gathering include:

Delta Hill Riders, by Rory Doyle

Southern Riders, a visual presentation by Gathering featured photographer Rory Doyle introducing some of the communities he met in his three-year journey to document Black cowboys, and horsemen and women from Georgia to the Mississippi Delta;


Myrtis Dightman, Jr.

Community, Continuity, Conviviality: Trail Rides in the South Central U.S. sessions. In these sessions Rory Doyle will be joined by Myrtis Dightman Jr. and Geno Delafose and others, as they all share tales of the Black cowboying tradition of trail riding groups and rides from Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta to Texas;


GatheringVeterans’  Stories, Songs,
and Poetry
. Hosted by Karen Lloyd of the Veterans History Project, this talk will include those involved in the Writers Project and veterans presenting and sharing stories they have been collecting, as well as writing, related to their service. The panel will feature Jennifer Koopman (Great Basin College), Dave Richmond, Bill Jones, Ghuan Featherstone, Joel Nelson, Derek Knapp, and Ted Howard. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is honored to continue its collaboration with the Veterans Resource Center at Great Basin College and the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress;

Spencer Smith, in the field

Managing for Abundance: How Ranchers are Stewarding the Land for Increased Biological Outcomes. Spencer Smith, owner and operator of the Jefferson Center for Holisitic Management, and an accredited Savory Field Professional, will connect the dots between ecosystem function and livestock movements, healthy soil and human nutrition. This discussion will celebrate the great stewards of our Western landscapes while looking at new, innovative ways that producers and land managers are building soil, habitat, and improving water resources. Presented in collaboration with the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group.

Read biographical information on our special guests and visit http://www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.com.


36th Gathering Celebrates Black Cowboys


“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.


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.

NCPG logo 250px

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.

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives at the 35th Gathering!

Country music legends Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives are coming to Elko with their “Way Out West” Tour for the first time to celebrate their love of the West and its music at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on Thursday, January 31 in an 8:30-10:00 pm show at the Elko Convention Center. It’s going to be a toe-tapping, spine-tingling treat of an evening! Stuart and music producer Jim Rooney will also host a discussion of Marty’s career, music and songwriting earlier in the day.

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Marty Stuart is a five time GRAMMY-winner, platinum recording artist, Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Americana Music Association, Grand Ole Opry star, country music archivist, photographer, musician, and songwriter. Since starting out singing gospel as a child, Stuart has spent over four decades celebrating American roots music. His teenage years on tour with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt in the ’70s were followed by six years in Johnny Cash’s band in the ’80s, and a chart-topping tenure as a solo artist in the ’90s. Stuart also hosts an annual Late Night Jam at The Ryman, a yearly tradition which kicks off the CMA Music Festival.

The singer and his band also recently won the award for “Duo/Group of the Year” at the Americana Music Association’s 16th Annual Americana Honors & Awards. Previous winners of this prestigious award include The Avett Brothers, Drive-By Truckers, and Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell.

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Stuart has now returned to his first love, country music, in his album Way Out West, produced by Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). Join the Western Folklife Center in welcoming these iconic performers to Elko: Marty Stuart on guitar and mandolin; Kenny Vaughan on guitar; Harry Stinson on drums; and Chris Scruggs on bass.

All tickets for the show are $40, and in the intimate 900-seat Lorena Moren Auditorium at the Elko Convention Center, there’s not a bad seat in the house!

Photo ©2018 by Charlie Ekburg / Sweetlight Photography

Tickets are available online here or by telephoning 775.738.7508 Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time, toll free at 888.880.5885.

Way Out West on Superlatone was released on March 10, 2017, and MOJO named it one of their “Best Americana Albums of 2017.” The album was conceived as a love letter to the promised land of California by one of Country music’s living legends, who has played with everyone from Johnny Cash to Lester Flatt. NPR Music proclaims: “Way Out West is Marty Stuart’s album-length paean to the myth and magic of the American West. It finds country’s stalwart neo-traditionalist turning cosmic cowboy for a journey through the Joshua trees, shadowy canyons and desert dreams that tantalize travelers with the promise of a golden shore on the other side.” Way Out West is available on CD, vinyl, and digitally.


Floral Design & Carving Workshop with Cary Schwarz at the Gathering

Cary Schwarz stamped leather sample

“The practice of LEATHER STAMPING transfers artistic designs from the maker’s imagination to a blank slate of leather. FLORAL designs are the most common and popular style of stamping among saddlers. An infinite variety of floral patterns are possible, replete with vines, stems, leaves, acorns, and other fillers. Floral patterns are stamped with an assortment of tools, each providing a particular result that, when seen together, produce the complete image.”

Excerpt from Tools of the Trade:
The Creak of Leather –Know How
Western Folklife Center Back at the Ranch online exhibition.

At the 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we’re inviting practicing leatherworkers – intermediate experience and above – to open new avenues of creativity and improve their floral carving designs in a three-day workshop! Veteran leatherworkers and sophomores alike are sure to glean new information. Students must bring their own stamping tools, sketch pad, pencil, eraser, and an open mind.

Workshop for the Practicing Craftsman!
January 28 – 30, 2019  9:00am – 5:00pm

Elko Convention Center – Gold Room

Photo courtesy of Cary Schwarz

With decades of teaching experience, including at the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Saddlemaking Workshop at the Association’s annual Exhibition & Sale in October, Cary Schwarz’ hands-on, demo-laden approach will provide ways of making design a habit, with an eye toward saving time while elevating the craftwork.

Day one focuses on “how” and “what” to draw, using artistic elements of balance, ratio, variety, composition and negative space, and exploring “gesture drawing,” building off Kimon Nicolaides’ 1938 book, The Natural Way to Draw (which will be mailed to workshop participants in December).

Schumer stamping detail, courtesy of Cary Schwarz

Days two and three focus on carving, swivel knife techniques and thoughtful tool selection. And Cary Schwarz will email each participant a daily drawing assignment for 30 days after the class to help everyone “stay the trail!” Students may also choose to bring a small project of their own to work on.

Cary Schwarz, photo courtesy of Traditional Cowboy Arts Association

View Cary’s work in our Between Grass & Sky Online Exhibition

Visit Cary’s website:  https://caryschwarz.com/schwarz-productions/

Bridging the 49th at the 35th Gathering

The Slash Across Mountains, by Carolyn Cuskey/cc by 2.0 (Creative Commons)

A border by cartography standards, the 49th parallel distinguishes Canada from the United States ̶ on maps, anyway. But try telling these musicians that as they sing themselves from side to side and back again! Making beauty out of coexistence and proving that lines are never quite what they seem, the five bards of the borderlands in our 8:00 pm Saturday night show exemplify the artist as ambassador. Sharing the Elko Convention Center Auditorium in Bridging the 49th are Jamie Fox, Alex Kusturok, Corb Lund, Sid Marty and Colter Wall: read on to meet them!

8:00 – 9:30 pm, Saturday, February 2, 2019
Tickets are On Sale Now!

$40 / $30 / $25
Next Generation Discount Available

Photo by Hannibal Bach

Gilbert’s Duck Dance, performed by Jamie Fox with 3 fiddlers 3 traditions

Jamie Fox of Harlem, Montana, is a fiddler of the Métis tradition, which grew out of a Celtic, French, and Native American cultures. The Michif fiddle tradition on the Fort Belknap Reservation was on its last legs just as Jamie fell in love with the tunes. Jamie, through her love of the Michif tunes, brought new healing to an old discord between cultural sectors of the tribal society. As word got out, others on the reservation and along the Montana Hi-Line were incredibly enthused to see her taking on the music that was in jeopardy of vanishing. http://www.3fiddlers3traditions.com/about-3-fiddlers-3-traditions/jamie-fox/

Photo from artist

Alex Kusturok of Winipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is unfortunately not able to attend! A third generation fiddle player, Alex grew up traveling with his mother Patti to old time dances around Manitoba where he was enriched with the Métis fiddle from a very young age. By age 7, the passion for music became apparent and fiddle became the focus of Alex’s life. Culture has always played a huge part in Alex’s music and his life. His father, a treaty Indian from Wabigoon Lake First Nation in Ontario made sure that Alex learned of his aboriginal heritage which transferred into his music and gave him a set of values in which he lives his life.

Corb Lund and The Hurtin Albertans perform “The Horse I Rode In On,”
at the 25th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2009.
Corb is appearing solo at our 35th Gathering.

Corb Lund‘s musical diplomacy bridges the country and the city. Born and raised in rural southern Alberta, Canada, Lund comes from four generations of Canadian ranchers and cowboys. He grew up riding horseback, chasing cattle and rodeoing on the prairies and in the foothills of the Rockies. Lund’s Western heritage stays with him, no matter where he roams. “My whole life is sort of a dichotomy between being a cowboy kid and living in a city,” says Lund. “I guess that informs my music too.” http://corblund.com/

Photo from artist

Sid Marty tells A Prayer in Lieu of Windchimes

Sid Marty sings Down Along the Livingstone

Sid Marty‘s poetry, storytelling and songwriting travels like the Albertan wind. He and his wife live on a small holding in southwestern Alberta, Canada, south of Tyson and north of Zarzyski. He last performed at Elko in 2011. Sid began composing poems and song lyrics in the saddle while patrolling the mountains of Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks as a park ranger. There were no cows in the backcountry except cow elk, so he used his lariat mainly for pulling packhorses out of bogs and skidding firewood. Since 1988, Sid has worked as a singer-songwriter and freelance writer. http://www.sidmarty.com

Photo from artist

Colter Wall performs Plain to See Plainsman

Colter Wall‘s songwriting blends the real and the magical. Wall, of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada, captures the spaciousness of the Canadian plains by relying on minimal production and his resonant baritone, which he’s strengthened into a mighty instrument in its own right. It’s a deep and knowing voice you wouldn’t expect of a man who’s not yet 24 years old. As a folk singer, Wall places equal importance on crafting songs as well as carrying older songs into the present day. http://www.colterwall.com/

About the Next Generation Discount for the 35th Gathering, January 28-February 2, 2019

Are you between the ages of 15 and 35? A limited number of Day Passes and evening show tickets are available at the discounted price of $20! Buy up to two (2) tickets per show as well as up to two (2) Day Passes. Not all shows are discounted, so look for the items in our Ticketed Shows list. Tickets are will-call only and all ticket/pass users must show valid proof of age at pickup. When purchasing tickets online, please use discount code NEXTGEN on the checkout form.

Interested in learning more about the 49th Parallel and the 5,525 mile-long border between the United States and Canada?

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/uscanada-border-slash (Intro photo is from this article)

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons