The Brauns and Bertsolaria at the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is chock-full of phenomenal performances, captivating stories, and enlightening learning opportunities. With so much going on and so many wonderful shows it is difficult to choose just a few to highlight. We will continue to share the best of the Gathering in this blog so tune in often. We are very excited that Muzzie Braun is returning to Elko with his sons Willy and Cody, of Reckless Kelly. And of course we can’t wait to present the wonderful traditions of the Basque culture, including the improvised poetry sparring called bertsolaria.

Tickets to the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering go on sale to Western Folklife Center members on Tuesday, September 5, at 9:00 am Pacific. The general public will be able to purchase tickets starting Thursday, October 5. To join or renew your membership, click here. You may also join on the phone when you purchase your tickets. Call 888-880-5885 or 775-738-7508. See you in Elko!

Braun Family Trio comes to Elko
Family trio Muzzie Braun and sons Willy & Cody Braun are coming to Elko for the 34th Gathering! Muzzie Braun has been writing, recording and performing for 30 years. Coming from a musical family, Muzzie continued the tradition with his four sons, touring and recording as Muzzie Braun and the Boys. They appeared at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for many years. Willy and Cody Braun went on to found the GRAMMY-Award-winning band, Reckless Kelly. As a trio, Muzzie, Willy & Cody play back-to-roots, acoustic material that reflects their far-flung influences and family cohesion.
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Muzzie Braun

Willy and Cody Braun will join poets Maria Lisa Eastman and Patricia Frolander, cowboy crooner Matt Robertson and trailblazing troubadour Sand Sheff for “Fresh Voices: Cowboy Coffeehouse” on Thursday, February 1. On Friday, February 2, Muzzie Braun, Willy Braun and Cody Braun will perform in our “Who You Callin’ Americana”* show on with an opening set by Mike Beck. These Idaho natives bring a grounded sensibility and rock-and-roll edge to their country convictions. Their sounds may span genres, but all these fellows are cowboy at heart. Buy your tickets now and enjoy the shows!

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The Braun Brothers

Bizkaia, Boise and Beyond *
From Basque country to buckaroo country comes an evening of surprises. Join champion bertsolariak from both sides of the pond as they engage in the Basque art of bertsolaritza, which is improvised, created-on-the-spot melodic poetry-sparring as the bertsolariak try to cleverly one-up each other. Enjoy verse and stories that connect buckaroos to Argentine Basque gauchos to Basque-American ranchers. And, experience the irresistible force of music and dance that spans all these worlds. Gure etxera datorrena, bere etxean dago! “Who come to our home are at their home!” February 1, 6:00pm – 7:30pm in the Elko Convention Center Auditorium.

Dance Abounds at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Dancing is always a big part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. With so many dance workshops to choose from you will be well-prepared for the three evening dances. Sign up for exhilarating and enjoyable Basque Dance, Two-Step, Polka & Schottische and Rodeo Swing workshops, held on Friday, February 2 and Saturday, February 3. The Friday Night Dance features Wylie & The Wild West and the Saturday Night Dance features the Caleb Klauder Country Band and a special guest Basque band! And Wylie & The Wild West will wrap up the Gathering with their highest energy dance tunes at the Midnight Dance on Saturday.

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* The asterisk in the title means that this show is one of several we for which we offer a special “Next Generation” discount for folks who are between the ages of 15 and 35. A limited number of tickets are available at the discounted price of $20. Buy up to two tickets. Read more information about this discount.
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Basques and Buckaroos… and Sheep???… at the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

by Katie Aiken

No doubt you’ve heard by now that there are sheep on the 2018 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering poster. Sheep! On a cowboy event! Is it true???

Well…yes. The poster artwork depicts sheep–creamy shapes amidst a burst of saturated colors and living textures that call up the deep, shifting palette of our big Western skies and the hazy boundaries of what we define as our Western landscape.

The artist, Theodore Waddell, creates non-stereotypical depictions of the American West, which would be meaningless without stereotypes to buck in the first place. Working in the world of cowboy arts means navigating stereotypes at almost every turn—some preposterous, some truthful, some romanticized, some useful, some made up by people with no clue, some cherished by people in-the-know. But, the Gathering and the Gathering community can’t be boiled down so easily.

Here’s the thing about those sheep. Besides spurring a lot of lively conversation—and opening the door to some unshakeable jokes—those sheep are giving us an opportunity to talk about what the Gathering is and what this year’s Gathering holds in store.

In 2018, we honor part of the fabric of this wonderful community that hosts the Gathering every year. Because, nothing says Elko like Basques and buckaroos. Many Basques came to the American West to work on cattle and sheep ranches as herders and buckaroos. Today’s Basque communities worldwide carry stories of immigration and dynamic traditions of music, poetry, dance, art, foodways and more. These intersect with buckaroo traditions, as Basques and buckaroos are neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, and often, one and the same. We look forward to celebrating the expressive arts of Basques and buckaroos from Elko, the Great Basin and Basque country overseas.

Here are some glimpses into what will happen at the Gathering this year, as we’re joined by participants from the American West and from the Basque Country:

Bertsolaritza at the 2017 National Basque Festival in Elko, Nevada. Photo by Meg Glaser

There will be poetry! Cowboys have cowboy poetry and Basques have bertsolaritza. Bertsolaritza is an improvised poetic artform, where two bertsolariak improvise and exchange poetic verses while trying to cleverly one-up each other. These verses are sung to melodies and created on the spot in response to a given theme. In Basque Country, this is a highly formalized, competitive “sport” that captivates stadium-size audiences for hours. Champions are well-known and renowned. The world of bertsolaritza is big. And, we’re excited to have both a pair of female bertsolariak joining us from the Basque Country as well as a pair of male bertsolariak joining us from Nevada and Wyoming. Though this artform is grounded in the Basque language, all four of these poets will be interpreted and speak in English as well.

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

There will be food! Because if poetry comes out of our mouths, something eventually needs to go back in, right? Cooking workshops are one way that we’ll explore a vast culinary world influenced by Basques and buckaroos. From the necessity and ingenuity of sheep-camp cooking with Dutch ovens, to the needs and styles of ranch cooking (which crosses over to Basque boarding house meals and family-style Basque American restaurants), to contemporary takes on traditional snack-size pintxos, we’re excited to be joined by Basque chefs and ranch cooks.

And, there will be more! We’ll have real people sharing real stories from the Spanish Ranch and other outfits, giving you a glimpse into the histories, characters and lives of Basques and buckaroos from the Great Basin region. There will be opportunities to watch (and learn) Basque dancing, to hear (and play) Basque instruments like the pandero (tambourine), to try your hand at carving Basque makila (walking sticks), to play the card game mus, to drink a kalimotxo (you’ll find out), to bring the family to all-ages events, to share a two-step, and to enjoy the delightful company of our guests. As the Basque saying goes, “Gure etxera datorrena, bere etxean dago!” (“Who come to our home are at their home!” or, roughly, make yourself at home!)

As you listen to the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon one moment, and hear the melodies of the trikitixa the next… perhaps while eating a tri-tip sandwich and having a conversation with a fellow Gathering-goer that covers range management challenges, the key markers of good rawhide braiding and the songwriting craft of Ian Tyson… you’ll start to get a sense of what the Gathering is about. Basques and buckaroos (and Basque buckaroos!) may define themselves by the land they work or the land they come from, but these lands and the people on them, are connected through generations that reach beyond geographic boundaries. They are sustained by complex and creative relationships. And through words, through music, through food, through shared experience, through moments… the kind of moments that happen at the Gathering.

Our hope is to explore contemporary ranch country, which happens to coexist with “sheep country” and with Basque Country. It is a messy, exciting, wonderful, hazy reality, in which cowboys do what they do best (besides work cows)—they express and they share life from the land. And they refuse to be boiled down.

34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Poets & Musicians

We are thrilled to announce the artist line-up for the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 29-February 3, 2018, in Elko, Nevada. Tickets go on sale to Western Folklife Center members beginning September 5, and to the general public on October 5. Members also get tickets to free members-only shows and for the first time this year, members receive a discount on the price of a 3-Day Deluxe Pass, which is $60 during the member pre-sale period and $80 starting October 5. To purchase or renew a membership, click here.
Featured Poets & Musicians

Amy Auker, Prescott, AZ
Mike Beck, Monterey, CA
Ryan Bell, Seattle, WA
Muzzie, Willy & Cody Braun, Clayton, ID
Caleb Klauder Country Band, Portland, OR
Cowboy Celtic, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
John Dofflemyer, Lemon Cove, CA
Carolyn Dufurrena, Winnemucca, NV
Maria Lisa Eastman, Hyattville, WY
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Marshall, CA
Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow, Hillsborough, NC
Patricia Frolander, Sundance, WY
Pipp Gillette, Crockett, TX
Kristyn Harris, McKinney, TX
Andy Hedges, Lubbock, TX
Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, SD
Rita Hosking & Sean Feder, Davis, CA
Ross Knox, Midpines, CA
Betty Lynn McCarthy, Buffalo, MO
Michael Martin Murphey, Walden, CO
Wally McRae, Colstrip, MT
Waddie Mitchell, Twin Bridges, NV
Terry Nash, Loma, CO
Joel Nelson, Alpine, TX
Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND
Shadd Piehl, Mandan, ND
Vess Quinlan, Florence, CO
Henry Real Bird, Garryowen, MT
Brigid Reedy, Whitehall, MT
Riders In The Sky, Nashville, TN
Randy Rieman, Cascade, MT
The Rifters, Cimarron, NM
Matt Robertson, Okotoks, Alberta, Canada
Jack Sammon, Condong, New South Wales, Australia
Sean Sexton, Vero Beach, FL
Sand Sheff, Moab, UT
Andy Wilkinson, Lubbock, TX
Wylie & the Wild West, Conrad, MT
Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls, MT

We will be adding Basque artists in the coming weeks!
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Theodore Waddell, Sheep #12, 42”x50”, Oil on Canvas

New Exhibitions in the Wiegand Gallery

Displays Feature Ranch Photographs from the Farm Security Administration
and the Pottery of Dennis Parks 

The Western Folklife Center is presenting two new exhibitions in its Wiegand Gallery, including the ceramic artistry of Tuscarora’s Dennis Parks and photographs of ranch life taken during the Farm Security Administration of the 1930s and 40s. Both exhibitions, as well as the Western Folklife Center’s permanent collection of contemporary hand-crafted gear, will be on display through December 9.

Way Out West: Images of the American Ranch, Photographs from the Farm Security Administration, 1936-1943

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Rounding up of cattle, Elko County, Nevada. Arthur Rothstein, March 1940.

The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was a New Deal program created in the late 1930s to help farmers and ranchers suffering from the impacts of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Some of the country’s finest photographers were enlisted to document the lives of everyday people in rural America. Between 1935 and 1942, photographers took 77,000 black-and-white photographs and 644 color photographs. The collection includes some of the finest and most widely recognized documentary photographs ever taken.   

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Cowhand. Elko County, Nevada. Arthur Rothstein, March 1940.

The best known of the FSA photographs were of Dust Bowl immigrants in Oklahoma and California, Depression-era soup lines, and farm life of states like Vermont and Kentucky, but the FSA photographers also visited the ranching country of the rural West. They documented cowboys at work, but they also looked at the everyday lives of ranching women and children. The result is an amazingly rich and personal record of ranch life of the period.

 

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An Anglo rancher, Mora (vicinity), New Mexico. John Collier, January 1943.

The photographs in this exhibition are taken from the book Way Out West: Images of the American Ranch, Photographs From the Farm Security Administration, 1936-1943, by former Western Folklife Center Executive Director Charlie Seemann. The book, which includes 125 photos and accompanying text, will be available in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. Photographers in this exhibition include: Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott, John Collier, Jr., Dorothea Lange, John Vachon and Arthur Rothstein.

 

Dennis Parks: Land Language and Clay

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Dennis Parks, Blue Warriors, 1994. Courtesy of Dennis Parks.

Organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, this exhibition features the work of internationally known ceramist Dennis Parks and his son Ben Parks, both based in Tuscarora, Nevada. Visitors will see pieces from the Parks’ private collections and items drawn from the Dennis Parks Archive Collection housed by the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art. Dennis Parks is perhaps Nevada’s best-known ceramist. He moved to Tuscarora in 1966, where he established the Tuscarora Pottery School. Parks pioneered a process of making ceramics using native clays that are single-fired in kilns fueled with recycled crankcase oil. Recognized for his innovative use of text, Parks often imprints written fragments from classical literature, political puns, and poetry onto his works.

His stoneware has been honored worldwide for its wide range of inventive forms and his work has been exhibited in museums in more than 20 countries around the world. Parks has taught his unique firing techniques to audiences internationally, and he conducted workshops and lectures throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic, as well as in Indonesia, China, Japan, and South Korea. Dennis’ son Ben Parks carries on his father’s legacy of ceramic artwork and a few of his pieces are on display and for sale through the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. To learn more about Dennis Parks and his techniques, visitors can select from three books by Parks on sale at the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop.

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Dennis Parks and John Fahnestock, Abacus, 1995. Courtesy of Dennis Parks.

The Wiegand Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, and Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is closed Sundays and holidays. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for students and seniors, and $1.00 for children ages 6-12. Western Folklife Center members are free, with a $3.00 charge for each adult guest. Admission is free on the first Saturday of every month.

These exhibitions are supported by the Nevada Arts Council, a state and local agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The Dennis Parks exhibit is also supported by the Nevada Museum of Art.

The Western Folklife Center: an Exhibition Destination

All through the year, the Western Folklife Center is an exhibition destination in Elko, Nevada. From the Wiegand Gallery and its inspiring space featuring interactive exhibitions and multimedia presentations to educate and entertain and throughout the building at 501 Railroad Street until you reach the lower level, exhibits can be seen on almost every wall.

Horses in the American West, a Nevada Museum of Art-Western Folklife Center collaborative exhibition in the Wiegand Gallery. “Safe and Sound” by Harry Jackson (1982) bronze, collection of Bill Searle. Photo by Charlie Ekburg, 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The Western Folklife Center Wiegand Gallery, designed by Prescott Muir Architects of Salt Lake City, Utah, often combines a major exhibition with a showcase of the handcrafted work of master artisans throughout the West as represented in the Western Folklife Center’s permanent Collection of Contemporary Gear – read more about the Collection and its genesis in Back at the Ranch, an online exhibition. And during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, there are special demonstrations in addition to the current exhibition!

Ryan Carpenter leatherworking demonstration. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland, 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Also in the Gallery is found the Story Corps booth where you can record a conversation with a friend or beloved family member, and the Black Box Theater showing a 16-minute adaptation from our award-winning video production, Why The Cowboy Sings, exploring the inspiration behind the music and poetry accompanying ranch life.

Photo by Steve Green.

The Pioneer Saloon’s Fireplace Nook is an ideal spot for small exhibitions and has featured such artists as Walter Piehl Jr., Tom Russell, Cal Bracken, Carlos César Díaz Castro, Sean Sexton, Glenn Ohrlin, Bill Lowman and Beth Carpel, among others.

Sean Sexton exhibition in Fireplace Nook.

And, of course, the wall of National Cowboy Poetry Gathering posters on the Pioneer Saloon wall opposite the historic 40-foot 1890 Brunswick back bar (constructed of mahogany and cherry wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl), exhibits the wide array of avenues of poetry and storytelling from horse and herding cultures throughout the United States and the world that the Gathering has explored through our 33 years!

Photo by Steve Green.

Our lower level features L.L. Griffin’s Something That a Cowboy Knows, a photographic essay of silver gelatin prints, donated by L.L. Griffin to the Western Folklife Center after the exhibition’s opening at  the Arvada Center and the Colorado Historical Society, and subsequent tour through the West.

Duley Canterburry and Kenn Lee

Alejandro Solis, Sr.

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding our exhibition tour outside, the Western Folklife Center was pleased to work with photographers Deon and Trish Reynolds to present “WestStops,” a walk-by exhibition with photo murals on Western Folklife Center exterior walls (and others in downtown Elko) as a part of our creative placemaking efforts. Intended as a temporary exhibition, the process to attach the murals is based on an organic paste base. See them now in the 5th Street alley between the Western Folklife Center and the Stray Dog Saloon.

 

And, although only available for a short time each year, there are the special National Cowboy Poetry Gathering “galleries” of Elko County grade school mixed media art and high school photography that always showcase a wide range of creative expression in student art, on exhibit from January through April.

Panoramic photograph of Elko grade school students’ art exhibition in the G Three Bar Theater, 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Panoramic photograph of Elko High School student photography in the Western Folklife Center elevator lobby, 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Coming in mid-June 2017, the Wiegand Gallery will host two amazing exhibits:

Dennis Parks: Land, Language and Clay, featuring the work of internationally-known ceramist Dennis Parks and son Ben Parks, both based in Tuscarora, Nevada. The exhibition is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art. Visitors will see pieces from the Parks’ private collections and items drawn from the Dennis Parks Archive Collection housed by the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Way Out West: Images of the American Ranch, Photographs From the Farm Security Administration, 1936-1943, a rich and personal record of ranch life of the period. Photographs in this exhibition are selections from a book of the same name by former Western Folklife Center Executive Director Charlie Seemann.

In closing, we invite you to enjoy our online exhibitions, Back at the Ranch, An Artful Life; and Between Grass and Sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership Changes at the Western Folklife Center

Big changes are afoot at the Western Folklife Center! David Roche, current Executive Director, has announced his retirement, effective June 30. As a key part of a planned leadership transition, Western Folklife Center Board Trustee Kristin Windbigler will take over as Executive Director July 1.

We wish David all the best in his “retirement,” as he anticipates transitioning to a consulting role in the arts and culture industry. We greatly appreciate his leadership in moving the Western Folklife Center forward in the community by engaging local support for the Folklife Center, in helping to re-establish the Nevada Task Force (a group of local volunteers who are assisting the work of the organization year-round); engaging with City and County leaders to invigorate cultural activity in the downtown corridor redevelopment zone; and attracting new supporters to local projects through an award from ArtPlace America, a national funding project supporting art placemaking. Western Folklife Center was the first recipient of the award in Nevada.

During his tenure, David also supported many critical projects that showcased Western arts and culture, including the award-winning Deep West Video program, which partners with students from the Owyhee School on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation to make short films and translate them into the Shoshoni language, and Moving Rural Verse, poetry films highlighting topics of water in the West. He also helped to expand National Cowboy Poetry Gathering programs to encompass the genre of storytelling in the West, and built partnerships with national storytelling organizations like StoryCorps and The Moth.

David says, “It’s been a special honor for me to have had the opportunity to lead the Western Folklife Center over the last three years.  The importance of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on so many social and economic levels for Elko and the American West calls out for more and more broad support in order for this unique festival to continue as a beacon of humanist expression. The Western Folklife Center has taught me so much about what it means to be inclusive of all folks who call the West home.”

Kristin Windbigler has been associated with the Western Folklife Center and our National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for almost 20 years, as one of the filmmakers in our DeepWest Videos program (making 7 films since 2005 and mentoring other filmmakers) and as a four-year member of the Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees, including her appointment as vice chair in 2016.

“I fell in love with the Gathering that first year I attended because I saw my own culture—the life I grew up in—recognized, examined, celebrated and lauded,” says Kristin. “The Western Folklife Center and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering explore and give voice to the traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West, and I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled by this opportunity to grow the organization and reach new audiences.”

For the last nine years, Kristin has served as director of the Translators Program, which works with 27,000 volunteers in 155 countries to translate TED talks into 114 languages. Kristin developed, then launched, the volunteer program that gives global access to TED’s multi-lingual content. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks.

In the early days of the Internet, she was the executive producer of Wired Magazine’s “Webmonkey,” a learning site for web developers that was used by millions. She has also worked as a journalist and editor, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from California State University, Chico, where she was managing editor of the Chico State newspaper, The Orion. She is from Blocksburg, California, in rural Humboldt County, where her family was involved in ranching and logging.

At the Western Folklife Center, Kristin hopes to nurture the deep connections everyone makes at the Gathering as well as foster new ones by using technology to bring the organization’s far-flung community together year round. In line with the Folklife Center’s mission “to use story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world,” Kristin will emphasize knowledge and skill-sharing within the Center’s community of artists and supporters to create new ways to participate while ensuring valued traditions of cultural expression are passed from one generation to the next.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I would like to thank David for his leadership over the past three years,” stated Board Chairman Paul Caudill. “And with Kristin’s love for the mission of the Western Folklife Center, and her deep background in the cultural arts and media, we are excited about our future.”

 

Learning to Jitterbug in Elko

by Krys Munzing

I grabbed a camera and stopped by Let’s Dance! at the Western Folklife Center on April 27 to check out the night’s Jitterbug lesson: a very relaxed and really complete class with returning students and newbies interested in learning the dance. Instructors for the night were Ali Helmig and Stefan Goehring, and they had it down to easy, show-n-tell steps that the dancers followed, including individual tips as the lesson progressed.

This fun community event has been produced by the Western Folklife Center since May of 2013, twice monthly February through October (once monthly during November, December and January). Let’s Dance! is run by a volunteer group of dance enthusiasts – from bartending to dj’ing to teaching, these Elko folks do it all to bring together dance lovers of all ages from all walks of life. The event is held in the Western Folklife Center’s G Three Bar Theater: the beautiful hardwood floor is ideal! On this night, the music was dj’d by Rob Hegemann and Robin Wignall worked the Pioneer Bar when anyone was thirsty.

For singles, the best part of Let’s Dance! is that you don’t have to have a partner with you, there’s usually a good mix of gals vs. guys – – and on this night, I noticed that Ali and Stefan even asked for a switch of partners a couple of times so everyone could get used to the slightly different styles throughout the room: it’s helpful at dance nights to be able to do the steps with whoever asks, right? One of my friends says it’s a perfect date night with her husband, too.

Another really great aspect of the lesson planning done by Elko Let’s Dance! is that they take into consideration what’s happening around Elko. For instance, the California Trail Center west of town is  having its annual Trail Days event the first weekend of June, which includes a dance night, out under the stars, so Let’s Dance! is featuring Contra Dance on May 25. The National Basque Festival is coming up in Elko on July 4th, so both June lessons will be in Basque dancing. And leading up to the Silver State Stampede…well, I’m sure rodeo swing or another topical lesson is in the plan.

It’s a great opportunity to get out, meet people, exercise a bit, and have fun without spending a lot of money ($5 for the lesson and you’re good for the rest of the evening) on music, dancing and socializing. In fact, once the lesson was done, I noticed quite a few dancers taking a break right there on the dance floor to visit awhile.

Elko Let’s Dance has a facebook page that is full of info – check it out here and get more information by email at wfcdance@gmail.com or visit http://www.westernfolklife.org, where we post the upcoming lesson on our event calendar.

Poster image by Jessica Brandi Lifland