Announcing the Featured Artists of the 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering!

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland ©2017

Join us January 28-February 2, 2019 for the 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a milestone anniversary for the grand-daddy of them all! Tickets go on sale to Western Folklife Center Members on September 4, 2018, and to the general public one month later: Join Now!

We are pleased to present the following poets, prosewriters, storytellers, singer-songwriters and western bands – several performing across genres.

3hattrio, Virgin, UT
Amy Hale Auker, Prescott, AZ
Mike Beck, Monterey, CA
Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, Eunice, LA
John Dofflemyer, Lemon Cove, CA
Joshua Dugat, Tuscaloosa, AL
Maria Lisa Eastman, Hyattville, WY
Mary Flitner, Greybull, WY
Jamie Fox, Harlem, MT & Alex Kusturok, St. Paul, AB, Canada
Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Longview, AB, Canada
Dick Gibford, New Cuyama, CA
DW Groethe, Bainville, MT
Andy Hedges, Lubbock, TX
Brenn Hill, Hooper, UT
Tish Hinojosa, Austin, TX
Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, SD
Ross Knox, Sasabe, AZ
Ned LeDoux, Northeast KS
Daron Little, Saratoga, WY
Corb Lund, Southern AB, Canada
Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Ft. Wayne, IN
Sid Marty, Lundbreck, AB, Canada
Deanna McCall, Timberon, NM
Gary McMahan, Bellvue, CO
Waddie Mitchell, Twin Bridges, NV
Michael Martin Murphey, Walden, CO
Joel Nelson, Alpine, TX
Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND
Diane Peavey, Hailey, ID
Shadd Piehl, Mandan, ND
Vess Quinlan, Florence, CO
Halladay & Rob Quist, Kalispell, MT
Henry Real Bird, Garryowen, MT
Brigid Reedy, Whitehall, MT
Randy Rieman, Choteau, MT
Jake Riley, Riverdale, NE
Olivia Romo, Santa Fe, NM
Matt Robertson, Okotoks, AB, Canada
Trinity Seely, Cascade, MT
Sean Sexton, Vero Beach, FL
Sourdough Slim, Paradise, CA
Dave Stamey, Orange Cove, CA
Gail Steiger, Prescott, AZ
Colter Wall, Swift Current, SK, Canada
Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls, MT


Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland © 2016

On June 28: John Reischman and the Jaybirds fly into Elko – and more!

The Western Folklife Center will host John Reischman and the Jaybirds on Thursday, June 28 for a 2:00 pm workshop and 7:00 pm concert featuring new tunes and songs from their brand new recording, On That Other Green Shore. There will be room for dancing at the concert, and the Pioneer Saloon will be open at 5:30 pm for cold beverages. Also at 5:30 pm, the Wiegand Gallery will host a FREE exhibition reception and illustrated talk by Jean Earl about “Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin.

Bluegrass Band Rhythm Workshop, 2:00 – 3:30 pm: Pre-registration $10 (please contact Amber at 775/738-7508 to pre-register). Blending instruments and sound into a musical ensemble; ideal for bands, sound designers, DJs and anyone wanting to tighten the mix of their musical performance when working with others. Discount of $15 offered for workshop and concert!

This will be a special night: come early at 5:30 pm for a free special exhibition reception with Jean Earl as she takes you on an illustrated tour of the discoveries of  Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin.

Concert at 7:00 pm: Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students, seniors, Western Folklife Center members and workshop participants; $5 for children age 12 and under. Advance tickets available at the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop, 501 Railroad Street, or by calling 775/738-7508.

The historic Pioneer Saloon will be open, and the doors to the G Three Bar Theater will open at 7:00 pm. We are designing a dance area to the side–separate from concert seating–in the G Three Bar Theater, for your full enjoyment of the music of John Reischman and the Jaybirds.

About the band

The Jaybirds feature some of the finest acoustic musicians on the road west. Featured in order of appearance in photo, above, Nick Hornbuckle (banjo, vocals), Patrick Sauber (guitar, vocals), John Reischman (mandolin, vocals), Trisha Gagnon (bass, vocals) and Greg Spatz (fiddle).

Like the powerful mandolinist and composer at its helm, John Reischman and the Jaybirds fashion a chic take on bluegrass that seamlessly blends original songs and instrumentals with Appalachian old-time music for a truly unique band sound. Now on their 20th year, with seven acclaimed albums and two Juno nominations, the Jaybirds are simultaneously innovative and unadorned, sophisticated and stripped-down, happily old-fashioned and 21st-Century contemporary.

A world-renowned mandolinist and composer, veteran performer John Reischman currently hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. John has also releaased three critically-acclaimed solo instrumental albums and recorded on dozens of other projects, including the GRAMMY-winning True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe. Called “one of the world’s undisputed masters” of the mandolin by Bluegrass Unlimited, John’s known for producing wonderful tone from his famous 1924 Gibson “Loyd Loar”
F-5 mandolin.

Los Angeles-based Patrick Sauber is the newest member on guitar and vocals. Patrick is considered one of the West Coast’s most sought-after sidemen. A soaring harmony singer and firecracker lead guitarist, he is featured on the 2016 GRAMMY-nominated album, The Hazel and Alice Sessions, by Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands.

Chilliwack, British Columbia-based Trisha Gagnon is portrayed by Sing Out! as “one of the most versatile” and “irresistible” lead vocalists in bluegrass, her strong and distinctive style ranging from “mournful and plaintive” to “hopeful and yearning.” Trisha anchors what Dirty Linen Magazine calls “gorgeous three-part harmonies.” Her solo album, a story about you and me, includes guests Vince Gill and Peter Rowan.

Nick Hornbuckle, based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, has developed his own voice on the five-string banjo – a two-finger roll unlike other contemporary banjo players. Says the L.A. Daily News, “Nick Hornbuckle’s banjo can be downright spine-tingling.” His solo album 12×2 (+/-1), was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award in 2015, and Nick is a composer who also digs for rare old-time gems.

Spokane, Washington-based Greg Spatz is hailed as a “world-class bluegrass fiddler” by Fiddler magazine. His Paul Bunyan-esque chops have made him a popular fixture down through the years on the West Coast, where he’s played with iconic mandolinist Frank Wakefield and resophonic guitar master Rob Ickes. Greg also tours and records with Mighty Squirrel, has a solo album called Fiddler’s Dream, and is an award-winning novelist.

About the exhibition reception
5:30 – 6:30 pm in the Wiegand Gallery

For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees in the high country meadows of the Great Basin.

On June 28, join the Western Folklife Center and Jean Earl for an illustrated tour of these discoveries, carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th Century, featured in the exhibitions, Basque Aspen Art (currently on exhibition in the Wiegand Gallery) and Mountain Picassos, Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin, a Nevada Touring Initiative/Traveling Exhibition Program of the Nevada Arts Council.

These events are funded, in part, by the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, federal agencies, Nevada Humanities, and the Red Lion Inn & Casino.

Thank You, Elko: We Hope You Can Join Us May 4th

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Thank you, Elko is a free performance on May 4th for the community of Elko, featuring the humble songster Andy Hedges, local youth poets and special guests hosted by the Western Folklife Center at the G Three Bar Theatre and Pioneer Saloon.

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

The Western Folklife Center event, Thank you, Elko, is in collaboration with the Northeastern Nevada Museum’s Halleck Bar Party ($20 suggested donation) on May 4. This is an opportunity to celebrate the “wild and wooly” history and culture of Elko County together, as well as extend our deep appreciation to the town that supports all of our events each year. We want to give special thanks to our local volunteers and sponsors that help to create and support the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, including the Northeastern Nevada Museum.

The evening begins at 6:00 pm at the Northeastern Nevada Museum on Idaho Street with the adults attending “the best cocktail party in Elko for the past 40+ years!” The Halleck Bar Party was established to honor the acquisition of the antique bar and back bar from a saloon in the nearby town of Halleck. Always with a promise of gin, the Party will feature spirits and light refreshments, an art sale, yellow duck sales for the annual duck races and live piano music with a brief appearance by Andy Hedges.

Photo by Charlie Ekburg

Meanwhile, at 7:30 pm, a younger generation of poets from local ranch families in the area will begin their performance down on old Railroad Street at the Western Folklife Center. These young poets will be hosted by a special guest and remember cowboy poetry traditions. Andy Hedges will take the stage at 8:00 pm performing two 45-minute sets with a 15-minute intermission. This is just enough time for the Old West to begin flowing onto the streets to travel all the way from the Halleck Bar Party, past good ol’ Sherman Station, to the historic Pioneer Saloon downtown!

Photo by David Tau

At 8:00 pm dessert cocktails inspired by some of our favorite historical poems will flow at the Pioneer Saloon. The historic Pioneer Saloon, much like the Halleck Bar, is a “living visual memory of the Old West”. The Pioneer Saloon’s roots date back to the founding of the city of Elko in December of 1868. Possibly the first bar in Elko, the Pioneer Saloon began in a simple tent. Painters and ranchers stayed at the Pioneer in exchange for saddles or murals. So join in and dress up to the “old west” theme from the Halleck Bar to the Pioneer Saloon.

Andy Hedges is a self-taught songster, cowboy poetry reciter and storyteller with a varied repertoire including classic cowboy poetry recitations, obscure cowboy songs, dust bowl ballads and blues. He lives in Texas with his wife and children. Andy reached out to the Western Folklife Center to collaborate with us on creating a performance of “Thanks!” to the community of Elko for all they do during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Everyone pitches in from local restaurants, hotels, museums, teachers, artists and even our Board of Directors whom are also volunteers to our organization. It is fitting to join the Museum for this evening of gratitude simply because the Western Folklife Center had their original offices for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Museum! This year will be our 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. It is thanks to the community of Elko, that we are able to host our signature event every year.

Learn more about Andy Hedges.

Thank you, Elko is sponsored in part by the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment of the Arts, a federal agency, and with generous support of the Red Lion Inn and Casino.

2018 Western Folklife Concert Series begins with Rick and Donna Nestler

Donna and Rick Nestler, Photo by Nancy Daynard

The Western Folklife Center is known for bringing interesting artists to Elko for performances and workshops throughout the year. For our first in 2018, join us on Saturday, March 24th, when we present – with host, GRAMMY award-winning singer/songwriter Rick Nestler of Rick Nestler and Donna “The Banjolele Lady” – a workshop on how to play a ukulele and banjolele. And in the evening, Rick and Donna will perform a concert at the Western Folklife Center: expect some folk, western swing, songs of the silver screen cowboys, and more!

The 2-hour workshop and jam session from 3:00 – 5:00 pm is an opportunity to learn tips, tricks, and more from these two powerhouse performers. The Nestlers are a folk duo committed to bringing together people of all ages to learn and play ukulele and banjolele.  These musicians bring stories and fun to life where music can be celebrated and created by all of us. In that spirit, the workshop will move right on into a special hour-long jam session with any instrument you want to bring along! Also, workshop participants that are interested will have an opportunity to play for a song or two during the concert, and you’ll receive a $5 discount on the price of the evening’s concert.

3 Ukes, Photo by Emma Dusepo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 (httpscommons.wikimedia)

We have a limited supply of ukuleles at the Western Folklife Center that can be reserved, when you call to pre-register for the workshop; we can also direct you to other local sources for obtaining a ukulele. The deadline to pre-register for the workshop has been extended to Thursday, March 22. To pre-register, contact Amber Adeline at 775-738-7508 x232 or abrown@westernfolklife.org.

In the Concert from 7:00 to 9:00 pm that evening, Rick Nestler will kick off the night playing guitar or tenor banjo performing several folk classics, as well as traditional and contemporary western music. Donna Nestler will play in the second half of the night with even more folk and traditional music adding concertina, harmonica, banjo and banjolele.

Concert Admission is $15.00 at the door and $10 for seniors, students and Western Folklife Center; or with your workshop registration. Kids 12 and under are only $5. Tickets can be purchased from the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop or by calling 775-738-7508. The Pioneer Saloon opens at 6:00 pm. Come early and enjoy a visit to the exhibitions in our Wiegand Gallery!

Rick Nestler, courtesy of the artist

Donna Nestler, courtesy of the artist

This workshop and concert are funded, in part, by the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, with generous support by The Red Lion Inn and Casino.

The Faces of the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

We’ve been having a great time going through photos of the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering by our photographers Jessica Lifland and Charlie Ekburg. We wanted to share some of them with you — Enjoy!

Arinak Basque Dancer. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

One of Elko’s Ariñak Basque dancers. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Jean Flesher adds final touches to dessert at the Basque Cooking Workshop. Photo by Charlie Ekburg

Executive Director Kristin Windbigler welcomes everyone to the Keynote Address. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

Eric Trigg, a Keynote Speaker. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Emily Nielson, a Keynote Speaker. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

Nephi Craig, a Keynote Speaker. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

Trimming at the Hatmaking Workshop. Photo by Charlie Ekburg.

Rodney Nelson and Yvonne Hollenbeck in Members’ Show #1. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

A happy audience at the 34th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

Cody and Willy Braun in the intimate G Three Bar Theater. Photo by Charlie Ekburg.

Jesus Goni, Bertsolariak, and Joxe Mallea. Photo by Charlie Ekburg

Saturday’s Fiddling Around Show: the more, the merrier. Photo by Charlie Ekburg.

View more photos from the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on Flick’r.

The Full News About the Full Daily Schedule

It’s live! It’s colorful! It’s fun! It’s the online daily schedule for the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering! The full daily schedule is embedded on our website and it’s also a smartphone app.

This great system from Sched.com lets you access the schedule in so many ways. Check out the list at the right and make your selection between date or venue, type of session and more. You can even search by genre (poetry, music, storytelling, cooking, discussions, gearmaking, etc.), and you can even look at a list of the most popular events.

If you want to see where and when each individual artist is performing, just click on “Artists” at the top to choose your favorite performer and you can see the shows they will be in along with their bio. (We’re still gathering the speakers and panelists together, but plan to have all of them available soon.)

And we’re so happy this year to be able to feature our major sponsors on the daily schedule, as well as including them on the evening shows they are sponsoring, as a special thank you for their support.

A couple of tips for looking through the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering daily schedule:

As always, we make the distinction between “Ticketed Shows” that occur mostly in the evening hours, and “Daytime Programming.”

Ticketed Shows appear in a deep blue color on the schedule, and those shows require purchase of individual tickets. Remember that Ticketed Shows showcase a combination of Western bands and cowboy poets that often you won’t see together during the day. Some artists only perform on ticketed shows.

Daytime Programming sessions include poetry, music, discussions, films and more, where only a Day Pass or Deluxe Three-Day pass is required for admission. However, this category also includes free and special invitation items, so be sure to check the description to see the full information on any item.

One more special note to the schedule, you may see that in the title and in the description, a cautionary note is added regarding the start and end time of a show or session, particulary in the Open Mics. Our schedule is occasionally tighter than the Sched.com system will feature. Please read the description to make sure you arrive on time.

Go Mobile:

There is a mobile app icon at the top of the right-hand column, and for your iPhone, Android & Blackberry, you can bookmark the app by signing up at https://ncpg2018.sched.com/mobile. Once you’ve created an account, you can make and view your personal schedule of shows you are attending, or you can browse what’s happening right now at the event, or search for what you want.

Everyone on Google Calendar, Outlook and Apple iCal can have instant, offline access to the schedule by clicking this link:  Full Schedule iCal Link for Downloading, save to your desktop and manually import into your calendar. Please note that this is a one-time import so updates to schedule will not show up.

The Braun Boys — All Grown Up

Muzzie Braun and his four boys—Cody, Willy, Micky and Gary—performed at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering six times between 1988 and 1994. Muzzie Braun and the Boys are all grown up now, with successful musical careers of their own. Cody and Willy formed the band Reckless Kelly, and Gary and Micky started Micky and the Motorcars. Both bands have achieved national success with their Western roots music.

unnamed

It’s been 23 years since Muzzie and his boys have performed at the Gathering, and we are super excited to welcome three out of five members of the original band to the 2018 event. Muzzie, Cody and Willy Braun will perform together at the Gathering again.

 

We interviewed Cody Braun about his return to Elko and what his early participation in the event meant to him and his family. Here’s what he had to say:

Performing in the early days of the Gathering
The Gathering was one of the larger events that we would do every year. It was the granddaddy of all cowboy poetry events, with all the influential Western musicians.

Starting when I was about 10, I got to sit in on jam sessions upstairs at the Stockmen’s Hotel. I got to stay up until the wee hours. I learned a lot about fiddle playing from Woody Paul (Riders In The Sky) and Billy Beeman, who played German fiddle with The Lobo Rangers (with Dave and Patty Bourne). We got to hang out with Ian Tyson and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (who sometimes slept on our hotel room floor). We met a lot of people who are life-long friends.

We are excited to be returning to the Gathering after all these years!

Muzzie Braun jam2

Muzzie Braun, Baxter Black and Woody Paul. Photo by Sue Rosoff

 

Muzzie Braun jam4

Muzzie Braun, Baxter Black, Ramblin Jack Elliott and Richard Farnsworth. Photo by Sue Rosoff.

 

About Reckless Kelly
Western music was our main influence growing up. I listened to Bob Wills, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and honky tonk stuff. We brought the Western country influence to Reckless Kelly which has an authentic country roots sound. Others in the band came from more of a rock background. Willy is the main songwriter. He writes good story-songs.

Performing with Muzzie
We play about 3-4 times a year with our Dad. When we do, we tend to play a lot of Dad’s tunes, and older Western honky tonk stuff. We can’t really sing the songs we used to when we were kids because they were written for us as kids.

 

Don’t miss these shows at the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 29 to February 3, 2018!

Muzzie, Willy and Cody Braun will perform with Mike Beck on Friday, February 2, in “Who You Callin’ Americana?” in the Elko Connvention Center Auditorium. The show starts at 8:00 pm and tickets start at $25.

Cody and Willy will perform in “Fresh Voices: Cowboy Coffee House” with Wyoming poets Maria Lisa Eastman and Pat Frolander, Canadian cowboy singer Matt Robertson and Utah singer-songwriter Sand Sheff, Thursday, February 1, at 6:00 pm in the Western Folklife Center G Three Bar Theater. Tickets are $35.

With the purchase of a 3-Day Deluxe Pass or a Single Day Pass, you can also catch Muzzie and the boys performing Friday morning on the Ruby Mountain Music Stage and Saturday afternoon in the G Three Bar Theater.

Tickets and information at www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

 

Dennis Parks Artwork for Sale

The Western Folklife Center is pleased to host an exhibition, Land, Language and Clay, of Dennis Parks’ works. Selected pieces from this exhibition are available for your collection. Here we share individual photos and the sales list. Please contact our Gift Shop at 888-880-5885 or 775-738-7508, extension 243 for purchasing assistance. Dennis’ son Ben Parks carries on his father’s legacy of ceramic artwork and a few of his pieces are also on display and for sale through the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. Read more about Dennis Parks and the exhibition.

Land, Language and Clay Sales List

Blue Warriors: purchase for $5,600
Stoneware (1994)

Unknown Soldiers: purchase for $5,300
Stoneware (1994)

Reduction Jar: purchase for $950
7.5″ tall, Stoneware (1981)

Reduction Jar: purchase for $950
7″ tall, Stoneware (1981)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Plaque 2: purchase for $2,100
Stoneware (1978)

Poetry Plaque 1: purchase for $2,100 Stoneware (1978)

Poetry Plaque 3: purchase for $2,100
Stoneware (1978)

Heroes of the Old Left – Joe Hill: purchase for $750 Stoneware pedestal piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroes of the Old Left – V.I.L.:
purchase for $750
Stoneware pedestal piece

Heroes of the Old Left – 19 Barcelona 09: purchase for $750
Stoneware pedestal piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroes of the Old Left – Karl:
purchase for $750
Stoneware pedestal piece

Heroes of the Old Left – Big Bill:
purchase for $750
Stoneware pedestal piece

 

 

 

 

Platter 1: purchase for $3,500
Stonware (circa mid-1980s)

Dennis Parks Self Portrait: purchase for $2,300 Stoneware (1989)

latter – Desire Itself is Movement:
purchase for $3,500
Stoneware (circa mid-1980s)

Platter – Even While the Dust Moves: purchase for $3,500
Stoneware (circa mid-1980s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penada Landscape Plate 2: purchase for $650 Stoneware (circa mid 1980s-1990s)

Penada Landscape Plate 1:
purchase for $650
Stoneware (circa mid 1980s-1990s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penada Landscape Plate 4:
purchase for $650
Stoneware (circa mid 1980s-1990s)

Penada Landscape Plate 3:
purchase for $650
Stoneware (circa mid 1980s-1990s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penada Landscape Plate 5:
purchase for $650
Stoneware (circa mid 1980s-1990s)

Penada Landscape Plate 6:
purchase for $650
Stoneware (circa mid 1980s-1990s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executives Drowning: purchase for $17,000
Stoneware (circa 1990s)

Abacus, by Dennis Parks and John Fahnestock: purchase for $24,000
29″x54″ – Porcelain, Metal and Wood (2005)

Photos courtesy of Dennis Parks and the Nevada Museum of Art.

Mining the Mother Lode: a Moving Rural Verse Poem-Film

Andy Wilkinson’s poem “Mining the Mother Lode” is a lament for the diminishing waters of the enormous Ogallala Aquifer caused by the forces of “progress.” The poem was made into an animated poem-film with the help of Rebecca Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing as part of the Western Folklife Center’s Moving Rural Verse project, which created collaborations between poets and filmmakers around the subject of water in the West. By artfully fusing poetry and video, the Moving Rural Verse poem-films hope to nurture a deeper understanding of rural America and kindle important conversation about critical issues.

The “Mining the Mother Lode” film is not a literal adaptation of the poem. Rather it attempts to provide a counter-harmony to Andy’s words, reflecting the essence of the poet’s vision, just as the poem itself reflects the essence of the diminishing waters of the Ogallala.

Ogallala

Andy spoke to us about the writing of the poem and his hopes for its impact:

“I was asked to write an article about the using up of the Ogallala Aquifer for a local magazine. I started to write, and I realized I was ranting. There is no future in doing a rant in prose. I thought that if I am going to be emotional and passionate about it, I am going to have to write a poem.”

“I want people to think about what our obligation is to the environment. The USDA created an annual report in the early 1950s that was about water. If you blacked out the date, it would read exactly the same if it were written today.”

AndyWilkinson_byTinaThompson

“We already knew what the problem was back then. It’s not the lack of science or the lack of technology, but the lack of will. It’s the lack of willingness to change the bigger systems. Farmers are trapped in a system. They know they are using up the water, but they have to make the payments on the notes and on the equipment. You can change hearts but if you don’t change the system to go with it, you are still going to have the negative effects.”

The Moving Rural Verse program was funded, in part, by Artplace America, National Endowment for the Arts, The Community Foundation of Utah, Jeff Tant and Briana Tiberti. The Moving Rural Verse DVD—containing all four poem-films—is for sale in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. To purchase it, give us a call at 888-880-5885

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.
Braun-Muzziephoto

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!

Willy_Cody_Braun-photo+Sched

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.

CEkburg_cpg2014_danceimage02

* 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.

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

Blue Warriors

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.

Abacus high res 2

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

Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko–“Cowboy Poet”

YY - PZarzyski & YYevtushenko 1995©Rosoff

By Paul Zarzyski

“A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else can only be a footnote.”

In January 1995, the distinguished Russian poet, Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko honored us with his spirited, yet humble, presence at the eleventh annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, thanks in large part to a dear friend of the Gathering, poet-critic Scott Preston, who extended the invitation to Mr. Yevtushenko. My best recollection is that few of us knew much, if anything at all, about the Russian writer’s work or life. It was our way, however, to delve into his poetry the instant we caught wind that he’d be joining us, and the admiration for his sensibilities was instantaneous; dare I quip that we rolled out the “red” carpet of western hospitality for this literary figure as we had never done before? I only wish I could relay here the many personal recollections of those who also shared the stages, as well as attended the behind-the-scenes jam sessions, private corner-table saloon conversations, and, yes, even a wedding ceremony, with Yevgeny as celebrity witness and Russian-proverb messenger.*** Moreover, I wish I could relay the responses of those hundreds in the audiences, who sat in musical awe of his words delivered with fervor in both English and Russian—especially “our” western women (and certain western men?), who swooned over the tall, lithe beautiful poet-god with his Cossack charisma and charm. What I wish most, however, is that I had a $5.00 poker chip for each captivated (and capsized) woman I witnessed peering into the deep alluring pools of Yevtushenko’s eyes. To this day I still grin when I think about all those tough cowboys kissing good-bye for good the wife or girlfriend, who they thought they knew inside and out, never again being quite the same gal with whom they arrived in Elko!

Yevtushenko reciting 1995©Rosoff

You bet, we presented, interwoven into our lighter-hearted work, our most “serious,” heart-wrenching, soul-searching sensibilities from the Elko stages (In reflection of Yevgeny’s haunting masterpiece, “Babi Yar,” I read my Holocaust Museum poem, “Shoes.”), after which the oftentimes solemn overall mood magically transitioned to levity in Yevtushenko’s presence. We drank together, we laughed together, we danced together—as if to prove aloud and out in the wide open spaces of the Cowboy West that the crucial human counterpoise/anodyne/antidote to the evil and toxicity of human torment and suffering is indeed poetry, with its aftermath of wisdom and hope and, at times, you bet, redemption and joy.

“together / we extol what the soul knows /
once solaced by poetry—it know it wants more / poetry!”

YYevtushenko & PZarzyski ©Rosoff

Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s death in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, April 1, 2017, set into domino-effect motion for me a power-grid overload of Cowboy Poetry Gathering reminiscences, not only of our 1995 event, but of 33 year’s worth of close encounters of the ars poetica otherworldly kind coaxed out from behind the humankind / animal-kind / plant-kind / cosmic-kind scrims in Elko. For whatever mysterious reasons, year-after-year, the sacred open range of the west, before the stringing of barbed wire, becomes, for thousands of us in attendance, the open range of the heart and soul and mind rising up out of the creative journey, out of storyline and/or song line, out of imagination, to the wildest Elko Gathering heights. I choose to believe that Yevtushenko felt the presence of this power, and in its midst, embraced his fellow travelers into the passionate and compassionate realms of universal language.  Whatever the catalyst responsible for our coming together so munificently in that minuscule space and time, his presence—his grace, wisdom, humility and wit—narrowed further the finest of spiritual lines between us, and reminded us that we were not, first and foremost, Cowboy Poets of the American west, but rather Human Being poets of the Planet, Earth.

Amen, and R.I.P., Brother Yevgeny.

 

Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko–Cowboy Poet

Purring growl of your Russian tongue makes love
to our women, suddenly erumpent and churning
erotic in public. Once they were sweet
cream butter melting to our Dutch oven touch
under slow even-burning coals of mesquite,
ashwood, piñon fires, but now they burn
hot in the flames of pitchwood pine–they sizzle,
smoke, scorch and ruin the cobbler
because of you, Yevgeny. The cold war over
does not mean the heat-seeking
Yevtushenko must strike, but you have
struck Elko like a Cossack Slim Pickins
forking the bomb to earth
in a switch-a-Roosky take on our movie,
Dr. Strangelove. Stalking Siberian tiger,
you prowl the aisles, all perimeter seats
manned by women anxious to be anointed,
transfigured by one droplet of your love-
potion ambrosian spit. I must believe
they adore you merely because
you do not slobber them with Red Man
Tobacco juice, with granules of Copenhagen snuff,
Brown Mule or Skoal. In your baggy corduroy britches
tucked inside reptile-hide boots
like some tinhorn Texan, you capriole from podium,
glide, prance, pivot, swoop, whirl, as if the room
effervesces with pinkish iridescent bubble-
bath bubbles shaped like Cupid hearts
popping to the hot soft guttural
touch of your phonics, of your skinny fingers
sculpting and scripting into sexy metaphor
the palpable air of our women’s longing. You tempt them
away from our horse lather and leather pheromones
into the surrealistic–lure
them with your somniloquous lips. How dare you kiss
their thinnest skin, their rice-paper cheeks,
the silken backs of their hands gone limp
to your line’s feminine, feline endings
gently penetrating their capillary
yearnings? How dare you
mesmerize us men into applauding
your pilferage? I have caught you red-handed,
Yevgeny! But, how do I indict a fellow knight-
errant from the ivory tower’s round table
when so few of us make this crusade? The Cowboy
Coliseum exults and salutes you the Czar-
zyski of Cossack Poetry, while boasting me
The Elko Yevtushenko. My Slavic compadre,
my comrade, my partner-in-rhyme, together
we extol what the soul knows
once solaced by poetry–it knows it wants more
poetry! But it is you who has exposed the sword
as impotent twig in your forest
of Dwarf Birches. You who has led the brigadier
charge of words into battle for all those still
kept silent. Yes! Yevgeny, I shout Yes!
yes, the way to mankind’s peace-filled helix
is through the chromosomal Y, its remnant
exiled within all men. Bring it on home,
Yevtushenko–bring us back to the mother world
where your poetry throws open the gates
rolls and buries the barbed wire, bulldozes
the hormonal walls into rubble,
and hoists the white flag that allows us all,
unconditionally, to swoon for you.

(From I Am Not A Cowboy—Dry Crik Press, 1995)

Yevgeny Yevtushenko 1995©Rosoff

***Read Carson’s Vaughan’s piece in the Paris Review, “An Empty Saddle for Yevtushenko.”

Listen to Yevtushenko recite poetry in Elko during this session hosted by writer Kim Stafford.

Dreaming of Our Future

By Kristin Windbigler, Vice Chairman,
Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees

KristinWindbigler-WFCblog

Several trustees and staff members got together last year in Salt Lake City, Utah, to talk about our dreams for the Western Folklife Center. We asked ourselves what could this organization be in five years? How about 10? Who do we want to reach and what are our goals? In my role as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, I gave a short talk at the annual Stakeholders’ Breakfast at the recent National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to share our progress and plans for the future. We were thrilled by the enthusiastic feedback we received, and thought it would be a good idea to make this information available to the whole community. That’s because we hope you will want to get involved!

It can be difficult to get where you want to go if you don’t have some kind of map, so we wrote a new strategic plan that will help us set priorities and focus our collective energy to ensure we are working toward the same goals. It includes fresh vision and mission statements that were polished until they became so crisp and clear that anyone could learn them, even the most memory-challenged among us. If you weren’t sure what to say in the past when someone asked you what the Western Folklife Center does, try these on for size:

Vision Statement: Explore and give voice to traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West

Mission Statement: To use story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world

Don’t worry. If I see you on the street, I won’t ask you to recite them, but there is nothing like a little clarity and focus to get everyone headed in the same direction. I would like to note, though, that when we say “the world” in the mission statement, we mean that we value both the connections the Western Folklife Center fosters among individuals within the West as well as between the West and the rest of the country and, of course, the world. Not many of us will forget the memories of incredible experiences made possible at the Gathering because of the cultural exchange program, and we hope there will be more of those to come in the future.

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What We Do

The strategic plan also spells out what the Western Folklife Center does. Most folks who attend the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering know it’s our signature event, so that, of course, is highlighted, but the Folklife Center has a long history of producing rich and robust programming throughout the rest of the year. In order to make sure we were all in agreement about what it is that we do, we focused our scope to these four points:

  • The Western Folklife Center provides a platform for rural and urban communities to communicate and exchange new ideas and avenues of expression.
  • We produced the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985. Our National Cowboy Poetry Gathering continues to celebrate and promote the artistry and ingenuity of life in the American West. It remains our signature event, with programming changing to reflect contemporary realities and issues of the American West.
  • Throughout the year, our fieldwork, research, exhibits, website and archives preserve, document and share the heritage of the West.
  • Our media and educational programs entertain and engage, deepening the understanding of the vitality and challenges of Western communities.

Priorities for the Immediate Future

Using these guidelines, we set priorities for the immediate future. Remember that part above where I said we hope you’ll want to get involved? Well, the first thing we want to do is invigorate and grow our community by creating more opportunities for anyone to volunteer or contribute. We have a wonderful, passionate community who feels a deep connection to the Gathering and our organization. It’s not uncommon to hear from folks who have just attended their first Gathering that they were surprised by how inclusive it is. We want to extend that feeling year-round.

We’ve already partnered with other organizations in Reno and Yountville, Calif., to produce shows we’re calling the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on the Road. We want to expand this concept and are exploring possibilities for shows in Texas, Montana and other sites around the West. These events create opportunities for us to showcase our community of talented artists as well as reach new audiences who may not be aware of the scope of our work or the rich diversity of voices we represent.

Another way to expand our reach is by leveraging social media even more to highlight both new and existing fieldwork. There is some amazing stuff in our archives that most of the world has never seen and many of you may have forgotten. Some of that could be repackaged for an online audience, but we’re also hoping to both bolster our preservation efforts and make the entire archive more accessible by partnering with a program or facility that values its contents as much as we do.

We also want to experiment with new content and programming that can be distributed online. The Moving Rural Verse poem-films that were unveiled at this year’s Gathering and our recent collaboration with StoryCorps are great examples of content with the potential to reach people who have never heard of the Western Folklife Center. We might also examine how we can use live video streaming most effectively or consider a podcast. Nothing is off the table. I, for one, am particularly interested in educational formats that can encourage the kind of skill-sharing that will continue to nurture the traditional forms of Western cultural expression on which the Western Folklife Center was founded. We must cultivate as well as preserve the wealth of knowledge within our community for the future.

And finally, in order to better understand what you want from the Western Folklife Center, we plan to field a survey soon to learn more about how we can better serve you. We want to hear your ideas, we hope you will volunteer to help, and we want to make sure that everyone is recognized and appreciated for his or her contributions. You are part of our family and we want to make sure you feel included. If you would like to chat, feel free to reach out by contacting the Western Folklife Center office or find me on social media. I would love to hear from you!

Faces of the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

We’ve been having a great time going through photos of the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering by our photographers Jessica Lifland and Charlie Ekburg. We wanted to share some of them with you — Enjoy!

Doug Moreland by JBL

Doug Moreland by Jessica Lifland

Mike Thomas by JBL

Mike Thomas by Jessica Lifland

Ross Knox by CE

Ross Knox by Charlie Ekburg

Teresa byCE

Teresa Jordan by Charlie Ekburg

Don Jack and Andy by JBL

Don Edwards, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Andy Hedges by Jessica Lifland

Jack Sammon by JBL

Jack Sammon by Jessica Lifland

Paul by CE

Paul Zarzyski by Charlie Ekburg

shoe shine girl by CE

4H Shoe Shine Girl by Charlie Ekburg

Olivia Romo by JBL

Olivia Romo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Luke Bell by JBL

Luke Bell by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Girl performing by CE

Young Buckaroo in Talent Show by Charlie Ekburg

Dame by CE

Dame Wilburn by Charlie Ekburg

Ofelia Zepeda by JBL

Ofelia Zepeda by Jessica Lifland

Dom Flemons by JBL

Dom Flemons by Jessica Lifland

Reedys by CE

Johnny and Brigid Reedy by Charlie Ekburg

Trinity and Kristyn by CE

Kristyn Harris and Trinity Seely by Charlie Ekburg

Doris Daley by JBL

Doris Daley and Jarle Kvale by Jessica Lifland

 

Dave Stamey by JBL

Dave Stamey by Jessica Lifland

Brian Farrow by CE

Brian Farrow by Charlie Ekburg

andy Wilkinson by CE

Andy Wilkinson by Charlie Ekburg

 

An Oak Tree and a Sea Change

By Amy Hale Auker

Behind our barn, in the horse lot, is an oak tree. It is actually three oak trunks that rise from the same base creating a basin above the roots. When it rains or snows, the basin fills with water. It is a smart oak tree.

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The first year I went to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2002 I was amazed to see how many people were living lives similar to my very small wife-of-a-cowboy, remote-cow-camp existence, and yet they were writing poems and songs, creating art and crafts, bringing their lives from the ranches up onto the stage, sharing the work of growing food with a broad audience.

Since then, I have only missed one Gathering. I always come away inspired and encouraged. I come away with my well filled to the top.

This year, I began my #roadtriptoelko with a slightly negative attitude. Because of world and national affairs, I dreaded gathering with my friends. I dreaded hearing more divisive talk. Plus, I had been working with The Moth, a storytelling organization out of New York City, to tell my own story on Saturday night. It was hard. It was hard to work with the director, Maggie Cino, because I felt like I already knew how to tell a story. After all, I am an author! I tell stories on stage almost every time I introduce a poem. I blush to admit that I wasn’t taking direction well. Maggie persisted through many phone calls to hone my story, to help me tell it better. In the weeks leading up to the Gathering, I worked hard on that story as well as poetry and material for other sessions on my schedule. Andy Hedges and I collaborated to pull together a last-minute Guy Clark Tribute/Jessica Hedges Benefit, and the work softened me. The Western Folklife Center was generous in their help for the late-night tribute show, and I began to realize that my phone calls with Maggie, if I would lighten up and listen, might pay off in a better, clearer performance. Maybe cowboys have something to learn. Maybe a good hand is open to new things. Maybe that openness is what makes us better hands.

We arrived in Elko midday on Wednesday. Before the artists’ breakfast on Thursday, every shred of my concern about divisiveness was gone. And my pockets were full of gifts… honey, oranges, lemons, a gorgeous photograph by Jessica Lifland taken when she visited the ranch, a cell phone antenna booster, a bottle of Apple Crown Royal, a box of copper-plated horseshoe nails, a red suede coat from Jim Bone, a flowing blouse from Pam Brown, a homeopathic remedy to ward off the flu, and more hugs than I could count.

But the real sea-change for me was on Friday afternoon when I joined Teresa Jordan and the rest of The Moth storytellers for rehearsal. When I heard the other stories I realized that only by being open was I going to, once again, fill my well. The diversity of the stories was incredible. Teresa’s story was one of leaving the land so many years ago. We heard a story of the Oregon Trail from a third-grade teacher, a story of loss and healing from a Native American man with a strong sweet voice, a story of immigration and homecoming from a man from Guatemala. I told my story of leaving the land only to return to dig in deeper. I realized that one reason I love my community so much is that we are inclusive rather than exclusive. That when we open our doors, we all win. We tell about growing food and making art from agrarian roots. We recite the words of tradition. In that telling, we make room for anyone who wants to hold hands with us. To dance with us. And we learn from them just as much as they learn from us.

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Amy Hale Auker storytelling at The Moth show, with Brigid Reedy playing musical interludes.

The keynote address written and delivered by Andy Wilkinson, spoke of reconciliation. Art, especially poetry and music and story, brings us together, makes us kinder to one another. The 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was one of community and kindness. As I stood on stage on Saturday night, I felt the tiny rock in my pocket, the one given to me by Brooksie, the one shaped like a bird on a nest if you look at it from the right angle, and was flooded with love. I was flooded with hope. I recognized the beautiful strength in humans coming together to share, the beautiful idea of gathering. It is hard to be divided when we look each other in the eye and tell our personal narratives.

From folklorists who give dance lessons, to Butch Hause keeping the sound board going long past midnight during the Guy Clark Tribute, to a hat full of cash for Jessica and Sam Hedges, to old friends helping me when I almost melted down with nerves, to a song by Rod Taylor about turning off the news and going out of doors… this Gathering was my best ever.

The well in the base of the smart oak tree behind the barn is full from all of our winter moisture, and my well is full because we gathered, we came together in community, rooted together, growing up strong.

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