Tag Archives: Elko

Beautiful Day in Elko

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Thursday, January 31, 2013

The rousing performances by the Quebe Sisters Band and Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs may have kept people up late last night, but as the city awoke in shuffles, smiles could be seen as the Gathering moves into full swing today. This morning appears to be another beautiful day in Elko, Nevada, as blue skies push the white away.


The Quebe Sisters Band and Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs have stopped in Elko before flying off to Zurich, Switzerland. From the beginning of last night’s performance the Quebe Sister’s were all smiles and talent. They did no less than allow our hearts and minds to fly away as quick hands and sweet voices lulled our senses. The balance between vocal power and fiddle rhythm kept feet moving.

20131230_jbl_WFC_0346When Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs stepped out from the curtain it was clear that the party was starting. The energy within the group showed a strong love with stage and audience, and simply stated they we’re a fun group of guys. Their music leaves us wondering if it’s always a good time in Texas.

Each of these groups will be performing over the next few days, so don’t miss your chance to see them.

Written by Mike Gamm

Photo by Jessica Lifland

A Tribute to George Gund III

George Gund, III
May 7, 1937 – January 15, 2013

By Hal Cannon, Western Folklife Center Founding Director

CPG2006 General Scenes

George Gund III. Photo by Robert Davis.

George Gund III, friend and longtime supporter of the Western Folklife Center, passed away January 15 in Palm Springs, California, where he had been suffering from stomach cancer. He will be missed.

George was a great friend to many of us and it is fair to say that without his support there would not be a Western Folklife Center today. In 2013 the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is such a well-known and beloved event that it seems as it if it has always been here. Things were different in 1984 when we were out trying to raise funds to start it. We approached many of the corporate sponsors behind rodeo and other cowboy events and virtually all of them laughed us out of the room at the idea of cowboys reciting poetry. Individual supporters were no easier to find. George came forward as the only individual contributor that first year and wrote a check. He saw the promise of the idea and was willing to take a chance.

He joined our Board of Trustees in 1986, making him the longest-tenured board member in the organization. In recent years his son, George Gund IV (Crunchy), joined the board as well. For many years George hosted legendary board retreats at his ranch in Lee, Nevada, or at one of his homes in Palm Springs and on Stuart Island in the San Juan Islands. When the Western Folklife Center had the opportunity to purchase the old Pioneer Hotel out of bankruptcy, George bought the building on our behalf. In recognition of all he did to create a home for the organization, we named the G Three Bar Theater after his brand.

Today, there have been articles published about George all over the country. In Cleveland, his hometown, he is being remembered as former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and as a patron of the arts. In the Bay Area, his adopted home, he is being remembered as a founder of the San Francisco Film Festival and the professional hockey team, the San Jose Sharks. In most articles people talk about his world-class eyebrows, his unconventional ways, his Bohemian nature. But what all these various articles prove is how wide his interests were, how many friends he had, and how generously he supported the things and the people he loved.

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George Gund III with William Matthews at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. By Sue Rosoff.

George helped several cities become better places. Here in Elko we know yet another aspect of George that few of his urban friends had the chance to experience. He was an avid rancher and attended the Nevada Cattlemen’s meetings each year. He was always interested in cowboy traditions but he also wanted to know the latest about breeds and new ways of grazing. George was a horticulturalist. He loved taking people to his gardens in Palm Springs and picking exotic citrus fruits as they strolled the grounds. He had an extraordinary eye for art. His collections of Asian arts, Northwest Indian wood carvings, and western drawings and paintings are all unique. He did not buy art for investment. He collected art that he loved.

George loved ordinary people from bellhops to hockey-playing kids to young filmmakers. He was deferential to everyone. Often people had no idea of his wealth. He did not put on airs. He loved cowboys and ranch people and was involved from the beginning in the Folklife Center’s attempts at ”grass roots diplomacy” through international cultural exchanges with ranching people around the world. He not only funded some of these efforts but acted as photographer and friend during fieldwork documenting Australian drovers and South American gauchos.

It seems that most people who knew George have at least a few stories about him. Every time you were with him, the occasion turned into an adventure. Usually he didn’t initiate the adventure so much as bring it out of those who are adventurous at heart. I’d like to tell a couple of personal stories about George. The first is mine; the second is from my dear wife Teresa who now serves as a Trustee of the Western Folklife Center.

When I was traveling to Australia to find bush poets to bring to the Gathering, George offered to take me Down Under on his plane. Just getting off the ground was an adventure but finally we got underway.

After a long day of flying over the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye could see, George told the pilots we would land at the Marshall Islands for a night of rest and refueling. We landed on the atoll island of Majuro, and the next morning, on our way back to the airfield from our hotel, we made a quick visit to the village museum. We got to talking with the woman at the desk who had lived on the Islands for many years and learned that she was originally from my hometown of Salt Lake City. She grew up in a neighborhood where I had gone to a yard sale just the day before. When I told her that, she looked at me point blank and asked, “Did you buy my cowboy piano?” Sure enough I had. I was stunned to think the world could be so small. I glanced at George to read his reaction but he didn’t even twitch one of his voluminous eyebrows. Later I asked him why he didn’t seem surprised. I realized in his answer that George was constantly running into people he knew all over the world. This coincidence didn’t seem out of the ordinary. George’s world was a small world. By the way, that cowboy piano that I purchased those many years ago has been donated to the Western Folklife Center and can be heard every year at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in the Pioneer Saloon under the great care of pianist Dave Bourne.

utf-8''_0100This from Teresa: “For our honeymoon, George offered Hal and me his cabin on Stuart Island. He met us at Dutch Harbor to take us over to Stuart on his needle-nose yacht, the Lambada. It was the day of the Russian coup and the San Jose Sharks had just brought a player over. The player’s family was still in Russia and George was terribly worried that they would not be able to get out. As we headed back to Stuart Island, George was talking on his satellite phone to Russia, but being George, he was also fishing, and he caught a big salmon. I remember him on the nose of the Lambada, trying to juggle the phone and the fish and the international conversation… Oh, there are so many more stories, and all of them, at their heart, revolve around his great spirit and generosity and concern for others. I just can’t imagine the world without him.”

George was one of the most original people Teresa and I have ever met. We feel a great sense of loss at his passing. Our hearts go out to his family and our love to all those who loved George.

Please share your own stories and memories of George in the comment section of this blog.

Read George Gund’s obituary in the Elko Daily Free Press.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to one of several charities, including the Western Folklife Center. To facilitate such contributions we have established the George Gund III Memorial Fund. If you wish to make a memorial donation in George’s honor, please send it to: George Gund III Memorial Fund, Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad Street, Elko, NV 89801, or call Linda Carter at 775 738-7508, ext. 222.

Kid Rockin’ Boogie

This year, as the de facto education sort-of coordinator guy, it was my job to call up a handful of artists and ask them how they’d feel about us tossing them in front of several hundred rambunctious school kids and telling them to be entertaining.  And, as with every year we did find a brave handful willing – and even excited – to go along with it.  

So on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the vans rolled out delivering various combinations of Diane Tribitt, Dave Stamey, Janice Gilbertson, Mike Beck, Dave Bourne, Jerry Brooks, Florida poet Doyle Rigdon and Louisiana zydeco masters Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie to serve up some kid-sized cowboy poetry and music around Elko, Wells, Carlin and even Eureka.  Twice on Wednesday, for the Cowkids Stampede, we packed 900 local kids into the Convention Center auditorium to see Riders In The Sky.  And today Corb Lund performed and talked music with the band and choral students at Elko High School.

On Tuesday I got a break from intern duty and snuck over to Elko Grammar School #2 to check out some of the fun.  I pulled up, parked, followed the sounds of accordion and rubboard into the gym and caught Geno and the guys rockin’, and our Zydeco Dance Workshop instructors boogyin’, before a bunch of grade-schoolers, seated cross-legged on the floor.   

 But the real fun started when Geno took questions.  Things like “Are you famous?” and “Have you ever played music in Missouri?” and the two-parter “Do you have your own CD? ‘Cause I wanna buy it.”  

Obedient audience members.

Then one boy stood up and asked, “So why didn’t you teach US how to dance?” Some kids laughed, and some teachers frowned in the boy’s general direction.  Geno paused.  He glanced at his band, turned back to the mic and said, “Tell you what I’m gonna do.  Everybody stand up.  I want you to take two steps to the left, now two steps to the right.  Good.  That’s the two-step.  Alright, let’s go!”

With that, upper-octave cheers filled the room, and the gymful of kids made that simplified two-step last almost all the way through “Move It On Over” before the whole room erupted into an all-out freestyle dance-party.  During the next few songs the chaos included conga lines, spinning kid circles, a mohawked would-be breakdancer, and just about every student – and more than a few teachers – flailing their limbs about, running around, pitching their cowboy hats in the air and expending their post-lunch sugar high to the lively sounds of zydeco right here in Elko. 

Whirling kid-circles and would-be breakdancing.

Conga line kids.




Overall, I thought it was an appropriate answer to a fair question.   

Seeing all this, I realized I still remember the assemblies I saw as a kid, and these kids probably will remember this one for a long time.  It’s an important side of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and one most folks never see.  I’m glad that on Tuesday afternoon, thanks to my job, I got to.   

 I just wish I’d arrived in time to hear Diane Tribitt’s response to the question “What’s manure?”   

— Devon the Intern

The Gathering Press Corps

Each year thousands of diverse people descend on Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Amongst the talented performers, the excited audience members and the frantic volunteers are a chosen few members of the nation’s and the world’s press corps — all in town to capture the unique stories that are part of this annual event. 

Hidden away in an upstairs room at the Convention Center — pseudo-sister’s Darcy and Lora Minter (no we’re not related — just one of those weird coincidences) — work with newspaper and magazine journalists, film makers, radio show hosts, television crews and photographers who come to town in search of hidden insights into cowboy poets and musicians.

Our job is to overview for reporters all the opportunities the Gathering brings for education, entertainment and collaboration. We arrange interviews, provide background information, guide reporters to unique stories and solve a lot of problems behind the scenes. That job takes us to some interesting places. We might huddle on top of the Western Folklife Center in the snow while a photographer aims a long lens off the roof. We might track down a sound man for an odd metal fitting to connect a National Public Radio reporter into a sound board. We might carry a camera for a NBC crew. The job is varied, sometimes stressful and ALWAYS interesting! Along the way we encounter some great people who are deeply interested in learning about Western life and who wonder about the future of the culture in a rapidly changing, modern world.

Often the working journalists that hail from big cities arrive with preconceptions about small town citizens and rural inconveniences. The majority leave at the end of a hectic several days, amazed at what they have heard and seen, exhausted from way-too-late nights and many early mornings, and more knowledgeable of a lifestyle they’ve come to respect. Almost always they remark on how friendly everyone was. The Gathering provides an opportunity to educate the world about cowboy culture, the West, and a little town called Elko — all through the stories these working professionals release out into the wide world. We’re happy to be a small part of spreading the word. We couldn’t do it without our media guests who come to learn — or the wonderful local newspaper, television and radio reporters who share their stories with all of us.

Darcy Minter and Lora Minter (from the press office)

New Hats in Elko

Hi, I’m Devon the intern.

I’m not from around here.  You might not guess it from my Taft-esque moustache and brass Wild Turkey belt buckle, but if you ask me, sure, I’ll admit it: I’m from California. San Francisco even. I’m no gold miner, buckaroo or anything close to a cowboy poet. But I am a fan of interesting slices of American culture and a pretty adaptable dude. Maybe that’s why I finished college, packed up and moved to Elko, Nevada for an AmeriCorps internship with the Western Folklife Center.

I’ve only been here since August, and I’ve never even been to a Gathering, but – from the WFC to the NCPG, the poetry to the music, my coworkers to the townsfolk, and the nearby ghost towns to the all-night local karaoke dives – this place has made me into something of an Elkoholic.

I’m here thanks to the gov’ment. When the economy went south, Nevada’s Great Basin Institute harnessed some AmeriCorps coin, teamed up with the WFC and rescued me from a post-graduate life of Segway tour guiding and Awful-Awful gobbling in Reno.

Dudein' it up, intern style.

Since arriving, I’ve tried on quite a few new hats. Working mostly alongside Meg and Tamara on our programming, I’ve had tasks as diverse as working on contracts and grants, organizing an Energy Symposium, selecting photos for the NCPG program book and packing saddles (well, to be shipped).  Whatever needs to be done, really.

It’s been nice acquiring new real-jobbish-type skills, as well as being around people who like to work good, long and hard every day of the week. Consequently, it’s also been nice having a bar downstairs.

Best of all so far, though, has been all the great people I’ve met here. Or at least talked to on the phone. With many of the artists, I expect no shortage of shaking hands and hearing “Ohhh! So YOU’RE that guy!” And now, after reading this, I guess you can do that, too.

For the Gathering, when it comes to education, I’m your man. If you’ve received an email about a workshop you’re attending, probably one with – to Tamara’s chagrin – a handful of exclamation points and lame jokes, it probably had my name at the bottom. And if you’re a local student yodeling with Riders in the Sky at the Cowkids Stampede or discussing songwriting with Corb Lund in your school’s band room next week, I’ll be the scrawny moustachioed dude running around making sure everything works.

In fact, I’ll probably be that dude all over town this Gathering. So if you see me, feel free to flag me down and remind me that I’m the intern and make me do something for you. Or to say hello and sneak me a quick nip of Wild Turkey. You know, whatever you prefer.

Either way, I’ll see you at the Gathering – my first, as I already can tell, of many.

— Devon Blunden, The Intern aka Programs Assistant aka AmeriCorps/GBI Volunteer

Moooving Day in Elko

Every year we send a fair share of merchandise, workshop supplies and other items over to our outpost at the Elko Convention Center, but this may be the first time we’ve shipped livestock.

Mooove it on over!

Well, OK, she isn’t “live,” but she is a full-size genuine Cracker Cow, and she came to us all the way from Florida.

A beautiful artifact in our featured exhibit, Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition — produced by the Florida Folklife Program, Florida Department of State, and Florida Cultural Resources — there just wasn’t a good place for her in the Wiegand Gallery, so we put her in the cozy Fireplace Nook… right next to the leather furniture.

Although we’ll miss her staring at us from across the room and startling all who enter the bar, we think she’ll enjoy her new job greeting guests at the Convention Center.

We just hope that all this moooving around won’t make this cow a “mad” one…

Caution! Mad Cow

Har Har,

Devon the Intern

Moving Day in Elko

Boxes in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop

Today is “Moving Day” as the City of Elko assists the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop with moving to the Elko Convention Center as we start setting up our second Gift Shop, full of good things. Last week, there were boxes everywhere, so that is our first photo, although the pile has shrunk considerably. I was lucky enough to get a shot of the first truck as it pulled out from the alley today on its way to the Convention Center. We have an occasional snowflake drifting by this morning so the boxes are covered with blue tarps.

City of Elko truck on its way to the Elko Convention Center

City of Eko truck on its way to the Elko Convention Center

And since I had the camera in hand: here are some of our wonderful Elko volunteers assisting with getting the beverage storeroom filled, so that we’ll have plenty of libations on hand for the Gathering.

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Volunteers

Krys Munzing, Web Content Coordinator
(and occasional very-non-professional photographer)