26th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Presents Cowboys from Southeast
Florida and Louisiana cowboys to share unique occupational traditions
with western counterparts
Elko, Nevada - Few would argue that the cowboy is the iconic image of the American West. Yet, Florida cattle ranching is a far older tradition, beginning in the 16th century when Ponce de Leon first introduced Spanish cattle to the area. And Florida continues to be one of the top three cattle-producing states east of the Mississippi. Most Florida cowboys are known as "Crackers," a moniker that both refers to the pioneer descendents of the state as well as to the sound of the cow whip he (or she) traditionally uses to help move cattle through the Florida terrain. Cowboys from the Seminole Tribe also figure prominently in Florida's cattle history and culture. In Louisiana the swamp or marsh cowboys like to brag that "anyone can herd cows on dry land."
These southeastern cowboys will join their western counterparts at the nation's largest annual celebration of cowboy culture—the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 23-30, 2010. For eight days the small community of Elko will overflow with thousands of cowboys and cowgirls, poets and musicians, artisans and scholars, rural and city people, all of whom share a love of the American West. Tickets to the 26th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering go on sale beginning at 9:00 am Pacific Time on September 8 to Western Folklife Center members and at 9:00 am Pacific Time on October 8 to the general public. Tickets can be purchased online at www.westernfolklife.org or by calling 888-880-5885.
"Exploring and sharing cowboy cultures from around the world has become a unique and important part of the Elko Gathering over its 26-year history," explains Charlie Seemann, executive director of the Western Folklife Center, the regional nonprofit that produces the event. "This year we are sticking closer to home and showcasing other American cowboy cultures that are often overlooked. Florida and Louisiana cowboys have adapted to their landscape with tools that are well-suited to their jobs, but are quite different from what the cowboys of the American West use."
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering—known simply as "Elko" to many, presents and preserves the traditional and contemporary arts created by cowboys, ranch people and all those who live close to the land in the American West, through poetry, music, stories, handcrafted gear, film, photography, food, discussions and more. Started in 1985 by a small group of folklorists and poets, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has become an annual ritual for thousands of people who value and practice the artistic traditions of the region, and are concerned about the present and future of the West. Hundreds of cowboy poetry gatherings have since taken hold across the West and the nation over the last 25 years, as the Elko Gathering has reinvigorated a tradition that never ceased to be a part of the lives of cowboys, ranchers and rural westerners. In 2000, the U.S. Senate recognized the cultural value of this tradition and the event responsible for its renaissance when it passed a resolution naming the Elko Gathering the "National" Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Poetry and music are the mainstays of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and this year, close to 90 poets and musicians from the U.S., Canada and Australia will perform on eight stages at five different venues. Highlights include 2009 National Heritage Fellowship recipient Joel Nelson, of Alpine, Texas, as well as previous National Heritage Fellows Glenn Ohrlin and Wallace McRae. The National Heritage Fellowship is awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts and is the nation's highest honor for excellence in the traditional arts. In addition, Elko will welcome eight new artists to its stages—including seven-year-old Cora Wood—and will welcome back perennial favorites like Baxter Black, Ian Tyson, Riders in the Sky, Wylie & The Wild West, Paul Zarzyski, Don Edwards, Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans and many more.
Additional highlights include:
Major sponsors of the Gathering include the Bretzlaff Foundation, City of Elko, Elko County Recreation Board, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Commission on Tourism, Nevada Humanities, Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs, the Hartman Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, Wells Fargo Bank, Zions Bank, and many more.
The mission of the Western Folklife Center is to enhance the vitality of American life through the experience, understanding, and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the American West.