Elko's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Celebrates 25 Years

Contact: Darcy Minter, 775.340.4240
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Elko's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Celebrates 25 Years
Silver Anniversary Will Reunite Artists From a Quarter Century of Gatherings in Elko

Elko - The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering - America's quintessential event honoring the western cowboy - is turning 25 in 2009. From January 24 to 31, the small community of Elko, Nevada, will overflow with thousands of cowboys and cowgirls, poets and musicians, artisans and scholars, rural people and city folks - all of whom share a love of the American West - for a grand celebration of the region's ranching and rural culture. Tickets to the Silver Anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering go on sale September 2 to Western Folklife Center members and on October 2 to the general public.

This Silver Anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will be a very special reunion of hundreds of poets, musicans and gearmakers who have participated in the Gathering over the last quarter century. The event will look back at how 25 years of cowboy poetry and music performances in Elko have shaped ranchers, cowboys and the traditions themselves, and will look ahead to the next quarter century of Gatherings by presenting young artists, the future of these traditions. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona, will deliver the 2009 keynote speech. O'Connor, the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, wrote a book with her brother, Alan H. Day, titled Lazy B: Growing Up On a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest. In it, she describes her early life and experiences on the ranch and how the land, people, and values she learned shaped her life and made her into the self-reliant woman she is today.

The 25th Gathering will feature dozens of performances on six simultaneous stages by 53 poets and 24 musicans and musical groups, including 15 individuals who participated in the very first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985. Among the artists performing in 2009 are Grammy award-winning western quartet Riders In The Sky, Canadian songwriting legend Ian Tyson, nationally syndicated columnist and National Public Radio commentator Baxter Black, the Polish hobo rodeo poet Paul Zarzyski, National Heritage Fellows Glenn Ohrlin and Wally McRae, and many more. A full list of artists is attached.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering also features exhibits of western art and gear; hands-on workshops in writing, gearmaking, cooking and more; films about the West; lectures by prominent speakers; panel discussions of issues facing the rural West; ranch dances; and late-night jam sessions. All these events contribute to the depth and richness of this one-of-a-kind celebration. Highlights of the 25th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering include:

A Ride With Bob, a Musical Drama about the Life of Bob Wills
A Ride With Bob is the first-ever play about the life and music of western swing legend Bob Wills of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys. This musical was written by and stars Ray Benson of the internationally acclaimed and Asleep at The Wheel, and features other Poetry Gathering favorites such as the Quebe Sisters and Jill Jones. A Ride With Bob is performed by 25 actors and musicians on a colorful theatrical set. It includes the live performances of 15 of Wills' most well-known songs in a plot that interweaves Ray Benson's present day with various stages in Wills' storied career. For more information, visit www.aridewithbob.com

Between Grass & Sky: Trappings of a Ranch Life
In celebration of the 25th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Western Folklife Center and the Nevada Museum of Art have partnered to develop a joint exhibition entitled Between Grass & Sky. The Western Folklife Center's exhibition, Between Grass & Sky: Trappings of a Ranch Life, brings together the work of some of the region's finest contemporary gearmakers, poets and artists to illustrate the connection between artistry and our sense of place in the West. Much of the gear on display will also be for sale. The Nevada Museum of Art exhibition, Between Grass & Sky: Rhythms of a Cowboy Poem, features a selection of historic and contemporary paintings, photographs and sculptural works combined with the spoken voices of renowned cowboy poets, to offer insight into the varied experiences arising from life in rural and ranching communities.

Workshops: Cooking, Writing, Gearmaking, Music, Discussions, Dance and More
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering features more than a dozen workshops for youth and adults including cooking, gearmaking, contemporary ranch issues, writing, horsemanship, poetry, music, dance, family history, ranch tours and more. We offer these hands-on sessions to provide a richer and deeper experience for those that make the trip to Elko. The workshops are excellent opportunities to be taught new skills, meet master artists and performers, and explore meaningful and interesting topics.

Cowboy Poetry Reunion Performances and Reception
For the 25th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Western Folklife Center will honor all the performers of the last quarter century by hosting reunion performances where any of these artists can perform a verse or a song throughout the Gathering. In addition, past and present Gathering poets and musicians will have a chance to reconnect with each other at a reunion reception for them and their families.

Produced by the Western Folklife Center, 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 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 24 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 passed a resolution naming the Elko Gathering the "National" Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

For more information about the National Cowboy Poetry Gatheirng, please refer to the enclosed brochure or visit our website at www.westernfolklife.org. If you are interested in applying for press credentials, complete the enclosed Media Credential Application Form and send it to Darcy Minter, Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad Street, Elko, NV 89801 or fax it to 775-738-2900 or 435-654-7493. You may also complete and submit the form online through our website. Just click on "Press" in the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Section of our website. If you have questions or need more information, please contact Darcy Minter at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 775-340-4240.

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, Nevad Arts Council, Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs, the Hartman Foundation, 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.