Preparing to Celebrate 25 Years

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 Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Prepares to Celebrate 25 Years

Western Folklife Center Hosts Silver Anniversary Launch Party
in Las Vegas, May 31

Elko – The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – Nevada’s quintessential event honoring the western cowboy – is turning 25 in 2009. The celebration begins May 31 in Las Vegas, as friends of the Western Folklife Center and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering come together to support this milestone and to participate in a special performance from cowboy poets Bob Nix and Paul Zarzyski, and western swing band Wylie and the Wild West. The event begins at 6:00 pm with cocktails; a buffet dinner will be served at 7:00 pm and the entertainment begins at 8:00 pm.

The purpose of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – known simply as "Elko" to many – is to present and preserve 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 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.

The Silver Anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will take place January 24 to 31, 2009. Tickets go on sale to members September 2 and to the general public on October 2. It will be a very special reunion of hundreds of poets and musicians who have performed at the Gathering over the last quarter century. The Gathering will look at 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. In addition to dozens of performances, 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, richness and authenticity of this one-of-a-kind celebration.

The 25th Gathering will feature performances by 51 poets and 20 musicians and musical groups, including Nevada's Waddie Mitchell, one of the founders of the Gathering; Baxter Black, nationally syndicated columnist and National Public Radio commentator; Grammy award-winning western quartet Riders in the Sky; and Canadian songwriting legend Ian Tyson. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona, will deliver the keynote speech. O'Conner, 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 range, and how the land, people, and values she learned shaped her life and made her into the self-reliant woman she is today. For more information about the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, please refer to the Western Folklife Center website at Major sponsors of the Gathering include the Bretzlaff Foundation, City of Elko, Elko County Recreation Board, Ford Foundation, International Game Technology, National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Commission on Tourism, Nevada Humanities, Nevada Arts Council, Wallace Foundation, 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.