From February 2-4, the 33rd annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Elko, NV) hosted over fifty poets and musicians, plus vendors and folklorists, and the works of dozens of traditional artists. The event celebrates the living heritage of working ranchers, cowboys, and cowgirls. Morning to night, songs and stories spilled out from the Elko Convention Center. Audiences browsed blankets, hats, and leather-tooled treasures at the Western Mercantile in the new Conference Center.
Included among the exhibit of traditional gearmakers at the Western Folklife Center were Oregon mecate braiders and leatherworkers.
Oregon Folklife Network Associate Director, Emily West Hartlerode worked the event as a stage manager and host. It is a little-known fact that the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was a collaboration of the Association of Western States Folklorists. Seeking a common tradition to highlight, this group of professional folklorists found cowboy poets in every corner of the west. Thirty-three years later, the Gathering is still staffed by folklore colleagues who journey to the Gathering and excitedly reunite to continue their own traditions, like meeting for dinner and a picon punch at “The Star” Basque restaurant to kick off the event.