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A Rhyme and Verse of Americana

If you've ever wondered what the word “cowboy” actually means, just ask Ken Gardner. Ken visited the Nevada Commission on Tourism to speak to the staff about the upcoming Genoa Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, and I had the pleasure of listening to him as he explained the history behind the word. In his soft, weathered voice, he talked about how it was once hyphenated and defined a boy who worked with cattle but is now one word that is commonly used to describe a man dressed in Levi's and a Stetson. Cattle and horses are optional. He went on to explain that there's a difference between real cowboys and city slickers who raided Sheplers on their way to a George Strait concert or cowboy poetry event. The giveaway is how they wear their hats. If the hat is on backward, you've got an impostor.

Ken Gardner

Ken recited a few poems to us, and although not technically a cowboy – he is a retired doctor – he was quite good at cowboy poetry. One of my favorite lines was when he told us about a visit to Death Valley National Park to see the wildflowers. If my memory serves, Grandma had to use the privy, and while doing her business, the Sani-Hut was hauled away with her in it! She tried to escape the inevitable slosh of sewage, but Ken explained, “Grandma was known for comfort, not speed.” You can fill in the rest of that story. As everyone chuckled, it became apparent that cowboy poetry is simply Americana at its best – storytelling about life's experiences and the trials and tribulations we all face whether working with cattle on the range or colleagues in a brick building.

If you missed the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering held this past January, or if you're hankering for more, the Genoa Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival will have your toes tapping this May. Although still in its infancy, the lineup of performers for the second annual event scheduled for May 5-8, 2011, is masterful. Ken Gardner is on the playbill along with Sourdough Slim, Tony Argento, Doris Daley, and Paul Zarzyski. As the event name implies, the poetry will be met with a western swing to the sounds of David John and the Comstock Cowboys, Saddle Cats, Old West Trio, and Cody & Kaye.

In addition to the poetry and music, a major element of the festival is western art. There will be several art galleries featuring paintings, photography, and craft work reflecting western heritage. New for the 2011 event is a mercantile tent where you’ll find western artisans, jewelers, and western tack, along with apparel, all just steps from the performance venues.

And of course, the festival wouldn't be complete without good eats. The dinner Thursday night will stay true to traditional cowboy dinners but in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, there will be just a touch of “South of the Border” flair. Cowboy dinners are also planned for Friday and Saturday nights and a special Mother's Day brunch is on the menu Sunday, starting at 11 a.m.

With all the activities, entertainment, hearty fare, not to mention the scenic beauty of Genoa, make it a perfect long weekend getaway. Stay at a romantic bed and breakfast in Genoa, in the thick of all the activity, or make reservations at the host hotels of the Carson Valley Inn and Holiday Inn Express in the Carson Valley.

Ken Gardner will be on stage in the Mormon Station Stockade Tent Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 1 p.m., and Saturday at 1 p.m. If you catch one of his performances, let me know if he tells the story of Grandma and the Sani Hut!

Click here for tickets, performance schedules, event details, and more.

  • Posted by Nicole Purviance on February 28th, 2011