If you’re able to attend the famed National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, it will soon start to make sense why True West has named Elko as one of the Top Ten True Western Towns of 2015. With buckaroo flat hats lining the sidewalks of the genuine western storefronts peppering the downtown, you never know which decorated western performer you’ll rub elbows with next.
Held as annual celebration each January, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a celebration was of the ranching and rural West. After starting in 1985 by several Nevada folklorists, Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has continued for a whopping 31 years. Only featuring 40 poets with a 1,000-person audience in its inaugural year, the event has grown to nearly 30 performers with over thousands in attendance!
The unique art form known as Cowboy Poetry sprung to life after being recited after a laborious day on the ranch or around a campfire to pass the time on those long cattle drives. After a day of work, cowboys would gather around a campfire to entertain one another with sensationalized tall tales and folk songs, often combining the two. Considering illiteracy was common, poetic forms were often used so the authors could recite them at another time. Cowboy Poets typically recite poems or songs around ranch or western lifestyle, the American West and its landscapes, cowboy values and practices, funny anecdotes, sarcasm or memories.
Through poetry, music, and stories, some tried and true westerners capture the beauty and challenges of a life deeply connected to the land and its bounty. Every year, thousands travel to Elko in the heart of winter to listen, learn and share. It’s been referred to as the most honest, and open-hearted festival in America, but it’s also a downright good time.
At the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, you can discover cowboy cultures from around the world, learn a traditional skill, immerse yourself in interactive workshops like Silversmithing or Waltz and Two-Step Basics, plan for the West’s future with ranchers and conservationists, or watch homemade films recounting day-to-day rural life. You will even have the opportunity to make new friends over a Buckaroo Brew, enjoy an unforgettable Basque meal, listen to tall tales, dispel myths, build bridges and be inspired.
If there is a heartfelt western event as genuine as it can get, it’s most certainly Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find a way to get here, trust us on this one.
Things You Can Typically Expect To See and Do
Live Performances By Famed Cowboy Poets Including Waddie Mitchell, Baxter Black and Sourdough Slim
Young Buc Open Mic Session
Hands-On Workshops Including Silversmithing, Waltz and Two-Step Basics, Learn to Yodel, Pulled-Wool Saddle Blankets
Rodeo Swing, Midnight Dance