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28th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering by Nika Nordbrock


PRESCOTT, AZ-Cowboy poetry was once again in Prescott as the 28th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona, on August 6, 7 and 8, 2015, continued the tradition of sharing the poetry and music with neighbors and friends. Poets, musicians, and audience certainly had a marvelous time during this fantastic weekend. The weather was dry and hot, but a shower late Friday afternoon was very welcomed. Ranchers always appreciate rain and a new calf. The storytelling tradition was depicted in the Gathering poster’s artwork Tall Tales by Steve Atkinson.

(Left to rt) Mary Abbott, Jan Flake, Rolf Flake and Tom Weathers

This year over 50 poets and musicians celebrated the twenty-eighth gathering with the multiple day sessions on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and three ticketed evening shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The evening shows were held in the Performing Arts Center at the Yavapai College Prescott Campus. The all-volunteer Gathering crew once again made it a seamless event for the public. One of the volunteers was 16 year old Ben Jensen who has been helping since he was five years old. The 40 plus volunteer were all great. The evening shows were terrific. The day sessions were outstanding with serious and humorous cowboy poetry and cowboy music. Despite road construction and some parking lot closures, the college venue still provided patrons with plenty of parking, convenient bathrooms, plenty of seating in the larger venues, two snack bars, air-conditioned rooms, and no hills to climb. All the sessions were well-attended.

The Ranch History Cameron Family

The Gathering received support from various community sponsors—hotels, restaurants, businesses, and individuals. As many know, without such sponsorship, gatherings around the West would not be able to continue sharing with audiences the lifestyle of those who earn their livelihood on horseback as working cowboys and in the livestock and ranching sectors.

Jay Snider and Mary Matli

The public part of the Gathering kicked off with the Thursday evening show which featured Don Edwards with host Sam DeLeeux. Sam kept the show moving with her poetic introductions to the performers and had the audience laughing for two hours. The show included the Rusty Pistols Cowboy Band, Slim McWilliams, Gary Kirkman, Joel Nelson, and Gary Robertson. The authentic and historic chuck wagons provided by Myron and Betsy Deibel and the plants from Ken and Lisa Lain, owners of Watters Garden Center, provided the stagesetting ambiance.

Friday morning the poets and singers participated in outreach programs at fourth grade classes in several elementary schools, at the Bob Stump Northern Arizona Veterans Hospital , and at the Arizona Pioneers Home. Friday also saw the poets celebrating Hannah Huston’s 18th birthday.

Amy Hale Auker, Kevin Davis and Doris Daley

At noon on Friday, the Gathering started with the opening program in the Yavapai College Performance Hall. After the posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, Joe Konkel, president of the Gathering, welcomed the audience to the Gathering and presented the Legacy Award to Gail Steiger, who is the Spider Ranch foreman, a cowboy, a songwriter, a film maker and a poet and who also serves as the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Western Folklike Center. The audience then enjoyed the video and powerpoint presentations on the Mongolian herding culture by Gail Steiger and Doug Tolleson.

After the Mongolian horsemen and musicians traveled to Elko in 2004, Gail went to Mongolia with the Western Folklife Center and filmed the

Sagebrush to Steepes video. Doug currently works for the V Bar V Ranch, the Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Arizona. He went on the Gobi Forage Project when working for Texas A&M Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management. The project was funded by USAID, Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program. Their research/development was two-fold: 1) collect data to produce landscape scale range condition maps and 2) introduce near infrared technology to improve rapid animal nutrition assessment. All of this was done by working with Mongolian scientists and students and by working with herder families out in the country side.

After the presentation, the patrons scattered to seven venues, where they could enjoy a variety of cowboy poetry, stories, and music.

Randy Huston, Jay Snider, Dale Page, Hannah Huston, Terry Nash and Gary Snider

Evening host Randy Huston kept the 7:00 pm Friday show at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center running smoothly and on time. Prescott’s own Belinda Gail headlined the show and was joined on stage by Doris Daley, Jordan Brambila, Jay Snider, and Kevin Davis. Fourth graders also recited their poems which they had written for the Gathering’s “Poetry in the Schools” program.

Saturday was another busy day with the eight concurrent day sessions from 9:00 am-5:00 pm at the Yavapai College Prescott Campus. During the day, folks took a break to stroll through the Prescott Farmers Market, enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant or the college’s snack bars, or listened to the sessions.

At 1:00 pm, Joe Konkel hosted the special ranch history session, which featured the Cameron Family who have Arizona roots and ranches back to 1876. The Gathering public also was able to attend sessions in seven venues. Several new faces at the Gathering were Doris Daley, the OK Chorale, Ashley Westcott, Jim Orr, Dale Page, Don Fernwalt, and Bill Jones . All day cowboy poetry fans were able to enjoy stories about ranch life, ranch women and men, green grass, life in the West, and Western history, both serious and humorous, with sessions of cowboy poetry, cowboy classics, and cowboy music.

On Saturday evening, 7:00 pm performance, which was hosted by Gail Steiger, headlined Trinity Seeley with Josiah Lindsey, Steve Lindsey, Duke Vance, Doug Figgs, and Mike Dunn. The Gail I. Gardner Award for a cowboy poet was presented to Mary Matli, who was born and raised on the Matli Ranch in Williamson Valley outside Prescott and who soon will give up her “town jobs” to work for the Diamond A Ranch outside Seligman, Arizona.

Saturday night was soon at a close and patrons, poets, host families, and sponsors parted once again. The crew of volunteers quickly dismantled the Cowboy Mercantile, the Green Room, and the stage. Soon the cowboy poet family, new and old “tribe” members, left each other with hugs and waves, and the words “See you next year” drifted across the Arizona night air.

If you missed the Gathering, you can still purchase the commemorative poster, programs, coins, bolos, and other Gathering merchandise. Contact the Gathering at

Remember to mark your calendars and check the website for August 11, 12, and 13, 2016, and the 29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona. It’s one gathering that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to bookmark as one of your favorite sites and “like” the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook.




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