This month, the Western Folklife Center announced its lineup for the 36th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 27-February 1, 2020. It’s going to be a fun one!
Every year, Western Folklife focuses on a theme within the ranching community. Years past have often centered on geographic regions, like the vaqueros of the Baja or the Great Basin, or the butteri of Italy. This year, black cowboys are in the limelight.
From the Mississippi Delta bayou to Buckaroo country, Oklahoma rodeo grounds to the streets of Oakland and Los Angeles, people participate in and identify with cowboy and horseback communities around the country.
This year we will feature individuals from these communities to explore and celebrate the sometimes underappreciated historic and contemporary contributions of Black cowboys, write the folks at Western Folklife.
I’m a big fan of the NCPG and my enthusiasm got an uptick with the news of this year’s poster artist, Marion Coleman. This talented, self-taught textile artist designed scores of meaningful, beautiful tapestries or quilts. (Did I mentioned I’m a quilter and quilting fan?) She told stories with her work, which often ran in series, like her Blacks in the West series, of which the NCPG poster borrows “Trail Blazers.”
Before her death earlier this year, Coleman received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Regarding stage acts, I was thrilled to see some of my favorite performers back in the saddle in Elko. They include Forrest Van Tuyl, performing as An American Forrest, poets Paul Zarzyski, Joel Nelson, and Randy Rieman, musicians Mike Beck, Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans, and Wylie and the Wild West.
It will be tempting to get there early to take in a workshop. I loved my Cowboy Comics and Hat Making workshops of years past. Should I enroll in a four-day rawhide braiding class or a Western jewelry workshop?
In addition, this year’s keynote address will feature a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts at Cayuse Communications: “…Speakers will explore the value and growing relevance of horses in contemporary society and how we might regain the important connection horses once represented between rural and urban communities.” Hooray!
If you’re even the slightest bit interested here are two tips:
- Become a Western Folklife member – this will give you benefits and privileges at the Gathering.
- Plan early – workshops and ticketed shows fill up quickly.