Youth Education at the Gathering

Each year around National Cowboy Poetry Gathering time, students from northeastern Nevada are immersed in the music, poetry, stories and cultures of the cowboy West. Over 7,200 young people from kindergarten through high school experience cowboy poetry, hear excellent western music, learn about gearmaking traditions, and share their own creative work focused on life in the rural West. Parents and Educators, to register for school programs, please contact Jan Petersen by phone at 775-738-5668 (evenings please).

Youth Education programs are popular features of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and space is always limited, so make your reservations as early as possible. Questions about the teen programs should be directed to Katie Aiken, Western Folklife Center Programs Manager at 775-738-7508 ext. 223 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Youth festival exhibition tour, photo by Charlie Ekburg Western Folklife Center Youth Festival
Each year, students are invited to visit the Western Folklife Center to learn about cowboy life, be the first visitors to our latest exhibit, and have some hands-on educational fun. 

In 2015, the program included a tour of the Western Folklife Center exhibition, The Life and Legacy of Ranching in Baja California Sur,which shared the artwork, cowboy gear and culture of vaqueros from Baja California Sur in Mexico. Students also enjoyed a hands-on leather-stamping activity, found out how cowboys live, received and learned to tie a cowboy scarf, and had a glass of sarsaparilla in the Pioneer Saloon.

For the 32nd Gathering, the Youth Festival will be held at the Western Folklife Center from January 19-21, 2016. Each group will participate in an 80-minute session.

The youth festival is appropriate for grades 3 and 4. Read a blog posting about this event! Anticipated Cost: $2 per student.

Student Art Show
From January until April, artwork from students around Elko County wis displayed in the Western Folklife Center’s G Three Bar Theater. The elevator lobby features photographic works from high school students.

Student Art, photo by Charlie Ekburg

Art teachers and instructors are encouraged to work with students to create work for this Student Art Show. In honor of our cultural exchange guests from the mountains of southern Baja California, the suggested theme of the exhibition was Buckaroos and Vaqueros.

All grades are welcome to enter artwork; there is no cost for participation. A call for exhibit-ready artwork will go out through the Elko County schools, and exhibit-ready artwork should be delivered to the Western Folklife Center no later than the second Friday of January or a published date. Artwork will be on display until a scheduled date in April. A reception will be held for artists, parents, friends and the public, on a date to be announced in March, during the hours of 4:30-6:30pm. Due to space limitations, a maximum of 25 pieces from each school will be accepted for exhibition.

School assembly, photo by Charlie Ekburg On-Site Assemblies
Early in the week of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, cowboy artists travel to schools throughout Elko County, to entertain and educate students about cowboy poetry and traditional music.
These programs are excellent for all grade levels. Performance times are flexible and established at booking on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on school locations. Dates for on-site assemblies will be announced when available for the next Gathering. Anticipated but unconfirmed cost at this time: $300 for one assembly, $500 for two assemblies (by same performers at the same school).

In 2015, there was a choice between two assembly options: Vaqueros and musicians from Baja California Sur in Mexico, or a show featuring Sourdough Slim, Robert Armstrong and Australian bush poet Carol Heuchan.

Cow Kids’ Stampede
We always offer great bands for the Cow Kids’ Stampede held at the Elko Convention Center Auditorium! On the selected date, there may be up to two 45-minute show options to choose from, a morning show at 10:00 am and an early afternoon show at 12:30 pm. The 2015 program featured Montana musical group Wylie & The Wild West, always a  delight with original songs about the West, songs to get you dancing, and marathon yodeling.The show is appropriate for students in all grades. Anticipated Cost: $2 per student.

Young Buckaroo Open Mic & Talent Showcase
This is an opportunity for students 18 and under to share their creativity with the public, in a safe and welcoming atmosphere. It’s a highlight for our Gathering audiences, too! 
Young Poet in 2009, photo by Tamara Kubacki
Young folks are encouraged to perform original poetry, classic recitations, western music and dance. The event is typically held during the Gathering on Thursday from 6:15–7:30 pm, in the Elko Convention Center’s Turquoise Room. It is hosted by Deb Howard and Valerie Aguirre-Alt. This event is free to both participants and audience. Session registration begins at 5:45 pm. Please encourage your students to participate!

2013 Poetry Slam, photo by Charlie Ekburg Teen Poetry & Music Slam during the 32nd Gathering!
On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, we have scheduled a Teen Poetry and Music Slam. An invitation will go out, calling all teens interested in presenting poetry, spoken word, short prose and songs to a fun and friendly environment! 
This is a fun, free opportunity to share original work, present classic poetry, and meet master poets in a friendly environment. At this time the signup schedule has not been determined; however, signups typically begin at 4:00 pm in the Western Folklife Center lobby. Material can be original, classic, or cowboy. Presentations are limited to 5-8 minutes. 

From Page to Stage during the 32nd Gathering
Watch this space for information about more poetry opportunities during the Gathering. Interested teens should be prepared for an intense, fun and hands-on coaching session as they learn to present poetry from masters of the craft. Appropriate for grades 9-12, participation is free. 

We thank Barrick Gold of North America, Inc., Bretzlaff Foundation, Newmont Mining, Reno Rodeo Charitable Foundation, Nevada Arts Council, NV Energy, National Endowment for the Arts, Wrangler, and the many other businesses, organizations and individual donors for their generous support of the Western Folklife Center’s Youth Education Stakeholder Program.

Our student education programs cost the Western Folklife Center between $8 - $12 per child. We are able to underwrite these programs to keep costs affordable through the support of federal, state, business, foundation, and individual sources. Please consider sending letters to your legislators expressing the importance of these invaluable programs.