Youth Education at the Gathering

The information below is from the 2014 Gathering: there will be updates posted soon for the 2015 Gathering, January 26 through 31, 2015.

Hundreds of poets, storytellers and musicians have walked across the stages in the years we have produced the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. As always, the Western Folklife Center shares some of our favorite programs and artists for Elko County students. For the 2014 Gathering, we were especially pleased to have several new programs for teens, including classes on writing and reciting poetry and a special Teen Poetry & Music Slam. To register for these programs, parents and educators were instructed to 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. We'll be posting information about the 2015 programs as it becomes available. Questions about the teen programs should be directed to Amy Mills at 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. This year, the program includes a tour of the Western Folklife Center exhibition Expressing the Rural West – Into the Future!, featuring beautiful artwork made by 20- and 30-something artists from around the West. Students will also get to try a hands-on leather-stamping activity, find out how cowboys live, learn to tie a cowboy scarf (and take it home!), and have a glass of sarsaparilla in the Pioneer Saloon. for the 30th Gathering, the Youth Festival was held at the Western Folklife Center from January 21-23, 2014. Each group participated in an 80-minute session. The youth festival is appropriate for grades 3 and 4. Read a blog posting about this event! Cost: $2 per student.
Student Art Show
From January until April, artwork from students around Elko County will be displayed in the Western Folklife Center’s G Three Bar Theater. Art teachers and instructors are encouraged to work with students to create work for this Student Art Show. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Nevada becoming a state, this year’s suggested art theme is Home Means Nevada. 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. Artwork will be on display from Tuesday, January 21, 2014 through Saturday, April 12, 2014.A reception will be held for artists, parents, friends and the public on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, from 4:30–6:30 pm. Due to space limitations, a maximum of 25 pieces from each school will be accepted for exhibition.
Student Art, photo by Charlie Ekburg

Writing about Nevada NEW for 2014!
Looking for young writers! Students were invited to compose a short poem or prose piece with the theme, “Nevada Is…”. Works were instructed to be no longer than 1-5 sentences. The top 20 were be displayed during the Gathering. All grades K-12 were encouraged and welcomed to enter a piece (a great class project to celebrate our state’s 150th anniversary)/. There was no cost for participation. May not be available in 2015.

School assembly, photo by Charlie Ekburg On-Site Assemblies
Early in the week of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, cowboy artists will 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. The dates for on-site assemblies will be provided when available for the next Gathering. Anticipated but not confirmed costt: $300 for one assembly, $450 for two assemblies (by same performers at the same school).

For January 2014, there were two assembly options:

Nevada cowboy poet
Carolyn Dufurrena

Texas yodeling musician  
Kristyn Harris
     or     Nevada singer/songwriter
Richard Elloyan

Canadian cowboy poet
Doris Daley

Cow Kids’ Stampede
We always offer great bands for thes Cow Kids’ Stampede! There are two options to choose from, a morning show and an early afternoon show. Both 45-minute shows take place at the Elko Convention Center Auditorium on Wednesday of Gathering week. The show is appropriate for students in all grades. 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 folks are encouraged to perform original poetry, classic recitations, western music and dance. The event is typically held 6:15–7:30 pm on Thursday of Gathering week, in the Elko Convention Center’s Turquoise Room and hosted by Deb Howard and Valerie Aguirre-Alt. This event is free to both participants and audience. Session registration begins at 5:45 pm on the day of performances. Please encourage your students to participate!
Young Poet in 2009, photo by Tamara Kubacki
2013 Poetry Slam, photo by Charlie Ekburg Teen Poetry & Music Slam
Calling all teens interested in presenting poetry, spoken word, short prose and songs in a fun and friendly environment! We kicked off the 2014 Gathering by inviting a next generation of poets and performers onstage one evening at the Western Folklife Center, in a fun, free opportunity to share original work, present classic poetry, and meet master poets in a friendly environment. This was our 2nd year; and again was so fun we will probably be carrying it forward! Material could be original, classic, or cowboy, all limited to 5-8 minutes. Interested teens were welcome to take the free poetry recitation class, From Page to Stage, listed below.

Poetry Writing for Teens NEW FOR 2014!
Word wrangler and poet Paul Zarzyski shared his passion for the written word with teens with a deep-seated interest in writing. Students received heart-to-pen guidance on finding inspiration and expressing passion on the page. We asked high school teachers–please help us identify serious students interested in this intensive workshop with a master poet. The workshop was Tuesday, January 28 at 9:30 am–12:00 pm. Appropriate for grades 9-12, participation was free. May not be available in 2015.

From Page to Stage NEW FOR 2014!
In this poetry recitation class, cowboy poets and reciters Randy Rieman and Joel Nelson showed how they breathe life into the written word–and thrill audiences while doing it. In an intense, fun and hands-on coaching session for interested teens learned to present poetry from masters of the craft. High school teachers – we appreciated your help identifying and encouraging students who have a passion for the spoken word. The workshop was the morning and early afternoon of Wednesday, January 29, 2014. Appropriate for grades 9-12, participation is free. May not be available in 2015.

We thank Barrick Gold Strike Mines, Inc., Bretzlaff Foundation, Newmont Mining, Reno Rodeo Charitable Foundation, Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, 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.

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See photos from prior Gatherings in our Photo Gallery.

Watch Gathering Moments on Film, short and casual "guerrilla" videos from prior Gatherings.

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1864 - 2014