Learning to Jitterbug in Elko

Learning to Jitterbug in Elko

by Krys Munzing

I grabbed a camera and stopped by Let's Dance! at the Western Folklife Center on April 27 to check out the night's Jitterbug lesson: a very relaxed and really complete class with returning students and newbies interested in learning the dance. Instructors for the night were Ali Helmig and Stefan Goehring, and they had it down to easy, show-n-tell steps that the dancers followed, including individual tips as the lesson progressed.

Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko--"Cowboy Poet"

Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko--"Cowboy Poet"

By Paul Zarzyski. Photos by Sue Rosoff.

“A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else can only be a footnote.”

In January 1995, the distinguished Russian poet, Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko honored us with his spirited, yet humble, presence at the eleventh annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, thanks in large part to a dear friend of the Gathering, poet-critic Scott Preston, who extended the invitation to Mr. Yevtushenko. My best recollection is that few of us knew much, if anything at all, about the Russian writer’s work or life.

Dreaming of Our Future

Dreaming of Our Future

By Kristin Windbigler, Vice Chairman,
Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees

Several trustees and staff members got together last year in Salt Lake City, Utah, to talk about our dreams for the Western Folklife Center. We asked ourselves what could this organization be in five years? How about 10? Who do we want to reach and what are our goals? In my role as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, I gave a short talk at the annual Stakeholders’ Breakfast at the recent National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to share our progress and plans for the future. We were thrilled by the enthusiastic feedback we received, and thought it would be a good idea to make this information available to the whole community. That’s because we hope you will want to get involved!

An Oak Tree and a Sea Change

An Oak Tree and a Sea Change

By Amy Hale Auker

Behind our barn, in the horse lot, is an oak tree. It is actually three oak trunks that rise from the same base creating a basin above the roots. When it rains or snows, the basin fills with water. It is a smart oak tree. 

The first year I went to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2002 I was amazed to see how many people were living lives similar to my very small wife-of-a-cowboy, remote-cow-camp existence, and yet they were writing poems and songs, creating art and crafts, bringing their lives from the ranches up onto the stage, sharing the work of growing food with a broad audience. 

Meet Wyoming Poet Maria Lisa Eastman

Meet Wyoming Poet Maria Lisa Eastman

by Darcy Minter

Every year, we look forward to welcoming new poets to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and this year is no exception. One of those poets is Maria Lisa Eastman, who ranches with her husband Skip in Hyattville, Wyoming, on the west side of the Big Horn Mountains. Maria and Skip have a wonderful tradition in their home. When they have dinner guests, they scatter poetry books around the table and ask people to browse through them and read a poem if they are inspired.

The Making of the Poem-Film, "Homesteaders, Poor and Dry"

The Making of the Poem-Film, "Homesteaders, Poor and Dry"

By Chris Simon

The Western Folklife Center has been working on a series of four poem-films that powerfully communicate contemporary rural issues, ideas and insight—particularly the subject of water in the West. Titled Moving Rural Verse, these films are produced in collaboration with respected Western poets and experienced video artists, and will premiere at the upcoming National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 30-February 4, in Elko. Filmmaker Chris Simon worked with poet Linda Hussa and Reno filmmaker Jerry Dugan to produce a film of Linda’s poem “Homesteaders, Poor and Dry.”

Good Optics on Idaho Street

Good Optics on Idaho Street

Deon & Trish Reynolds' “WestStops” Photography Exhibition at Western Folklife Center and Throughout Downtown Elko

By David Roche

Driving west down Idaho Street in Elko, Nevada, and entering the central district at 4th Street, the unsuspecting traveler is suddenly confronted with a grazing trio of horses languidly munching in a rustic corral. Not in the flesh, mind you. A large 7 by 17-foot black and white photo mural, plastered on the plywood siding of a boarded up building puts the driver into instant time warp. Further down the street, in an alley behind the Pioneer Hotel, a calf roping cowboy bears down with lariat flying. Out on 4th Street, a steam engine on the wall of the Western Folklife Center peeks out toward Railroad Avenue where the real trains once ran. What’s going on?

Real Stories. Straight Up.

Real Stories. Straight Up.

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Phillip Pullman

“Real Stories. Straight Up.” That’s the theme of the upcoming National Cowboy Poetry Gathering—our 33rd! As January turns to February, we will be gathered in Elko, sharing first-hand accounts, narratives passed down and around, and undoubtedly a yarn or two. The Gathering presents stories told in verse and melody and prose. To that mix, we are adding personal narratives, told by real people about real occurrences in their lives, in real time.

The View from the Western Folklife Center’s Wiegand Gallery

by Meg Glaser

Those familiar with the Western Folklife Center know that our small staff wear many hats, donning whatever is needed on any given day. As Artistic Director, one of my “hats” is exhibitions curator, envisioning our beautiful Wiegand Gallery as a multi-sensory entry into the American West and our organizational mission.

Some of my favorite exhibitions are those that bring together diverse types of arts -- folk art intermingled with contemporary paintings, photography, historical imagery, and increasingly, audio-visual installations.

Art "Placemaking" or Art "Placekeeping" in Downtown Elko?

By David Roche

When the Western Folklife Center was awarded an art “placemaking” grant from ArtPlace America in the fall of 2015, it initiated a creative process already stimulated by Elko’s own plan for redevelopment of the downtown corridor. Bordered by Commercial and Railroad streets between 3rd and 9th, this area was the heartbeat of old Elko. The railroad tracks once ran smack down the middle of town. And not only carrying freight and passengers from the West, the trains delivered entertainers to the Commercial Hotel and Stockmen’s—including, famously, a very chilled Xavier Cugat mambo orchestra one frosty winter night in the late 1940’s. Elko was the casino entertainment capital of Nevada for a time.

Cigar-Box Guitars and Haunted Windchimes

Cigar-Box Guitars and Haunted Windchimes

By Katie Aiken

In October, two musical groups join us at the Western Folklife Center. Both are influenced by American roots music. Both bring an ingenuity and innovation that keeps their sound fresh. And both celebrate the creativity and tradition of making music with family and friends. 

On Wednesday, October 26th at 7:00 pm, The Haunted Windchimes play at the G Three Bar Theater – just in time for Halloween. 

This upcoming Saturday, October 22nd, Muddy Boots & the Porch Pounders play the Pioneer Saloon at 7:00 pm. Before they take the stage that evening, Matt Downs (of Muddy Boots) hosts his second annual build-your-own cigar-box guitar workshop at the Western Folklife Center. Matt was kind enough to answer a few questions about the peculiar instrument he has chosen and how (and why) he became obsessed with the cigar-box guitar (from here on out, referred to as the CBG). Be warned: the conversation below is paraphrased… Matt talks fast when talking about his love for the CBG!

Trailing of the Sheep Festival 20 Years Later...

By Diane Josephy Peavey

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho, starts tomorrow, Wednesday, October 5, and runs through October 9. It is a festival that is celebrating its 20th year of preserving the stories and history of sheep ranchers and herders, celebrating the rich cultures of the past and present, and entertaining and educating children and adults about the production of local food and fiber that have sustained local economies for generations. Sheep rancher Diane Peavey and her husband John founded the festival in an effort to help newcomers to the area understand and appreciate its sheep-ranching history. We asked Diane to write a blog for us to share the story of this special festival. Enjoy!

Cow Camp in the Big Horn Mountains – An Ultimate Western Experience

Cow Camp in the Big Horn Mountains  – An Ultimate Western Experience

By Teresa Jordan

When Jesselie and Scott Anderson and Bob and Katharine Garth, longtime supporters of the Western Folklife Center, saw the Ultimate Western Experience packages offered in the silent auction during the last National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, they knew they wanted to go on at least one of them. They started bidding and in the end won two out of the four offerings. This past week they enjoyed their first adventure, at Stan and Mary Flitner’s White Creek cow camp in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. They invited my husband, WFC Founding Director Hal Cannon, and me to join them, and the six of us were treated to three days of stunning scenery and Wyoming’s best outback hospitality.

Storytelling and Telling Your Story

From Basque sheepherder tales, to ingenuous escapades of small-town business-owners, to the working lingo of gold mines, to adrenaline-pumping perils fighting wildfires, the Western Folklife Center knows there’s a wealth of lived experience around Elko. And beyond. We want to hear your story! Share the everyday stories of your loved ones (and maybe even your not-so-loved ones), through our collaborative project between the Western Folklife Center, StoryCorps.me, and… you!

Wine and Cowboy Poetry: the Perfect Pairing

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering artists are hitting the road again to bring you that special blend of poetry, music and storytelling that you love. This time, you can raise a glass of your favorite Napa chardonnay as you sit outside at the beautiful Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville, California, and enjoy a performance with Gail Steiger, Trinity Seely, Joel Nelson and the legendary Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The show is next Saturday, September 10, at 7:00 pm. Tickets are only $20 (plus a $5 fee) and are on sale now at the Lincoln Theater website.  For those of you unfamiliar with these acclaimed artists, here's the skinny.

It’s nearly time to get your tickets to the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Real Stories.  Straight Up.
If you are planning to attend the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we suggest you come prepared…with your favorite story! The event, January 30 to February 4, 2017, will be an extravaganza of stories, first-hand accounts told in verse, song, film, visual art, new media, and just plain ol’ prose. All around Elko you’ll experience today’s renaissance of storytelling--tales rich with lessons learned, risk-taking, humor, heroes, neighbors and family.

Welcome to our New Website

Welcome to our newly renovated website. Thanks to everyone who worked on its construction and to the funders who supported the work, we are better able to serve you, our members and supporters. We hope you like the results.

You’ll find the site more intuitive -  everything within a click or two away. One of the goals of this renovation is to make communication easier and more concise. You should be able to find what you’re looking for within a pull-down menu if not directly with a button on the cover page. A work in progress, we welcome your comments and recommendations for ongoing improvement.