Kid Rockin' Boogie

This year, as the de facto education sort-of coordinator guy, it was my job to call up a handful of artists and ask them how they’d feel about us tossing them in front of several hundred rambunctious school kids and telling them to be entertaining.  And, as with every year we did find a brave handful willing – and even excited – to go along with it.   So on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the vans rolled out delivering various combinations of Diane Tribitt, Dave Stamey, Janice Gilbertson, Mike Beck, Dave Bourne, Jerry Brooks, Florida poet Doyle Rigdon and Louisiana zydeco masters Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie to serve up some kid-sized cowboy poetry and music around Elko, Wells, Carlin and even Eureka.  Twice on Wednesday, for the Cowkids Stampede, we packed 900 local kids into the Convention Center auditorium to see Riders In The Sky.  And today Corb Lund performed and talked music with the band and choral students at Elko High School.

Kid Rockin' Boogie 1 (with Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie)

Kid Rockin' Boogie 1 (with Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie)

On Tuesday I got a break from intern duty and snuck over to Elko Grammar School #2 to check out some of the fun.  I pulled up, parked, followed the sounds of accordion and rubboard into the gym and caught Geno and the guys rockin’, and our Zydeco Dance Workshop instructors boogyin’, before a bunch of grade-schoolers, seated cross-legged on the floor.   

 But the real fun started when Geno took questions.  Things like “Are you famous?” and “Have you ever played music in Missouri?” and the two-parter “Do you have your own CD? ‘Cause I wanna buy it.”  

Kid Rockin' Boogie 2
Kid Rockin' Boogie 2

Then one boy stood up and asked, “So why didn’t you teach US how to dance?” Some kids laughed, and some teachers frowned in the boy’s general direction.  Geno paused.  He glanced at his band, turned back to the mic and said, “Tell you what I’m gonna do.  Everybody stand up.  I want you to take two steps to the left, now two steps to the right.  Good.  That’s the two-step.  Alright, let’s go!”

With that, upper-octave cheers filled the room, and the gymful of kids made that simplified two-step last almost all the way through “Move It On Over” before the whole room erupted into an all-out freestyle dance-party.  During the next few songs the chaos included conga lines, spinning kid circles, a mohawked would-be breakdancer, and just about every student – and more than a few teachers – flailing their limbs about, running around, pitching their cowboy hats in the air and expending their post-lunch sugar high to the lively sounds of zydeco right here in Elko. 

Kid Rockin' Boogie 4
Kid Rockin' Boogie 4
Kid Rockin' Boogie 3
Kid Rockin' Boogie 3


Overall, I thought it was an appropriate answer to a fair question.   

Seeing all this, I realized I still remember the assemblies I saw as a kid, and these kids probably will remember this one for a long time.  It’s an important side of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and one most folks never see.  I’m glad that on Tuesday afternoon, thanks to my job, I got to.   

 I just wish I’d arrived in time to hear Diane Tribitt’s response to the question “What’s manure?”   

-- Devon the Intern

The Gathering Press Corps

Lora Minter and Darcy Minter

Lora Minter and Darcy Minter

Each year thousands of diverse people descend on Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Amongst the talented performers, the excited audience members and the frantic volunteers are a chosen few members of the nation’s and the world’s press corps -- all in town to capture the unique stories that are part of this annual event.  Hidden away in an upstairs room at the Convention Center -- pseudo-sister’s Darcy and Lora Minter (no we’re not related -- just one of those weird coincidences) -- work with newspaper and magazine journalists, film makers, radio show hosts, television crews and photographers who come to town in search of hidden insights into cowboy poets and musicians.

Our job is to overview for reporters all the opportunities the Gathering brings for education, entertainment and collaboration. We arrange interviews, provide background information, guide reporters to unique stories and solve a lot of problems behind the scenes. That job takes us to some interesting places. We might huddle on top of the Western Folklife Center in the snow while a photographer aims a long lens off the roof. We might track down a sound man for an odd metal fitting to connect a National Public Radio reporter into a sound board. We might carry a camera for a NBC crew. The job is varied, sometimes stressful and ALWAYS interesting! Along the way we encounter some great people who are deeply interested in learning about Western life and who wonder about the future of the culture in a rapidly changing, modern world.

Often the working journalists that hail from big cities arrive with preconceptions about small town citizens and rural inconveniences. The majority leave at the end of a hectic several days, amazed at what they have heard and seen, exhausted from way-too-late nights and many early mornings, and more knowledgeable of a lifestyle they’ve come to respect. Almost always they remark on how friendly everyone was. The Gathering provides an opportunity to educate the world about cowboy culture, the West, and a little town called Elko -- all through the stories these working professionals release out into the wide world. We’re happy to be a small part of spreading the word. We couldn’t do it without our media guests who come to learn -- or the wonderful local newspaper, television and radio reporters who share their stories with all of us.

Darcy Minter and Lora Minter (from the press office)

New Hats in Elko

Hi, I’m Devon the intern. I’m not from around here.  You might not guess it from my Taft-esque moustache and brass Wild Turkey belt buckle, but if you ask me, sure, I’ll admit it: I’m from California. San Francisco even. I’m no gold miner, buckaroo or anything close to a cowboy poet. But I am a fan of interesting slices of American culture and a pretty adaptable dude. Maybe that’s why I finished college, packed up and moved to Elko, Nevada for an AmeriCorps internship with the Western Folklife Center.

I’ve only been here since August, and I’ve never even been to a Gathering, but – from the WFC to the NCPG, the poetry to the music, my coworkers to the townsfolk, and the nearby ghost towns to the all-night local karaoke dives – this place has made me into something of an Elkoholic.

I’m here thanks to the gov’ment. When the economy went south, Nevada’s Great Basin Institute harnessed some AmeriCorps coin, teamed up with the WFC and rescued me from a post-graduate life of Segway tour guiding and Awful-Awful gobbling in Reno.

Dudein' It Up
Dudein' It Up

Since arriving, I’ve tried on quite a few new hats. Working mostly alongside Meg and Tamara on our programming, I’ve had tasks as diverse as working on contracts and grants, organizing an Energy Symposium, selecting photos for the NCPG program book and packing saddles (well, to be shipped).  Whatever needs to be done, really.

It’s been nice acquiring new real-jobbish-type skills, as well as being around people who like to work good, long and hard every day of the week. Consequently, it’s also been nice having a bar downstairs.

Best of all so far, though, has been all the great people I’ve met here. Or at least talked to on the phone. With many of the artists, I expect no shortage of shaking hands and hearing “Ohhh! So YOU’RE that guy!” And now, after reading this, I guess you can do that, too.

For the Gathering, when it comes to education, I’m your man. If you’ve received an email about a workshop you’re attending, probably one with – to Tamara’s chagrin – a handful of exclamation points and lame jokes, it probably had my name at the bottom. And if you’re a local student yodeling with Riders in the Sky at the Cowkids Stampede or discussing songwriting with Corb Lund in your school’s band room next week, I’ll be the scrawny moustachioed dude running around making sure everything works.

In fact, I’ll probably be that dude all over town this Gathering. So if you see me, feel free to flag me down and remind me that I’m the intern and make me do something for you. Or to say hello and sneak me a quick nip of Wild Turkey. You know, whatever you prefer.

Either way, I’ll see you at the Gathering – my first, as I already can tell, of many.

-- Devon Blunden, The Intern aka Programs Assistant aka AmeriCorps/GBI Volunteer

Moooving Day in Elko

Every year we send a fair share of merchandise, workshop supplies and other items over to our outpost at the Elko Convention Center, but this may be the first time we've shipped livestock.

Mad Cow!
Mad Cow!

Well, OK, she isn't "live," but she is a full-size genuine Cracker Cow, and she came to us all the way from Florida.

A beautiful artifact in our featured exhibit, Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition -- produced by the Florida Folklife Program, Florida Department of State, and Florida Cultural Resources -- there just wasn't a good place for her in the Wiegand Gallery, so we put her in the cozy Fireplace Nook... right next to the leather furniture.

Although we'll miss her staring at us from across the room and startling all who enter the bar, we think she'll enjoy her new job greeting guests at the Convention Center.

We just hope that all this moooving around won't make this cow a "mad" one...

Mad Cow
Mad Cow

Har Har,

Devon the Intern

Cowboy Sing Along


For the second year we are inviting folks at the Elko Gathering to make a CD with us of memorable cowboy songs. You too can be part of an OK Choral singing along with Liz Masterson, R.W. Hampton, Dave Bourne, Andy Willkinson and Andy Hedges. We will record this Thursday session in the G3 Theater then go back to our cave and make the CD so we can deliver them to you on Saturday so you can sing-along on your long drive back home. So that's the idea.

Behind the scenes I've been collecting songs from these wonderful performers. They all have to be original songs or public domain songs so we don't get balled up in rights issues. Also, we can't tax the audience too much with unfamiliar and complex songs. Next step is to make a slide show of the words to the songs which will be projected on a screen during the singing so we can all sound like we did this on purpose.

I believe there are still tickets available if you've always had that secret wish to be cowboy singing star. We are all getting very excited to see all of you in Elko next week.

Hal Cannon, Founding Director

Behind the scenes at the Western Folklife Center

Scheduling for the 2010 Gathering
Scheduling for the 2010 Gathering

As the Artistic Director for the Western Folklife Center, I have the pleasure of working with Programs Coordinator Tamara Kubacki on the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.   One of our big jobs of the year involves retreating to the penthouse of the Western Folklife Center (with lots of M & Ms) to create the master schedule for the Gathering.

We remain forever grateful to the person who invented Post-its as we embarked on creating the schedule for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this Fall.   We have been fine tuning our process for scheduling artists and sessions over the 26 years of the Gathering and this highly sophisticated approach seems to work the best for us so far.  Our friends at the Northwest Folklife Festival turned us on to this method – their schedule grids cover multiple walls of their offices - and Tamara has come up with a color-coding system that is truly brilliant.  Those Post-its get moved around a fair amount before all is said and done, but in the end we hope that everyone is satisfied.  We find that in the process of doing this that we get more and more excited about seeing what is on paper come to fruition.

To see the final version of the schedule (which is truly never final until the Gathering happens) visit our website.  Or, better yet, just make your way to Elko and experience it in person.  We're looking forward to the poetry, the stories, the music, the dancing, the workshops, and good company beginning this Saturday!

See you soon!

Meg Glaser

It's time for the 26th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The staff of the Western Folklife Center is hard at work preparing for the big event. After 25 cowboy poetry gatherings, you would think we would have this down to a science. Unfortunately, we don't. It's a moving target. But it's never dull and we thought you might enjoy reading about what happens behind the scenes leading up to the Gathering, and during the week of the event. The Western Folklife Center staff will be sharing our experiences, our excitement and possibly our nervous breakdowns with you as we get closer to January 23rd. During the week of the Gathering, we hope to be joined by other bloggers who will be sharing their thoughts and impressions about performances that touched them and those that didn't, and about the interstitial moments that are sometimes the most meaningful and memorable for Gathering fans and friends. Please join us on our journey to the 26th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 23-30 in Elko, Nevada.