26th Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Some people say the Cowboy Poetry Gathering was born in January 1985. Now called the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, it was decreed thus by the U.S. Senate and all the crown heads of Europe. However, most people just call it “Elko.” When it started, people described it as a parting of the sea, a gathering of tribes, a “Class A” drunk in a long series of various-classed drunks. Some journalists say it’s the most honest and open-hearted festival in America. Ranchers say these few days contain the highest concentration of lies in any one place at any one time. Twenty years ago, Glamour Magazine said it was one of the best ten places in America for a woman to find a real catch. All of this makes a sensible person wonder.
When the idea for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering came up in the late 1970’s the cowboy image was at a low point. Hollywood had pretty much stopped making cowboy movies. Nashville had dropped the western out of country and western. And all sorts of new meaning had been pumped into the word “cowboy.”
For the 26th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering the Western Folklife Center is pleased to present Seminole and “Cracker” cowboys from Florida and swamp cowboys from Louisiana. Cattle ranching is one of Florida’s oldest and most important cultural and occupational activities, beginning when Spanish explorers introduced horses and cattle to the region in the 16th century. Louisiana’s cattle business has flourished since the mid-18th century. In their part of the country they say “anyone can herd cows on dry land!” Our guests will include poets, storytellers, cooks, Creole zydeco musicians, craftspeople and Seminole Indian cowboys.