2018 Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering marks 30 years of special events and celebration of Western art and culture
Linda Mannix Coordinator
For 30 years, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering has been the highlight of the fall season in Durango. This year it will be October 4th - 7th, 2018 at the Historic Strater Hotel. Forty cowboy poets and musicians descend upon the town to sing and recite their verse for four days. Crowds of people from all walks of life come to hear them.
Cowboy poetry was born on the trail drives north from Texas after the Civil War. Cowhands would peel labels off peach cans and scribble words and rhymes about things that happened along the trail. Around the campfire at night, they would recite their poem or story for the hands, and the essence of an artistic oral culture began. Handed down from generation to generation, cowboy poetry got its contemporary start in 1985 at the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Many of the old cowhands who were asked to recite their poetry in front of an audience were terrified, then amazed when they discovered that all of their friends had also been writing about good horses, bad wrecks, and the beauty of working cattle open the open range.
The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering started in 1989 after Durango hat maker Kevin O'Farrell returned from the Elko Gathering and said, "We can do that here". Shows were staged in the Diamond Circle Theater, now the Henry Strater Theater, and the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering has been at the Strater Hotel every year since.
For the 2018 Durango Gathering, popular cowboy singer Dave Stamey will be featured at the Premier Show on Thursday October 4th for two shows, 6pm and 8pm. Stamey has worked as a cowboy, packer and lived the life on the range. His talent turning stories into lyrics of his songs is incredible. The Friday and Saturday Evening shows will feature two choices of shows, one on Cowboy Humor and the other is Cowboy Classics.
Special events over the weekend include a Cowboy Poet Train on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and a Cowboy Poet Trail ride at Rapp Corral. Both start at 10am on Friday October 5th. There will also be special displays of Western art in local galleries and a special "poster session" at Toh Atin Gallery on Saturday evening where the cowboy poets write their interpretation of the fine art poster for the Gathering.
The big day for the Gathering is Saturday October 6th. It kicks off with the Chuckwagon Breakfast on Saturday morning from 7:30am to 11am. Scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and biscuits will be cooked out of an original 1880's Chuckwagon parked at the corner of 5th St. and Main Ave. The big Cowboy Parade will start at the same location at 10am. It's one of the largest motorless parades in Colorado featuring horses, riders, wagons, carriages and even walkers. Kids, families of all ages enjoy watching this unusual parade.
The popular Cowboy Comedy Revue will return on Saturday morning with a show in the Strater Theater. It features a full hour of funny stories, poems and music about ranch life. Free Theme Sessions will run from 10:30am to 4:30pm in the Strater Hotel and other downtown locations. Anyone can walk in and hear these genuine cowboys and ranch women perform for no charge.
Many other events throughout the weekend are free and the evening shows are ticketed. For a complete schedule of events and more information go to www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org or call 970-749-2995.