Cowboy Poets Gathering kicks off Thursday

People fill the Yavapai College Performance Hall for a session titled "Working Hands" by Jay Snider, Dale Burson, and Hannah and Randy Huston, during the 2015 Cowboy Poets Gathering. This year’s 29th annual event will span three days, Aug. 11-13, at Yavapai College.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file

People fill the Yavapai College Performance Hall for a session titled "Working Hands" by Jay Snider, Dale Burson, and Hannah and Randy Huston, during the 2015 Cowboy Poets Gathering. This year’s 29th annual event will span three days, Aug. 11-13, at Yavapai College.

PRESCOTT – For the 29th year, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering will offer folks in the area a chance to experience western culture and Arizona history through the creative genius of poets and singers whose words and music focus on the working cowboy and livestock heritage of the region.

The three-day event, with a theme of “Dust N’ Dogies,” will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center. The featured performer of the evening will be Jim Jones, a native Texan folk artist who “tells it like it was, and will be in the great American West,” according to event organizers.

In his performance, Jones will share his love of the West through the gift of song and “hot guitar-picking” that explores how such things as train travel and the continuous search for water have shaped this precious part of the nation. Jones’ lively personality has earned him warm welcomes in places ranging from local honkey-tonks to church sanctuaries, even private high teas, organizers described.

The Thursday night event will also include fiddling, more cowboy poems and music and the annual presentation of the Gail Gardner Award for cowboy poetry. The host of the evening will be cowboy poet Chris Isaacs.

What has become a premier Prescott event each year, started with just a handful of volunteers and staff from the Sharlot Hall Museum, is all about sharing and perpetuating the culture, traditions and history of cowboy poetry and music as it was enjoyed in decades past. Every year, more than 50 poets and singers – some of who now or who have in the past worked on ranches or descend from the cowboy culture – come to offer local residents and visitors a taste of the Old West through this special brand of entertainment. This year, the cowboy poets and musicians will also be visiting local adult care facilities and nursing homes on Friday between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Across the three-day event, there will be evening shows each day with featured performers that will require tickets priced at $20, $25, $30 and $35 based on seating.

The Friday night featured artist will be Mary Kaye, a nationally acclaimed singer-songwriter who lives with her cowboy husband, Brad, and their 10 children in a small southern Utah ranching community.

On Saturday night, audiences will be entertained by R.W. Hampton, a New Mexico rancher who headlines cowboy concerts and western music events across the nation. Hampton’s life is guided by his faith, family and love of sharing the cowboy existence with audiences everywhere.

In addition to the nighttime shows, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering committee has scheduled two full days of free daytime sessions in seven different venues across the Yavapai College campus where guests are invited to come and meet the visiting poets and musicians as they experience their craft. The presentations will include tributes to veterans, as well as stories and music about ranches and cattle trails. Some of the session titles are: “Outhouse stories,” “Some Kind of Life,” “Wagon Wheels,” “Western Ladies,” and “Bustin’ Brush.”

The 45-minute Friday sessions begin at noon and go until 5 p.m., and the Saturday sessions will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturday at 8 a.m., guests are invited to a “Coffee with Cowboys” in the small amphitheater behind the Performing Arts Center.

For tickets and more information, visit www.azcowboypoets.org.