Ranchers find their inner poet in a Prescott tradition
Venerable poets of the West will bring their verses and music to Yavapai College today and Saturday for the 23rd annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.
"I think it's a wonderful way to experience the cowboy life through poem and song," said Phoebe Ritter of the Kirkland-area ranching family. Her husband Tom and his brother Jake will recount their family's history, dating back to the 1860s, as an interlude to the gathering, which brings together cowboy poets from around Arizona, along with guest performers from other states.
From noon until 5 p.m. today, cowboy poets and musicians will be scattered in different venues around the campus individually narrating the pieces they have put to verse.
The evening begins at 7 p.m. in the college's Performance Hall with the songs of the Desert Sons and their harmony reminiscent of the Sons of the Pioneers and other songs of that era. Lead singer Buck Ryberg has written some new songs for this year, and the quartet will also sing other songs from contemporary cowboy entertainers.
Poets who will be reciting their works tonight include Chris Isaacs, Sid Hausman, Lee Brimhall, Elizabeth Ebert and Terri McCall Knight. Another feature of the evening will be young poets who are winners in the school poetry contest: Faith Greer of Washington Traditional School and Bella Fernandez and Marissa Tyler, both of Abia Judd Elementary School.
Saturday begins at 9 a.m. with "Coffee with the Cowboys," when Harry Chiantaretto, Neil Abbott, Kent Rollins, Gail Steiger and "a few extras who might wander in" will recite their poems. This will take place in a location called "the ranch" between buildings 17 and 18 on the college campus. At noon, the Arizona Oldtime Fiddlers Association will play in the Performance Hall.
Poetry and music will spread across the campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, before the grand finale at 7 p.m. in the Performance Hall, featuring musician Dave Stamey and Gary and Jean Prescott and poets Joel Nelson, Kent Rollins, Tim Nolting, Janet Moore and Sally Bates.
School poetry winner contestants who will be on stage include Del Rio Elementary School students Mitchel Agin, Hanna Finley and Rocky Rodriguez and Taylor Hicks Elementary School student Dallin Jex.
Cowboy poet Lee Brimhall, a Yavapai County rancher, will receive the Gail I. Gardner Award for 2010 during the gathering. Jam sessions from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. will cap each evening, with both poets and musicians on hand, in the Arizona Room of the Hassayampa Inn.
The Ritters will present their family's history, along with photos, at 1 p.m. Saturday in the rehearsal hall in building 15, room 206.
Tickets for evening performances are $16 and will be available in the Performance Hall box office. Day sessions are free to the public. More information about the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering is available by logging on to www.azcowboypoets.org, and a complete schedule of the events is available in the mercantile area inside the Performance Hall.