Originally Published: August 11, 2016 9:44 p.m.
Cowboy poets paint pictures with their words, or with their voices, of a time when ranches were prevalent, horseback was the only transportation and campfire storytelling was a frontier pastime.
Be it in free verse or with tunes accompanied by fiddle or quick-picking guitar, these lovers of the American West are considered a national treasure, according to organizers of the 29th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering that began on Aug. 11 and will go through Aug. 13. More than 50 of these poets and musicians are invited every year to come and share their brand of poetry and song with locals and guests of every age and heritage. The poetry can be poignant or punchy, the lyrics lively or the lamentation for a long-ago life.
The three-day event that will take place on the Yavapai College campus on Sheldon Street is all about tapping into the nostalgia of Arizona’s frontier days, with connections to real life cowboys and those whose ancestors once wrestled cattle, drove stage coaches and tamed this desert land.
This year’s gathering is titled, “Dust N’ Dogies” with the artwork for the annual event produced by Marcia Molnar of Prescott.
“My wife, Shari, and I have been involved with the Gathering for about 3 years now,” said Bill Hill, the event’s community outreach coordinator. “We both love the music and poetry as it comes from the hearts of people who are so close to the land.
“I often describe it as ‘organic,’ very real and without pretense.”
In an effort to offer some of the cowboy experience to the entire community, much of this event is free and open to the public. Between noon and 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, the guest poets and musicians will be in seven different venues across the campus, offering 45-minute sessions with titles such as “Songs of the West,” “Ropin’ A Tale,” “Time Keepers” and “Catch the Drift.”
These poets and musicians will also be visiting 11 local assisted living and nursing home facilities on Friday.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday, early risers are invited to celebrate what is called “Coffee with the Cowboys” in the amphitheater in the rear of the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center where the nighttime performances will be held.
“The Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering has maintained a standard that has been abandoned by most other gatherings: that of inviting men and women who are now or have been in the past a part of the working cowboy’s environment and workplace. It is respected by the cowboy poets as one of the best gatherings in the country because we’ve done so much to maintain the true ‘working cowboy’ culture and heritage,” said an event news release.
The featured performer on Friday night is Mary Kaye, a singer-songwriter from a 140-year-old southern Utah ranching community where she lives with her “cowboy” spouse, Brad. The couple have 10 children. She has performed her unique brand of music throughout the United States and Canada. Her show will also include student poets from Prescott area fourth-grade classes.
On Saturday night, audiences will be entertained again with a potpourri of cowboy poetry and music with the featured guest to be R.W. Hampton, a real-life cowboy who lives with his family on a New Mexico ranch.
“When he’s not headlining cowboy concerts and western music events across the nation, R.W. spends most of his time at the ranch doing the work he loves,” reads a promotional flier. “His life is guided by his faith, his love of family, and his desire to share cowboy life with his audiences.”
Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door: Prices are $20, $25, $30 and $35. For tickets, schedules or more information, visit the website: www.azcowboypoets.org.