By Brian Jewell
At any time of year, groups visiting Elko, Nevada, can learn about the area’s cowboy heritage through exhibitions at the Western Folk Life Center. But for an up-close cowboy encounter, there’s no better time to visit than late January, when the organization hosts the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
“We’re the oldest and the largest cowboy poetry gathering in the country,” said Darcy Miller, the center’s external communications director. “We have a real variety of poetry and music, as well as all kinds of other activities that are educational about Western culture. People can come and spend a few days learning about how to braid rawhide or play guitar. There’s songwriting, poetry writing, cooking and all kinds of fun things that people can get involved in.”
The event draws some 6,000 people from around the country. Organizers hold it in the winter because that’s when the cowboys and the ranch hands have time to participate in a festival to present their poetry and music.
Throughout the six-day gathering, groups can see poets and musicians performing on six stages throughout the festival grounds. The celebrations culminate each evening with a well-known headlining performer.
Next year’s festival will also mark the opening of a new exhibit at the Folk Life Center that examines the heritage of cowboys in Italy.