29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (2016) report by Nika Nordbrock

29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Prescott, Arizona
by Nika Nordbrock

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Cowboy poetry was once again in Prescott as the 29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona, on August 11, 12, and 13, 2016, continued the tradition of sharing the poetry and music with neighbors and friends. Poets, musicians, and audience certainly had a marvelous time during this fantastic weekend. The Gathering poster’s artwork was “Dogies ‘n’ Dust,” by Marcia Molnar.

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This year over 50 poets and musicians celebrated the twenty-ninth gathering with the multiple day sessions on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and three ticketed evening shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The evening shows were held in the Performing Arts Center at the Yavapai College Prescott Campus. The all-volunteer Gathering crew once again made it a seamless event for the public. The program was dedicated to 17 year old Ben Jensen who has been volunteering since he was five years old. The evening shows were well attended. The day sessions covered serious and humorous cowboy poetry and cowboy music. The patrons enjoy the college venue with its parking, convenient bathrooms, plenty of seating in the larger venues, two snack bars, air-conditioned rooms, and no hills to climb. All the day sessions were well-attended.

na1photo by Nika Nordbrock

The Gathering received support from various community sponsors—hotels, restaurants, businesses, and individuals. As many know, without such sponsorship, gatherings around the West would not be able to continue sharing with audiences the lifestyle of those who earn their livelihood on horseback as working cowboys and in the livestock and ranching sectors.

na3photo by Nika Nordbrock

The public part of the Gathering kicked off with the Thursday evening show which featured Jim Jones with host Chris Isaacs. Even with a “heckler” in the audience, Chris Isaacs was the ultimate professional who kept the show moving smoothly. The show included the Amy Hale Auker Steiger, Dale Page, the Fiddlin’ Duo, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, and Jay Snider.Once again the authentic and historic chuck wagons provided by Myron and Betsy Deibel and the plants from Ken and Lisa Lain, owners of Watters Garden Center, provided the stage setting ambiance.

na4photo by Nika Nordbrock

Friday morning the poets and singers participated in outreach programs at fourth grade classes in several elementary schools, at the Bob Stump Northern Arizona Veterans Hospital, and at the Arizona Pioneers Home.

na2photo by Nika Nordbrock

At noon on Friday, the Gathering started with the opening program in the Yavapai College Performance Hall. After the posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, Joe Konkel, president of the Gathering, welcomed the audience to the Gathering and Introduced Prescott Mayor Harry Oberg who welcomed the audience and mentioned that the Gathering was Prescott’s second largest cowboy event as only the Frontier Days Rodeo drew a bigger crowd each year.

After the opening, the patrons scattered to seven venues, where they could enjoy a variety of cowboy poetry, stories, and music.

Evening host Randy Huston kept the 7:00 pm Friday show at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center running smoothly and on time. Mary Kaye headlined the show and was joined on stage by Doug Figgs, Floyd Beard, the Fiddlin’ Duo, Gary Kirkman, Kay Kelly-Nowell, and Don Fernwalt. Fourth graders also recited their poems which they had written for the Gathering’s “Poetry in the Schools” program.

na6photo by Nika Nordbrock

Saturday was another busy day with the eight concurrent day sessions from 9:00 am-5:00 pm at the Yavapai College Prescott Campus. During the day, folks took a break to stroll through the Prescott Farmers Market, enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant or the college’s snack bars, or listened to the sessions.

At 1:00 pm, Joe Konkel hosted the special ranch history session, which featured the Nesham Family from Hillside, Arizona. Galen and Rodella Nesham have ranched in Arizona since 1962. Not only do the Neshams ranch on Thorn Peak, Tres Alamos, Pipeline, and Santa Maria Ranches, but also they are active in the ministry at Hillside Bible Church and Walnut Grove Chapel, where Galen is the minister. They say, “We are blessed, blessed, blessed.”

Several new faces at the Gathering were Calvin Danner, Nancy Elliott, Leon Gee, Bonnie Krogman, All day cowboy poetry fans were able to enjoy stories about ranch life, ranch women and men, green grass, life in the West, and Western history, both serious and humorous, with sessions of cowboy poetry, cowboy classics, and cowboy music.

On Saturday evening, 7:00 pm performance, which was hosted by Tom Weathers, headlined R. W. Hampton with Curt Brummett, Bonnie Krogman, Bimbo Cheney, Kevin Davis, Steve Lindsey.

na5photo by Nika Nordbrock

The Gail I. Gardner Award for a cowboy poet was presented to Gary Kirkman from Taylor, Arizona. Gary has worked on and managed several ranches in Arizona and currently ranches in the Taylor and St. Johns area.

Saturday night was soon at a close and patrons, poets, host families, and sponsors parted once again. The crew of volunteers quickly dismantled the Cowboy Mercantile, the Green Room, and the stage. Soon the cowboy poet family, new and old “tribe” members, left each other with hugs and waves, and the words “See you next year” drifted across the Arizona night air.

If you missed the Gathering, you can still purchase the commemorative poster, programs, coins, bolos, and other Gathering merchandise. Contact the Gathering at azcowboypoets.org.

Remember to mark your calendars and check the website for August 10, 11, and 12, 2017, and the 30th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona. It’s one gathering that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to bookmark as one of your favorite sites www.azcowboypoets.org and “like” the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook.

[Find additional photos by Nika Nordbrock in her report on Rope Burns.]