National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
January 29, 2018 — February 3, 2018
The 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering filled the railroad town of Elko with some of the best purveyors of ranching and agricultural traditions. Other than a few exceptions, Idaho has seen a dearth of poets and musicians who perform at the Gathering. On the other hand, the off-premise exhibits, auctions, and trade shows that feature gear makers and material cultural items are chock-a-block with those who call Idaho home. For a festival known for its performances rather than its material collections, in recent years the sideshows found throughout the casinos, galleries, and museums attract their own sizable share of crowds, aficionados, and fans.
The theme of this year’s Gathering was “Basques and Buckaroos: Herding Cultures of the Basin, Range, and Beyond” and the theme worked well for many of Idaho’s craftspeople and gear makers. An Anglicization of the Spanish vaquero, the buckaroo is a distinctive style and brand of cowboy common in the Great Basin. Like the vaquero, the buckaroo takes great pride in their horsemanship, clothing, gear, and tack. Within the borders of Idaho live a bevy of craftspeople and artists who produce an exceptional array of high-quality and beautiful gear for the discriminating buckaroo. Walking through the galleries and trade shows during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is akin to walking through the Met, Uffizi, or Louvre for the agricultural set and the collections from Idaho artists set an equally high bar. Unlike the Uffizi, however, the bearers of these great Western traditions are alive and kicking and many are available and willing to strike up a conversation.
‒ Steven Hatcher, Folk & Traditional Arts Director