Located in Elko, Nevada, a gold mining & railroad town located off of Interstate-80, is the Western Folk-life Center is designed to promote the cowboy heritage and way of life through their songs, storytelling, poetry (for those who don’t know, Cowboy Poetry is THING) and artwork. It is also the location for the yearly (approaching its 35th anniversary) National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and competition…. six days of poetry, music, dancing, workshops, and exhibits all of which are based in tradition but focused on the modern/rural West.
You first enter into the gift shop, which constitutes almost a quarter of the space, and actually has quite an impressive collection of items. Around the outer edges of the store you’ll find areas devoted to Cowboy poetry, music, and art, as you expect….Plus some handicrafts, including beauty products and other ranch produced handicrafts…. but the entire center of the shop???Jewelry! Lots and lots of jewelry — cause well… profit margins…. alongside the gift store is the art gallery. The guy in charge told me that they always have visiting exhibitions in this space… which switch out every few months. While I was here they had an exhibit about the art of Basque sheep herders (a different sort of cowboy) — and their art forms, including carvings, some of which date back to 1900, that are carved into local Aspen treesbecause these tree will ultimately die, a married couple had gone around collecting rubbings of all the ones they could find.
This was followed up by a small display about Basque improvised Poetry. Here they give them a topic and they have to come up with a poem on the subject … which was won by a woman for the first time last year
Then there was a permenent display, of the movie why the Cowboy sings…. only its the 16 minute version
Looking online I found the PREVIEW of “Why the Cowboy sings” (1.24 min)
As well as the Full 56 min movie — but no 16 minute version
After this the docent showed me their western bar… it was not specially made, they found it in a mining camp in a tent and brought it here
Some examples of Cowboy poetry:
This website shows last year’s “Best of the West” show, which is a yearly performance at the Poetry Gathering, which exhibits some of the best of modern Cowboy music. While this video on the event, gives you an idea of the full breath and depth of it: