National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – Yep…Cowboys Gather in Nevada to Recite Poetry!

Many don’t realize just how deep poetry runs in the blood of cowboys! Celebrate National Cowboy Poetry by attending this great western Winter Fest in Nevada!

Cowboys and Poetry?


Each year at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Cowboys and poetry lovers alike gather together to recite poetry, prose and songs about the challenging times of life on the range.

While cowboy poetry may seem like an  obscure festival to some, to those that love and live the Cowboy lifestyle- it’s second nature. Each year at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, cowboys and poetry lovers alike gather together to recite poetry, prose and songs about the challenging times of life on the range. Cowboys are often known for beings some of the most compelling storytellers around. The Gathering is a chance for these overlooked entertainers to get a chance to share with interested listeners.

Elks, Nevada is home to this unique six day Winter Festival that is held annual at the Western Folklife Center. Attendees get to learn more about writing, hear about cowboy history and culture, try out traditional dances and great Cowboy fare and much more. Definitely one of the most unique festivals around the world one can attend and be part of the fun.

Welcome to the Gathering
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering starts each year during the last week of January. At every gathering, there is a different theme. Cowboys and attendees alike share poetry and don outfits based on whichever theme is picked for the year. The Poetry Gathering is as much a poetry reading as it is a chance to remember the past and huge part of Western history.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering first got its start in 1985 when a group of Cowboys and Storytellers decided to meet together for a chance to share their writings with others. Through the years, this festival has affectionately come to be known as the “most open hearted festival in America”.

What Exactly Happens at the Gathering?
You may wonder if the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is just six long days of listening to wistful rhymes, but rest assure that this festival is full of exciting programs! Throughout the lineup of great poetry readings and musical performances, this festival also offers attendees a chance to try their hand at writing workshops, Western fare inspired cooking classes, art exhibitions of Western tools and artwork, Western film screenings, lectures by guest speakers, panel discussion about current Cowboy affairs, and lots of dancing amongst everything else!

Many of these popular workshops and classes include cowboy favorites like teaching attendees how to yodel and how to dance the two step properly. The Cowboy Barbecue classes never fail to win over a crowd either. The readings and musical shows usually place towards the evening at the G Three Bar Theater. You can also find several open mic nights and Cowboy parties at the local businesses around the area.

Dressing for the Cowboy Gathering
If you’re wondering what they typical attire is for this festival, you already guessed it, it’s Western! People pull out all the stops when it come to Cowboy fashion for the Poetry Festival. So get your blue jeans, your leather cowboy boots, your plaid and denim shirts and head on over!

When considering the time of year this festival is held, don’t neglect dressing for the weather! Winter in Nevada is no joke, so come prepared with heavy coats, mittens, ear mufflers, heavy boots, and several layers to wear with that cowboy hat of yours.

Keep in mind that the city of Elko is very elevated. Wear layers that can be removed easily in the event of altitude sickness. Try your best to keep from overheating as this is possible when you dress with too many layers and are not used to the weather.


The open Mic nights featured during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering are actually open to the pubic.

Open Mic Nights are Not Just for Cowboys
The open Mic nights featured during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering are actually open to the pubic. Many attendees take this opportunity to read poetry that they have prepared before hand, items they have written in the workshops, or guests take a chance to do some improvisational poetry.

The Open Mic allows guests to perform once a day between Thursday and Saturday. The Open Mic events vary by theme throughout the festival. At the Elko Convention Center’s Cedar Room, the Open Mic is call “Anything Goes” and allows for visitors to do any kind of poetry or story they would like.

For the musicians among you, head to Ruby Room #1 for a Mic called “Take Your Turn”. In the Turquoise Room at the Convention Center, teens are invited to attend and participate in the Young Buckaroo Open Mic and Talent Show that offers prized to those that win.

For all the Open Mics, it is best to sign up early if you want to perform later on that night. When working on your cowboy inspired material, most attendees get about five or ten minutes with the mic. Prepare shorter work but have more than one song or poem in mind in case your time runs longer than you thought. You really should try at least one open mic, it’s exciting!

More About the Western Folklife Center
The Center was founded around 1980 and was created in an attempt to share the stories and traditions of Cowboy culture and tales of the Wild West with anyone that will listen. The Center believes that there is something about the life of the cowboy that still impacts us today in these modern times.

People that keep coming back to the Folklife Center and well as the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering share that they love how authentic the experience and the culture is. Times in the West may have been more rural but perhaps they were a simpler time. Getting together to explore and celebrate these times is like walking into the past itself. For six days out of the year, attendees get to travel back in time and enter a new world entirely.

The Western Folklife Center is an entirely non profit organization and is run solely for the preservation and dissemination of historical and cultural information. For this reason, many people choose to provide monetary donations or give their time by volunteering at the festival.

Pricing and Tickets
Tickets to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering go live on the festival’s website in September for members of the Western Folklife Center. You should constantly check the site to stay updated on which shows are still available if you’re still deciding which tickets to purchase. Tickets become available to non-members in October and can be bought through the website, the phone, or in the mail.

The most expensive items on the Gathering’s schedule are the Ticketed shows as they are the most popular events. Getting tickets to these shows allows you entrance to some of the most exclusive poetry readings and performances of western musicians. Passes to the festival are sold as Three Day Deluxe Passes or Single Day Passes and over entrance to the non ticketed events that take place during the day. All 90 programs during the three most popular days of the festival require the Day Passes for attendees to participate.

If you are really interested in all the events going on during the Poetry Gathering, do consider becoming a member. Members get benefits and discounts and your tickets may just be cheaper in the long run.

Getting to Elko, Nevada
Elko is actually 5,059 feet about sea level and may prove hard to get to if you aren’t use to the terrain. Do your best to take a taxi or a shuttle bus into the city to avoid having to deal with the winter conditions on the road. Try to pack light as you may have to do a little bit of climbing.

When flying in, check out Skywest airlines first to see if you can get any deal—they are the festival’s go to airline. The shuttles provided by the Cowboy Festival are to get attendees to and from the performances each day. You may be able to take shuttles provided by hotels, but it is a good idea to look into hiring a driver or taking a taxi or separate shuttle bus.

Try to book your hotels earlier rather than later so you can have rooms that are as close to the events as possible. Check out the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering website for more information on their sponsored hotels. A few these hotels are Centre Motel, Best Western Elko Inn, Comfort Inn of Elko, Elko Motel, Gold Country Inn & Casino and Oak Tree Inn are among the festival’s favorites.

It is highly recommended that you stay at one of these hotels in the area. Traveling in and out of the city can get tiring and pricy. Throughout the weekend the weather may vary, so it’s best to stay close to the main festival grounds.

So whether you fly, bus, or walk to Elko, make sure you get to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering! This isn’t something you want to miss.

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