Celebrating cowboy way of lifeMedora to host Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering
MEDORA — Cowboy poets and western singers from around the region are headed to Medora over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-24, for the 23rd annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
“The songs and poems are to preserve the cowboy way of life and the tradition,” said Bill Lowman, founder and director.
Cowboy poetry made its way to the Dakotas via the cattle drives of the 1800s. Cowboys used verse and music to entertain themselves along the drive.
“It’s alive yet today because its hard to carry a DVD and bigscreen TVs on a saddle horse,” he said.
Lowman was inspired to start a Dakota gathering after attending the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1986. Excited by what he experienced, Lowman came home to organize a similar gathering in Medora.
The Dakota gathering consists of three parts:
• The free sessions begin at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Medora Community Center. All comers are welcome to share their verse and music at the open sessions.
“It’s an open mike and runs all afternoon — it’s for anybody who wants to share their work. There’s a lot of repeaters — they have the support of family and friends, and next year one of them is on stage. That’s what makes it grow,” said Lowman.
Examples of performers include Kim Shade of Medora, Rhonda Stearns of New Castle, Wyo., and Paula Harkins.
• The cowboy gospel singing session begins at 9 a.m. Sunday morning. The event is billed as “No preachin’…just singing.’
• The Night Shows open at 7:30 p.m. each evening. There is an admission charge for the shows featuring professional entertainment.
Lowman has arranged the lineup — heavy with musical entertainers — for the evening performances. They are:
• Paul Harris is making his first gathering appearance. A boot-maker and cowboy singer, he resides in Sallisaw, Okla. His deep roots in bluegrass lend themselves to his style today.
“He’s cowboyed over the West. He’s worked in the mountains in guest lodges. He’s well-traveled and does traditional cowboy songs,” said Lowman.
• Saratoga, Wyo., rancher Laurie Wood plays and sings the old cowboy songs. She has played the “Top Forty” country songs with country bands in previous years, but it was always the cowboy songs she played for friends, family and herself.
• Cora Wood, daughter of Laurie and Duane Wood, will join her mother on stage. This first grader was recently named the 2008 Youth Yodeler of the Year by the Western Music Association.
She will wow the crowd with her yodeling, said Lowman.
“Ken Cook from Martin, S.D., will follow her. He’s got his work cut out for him following Cora. You don’t follow kids and dogs,” he said.
• South Dakota rancher Ken Cook will entertain with his humorous cowboy poetry. He spent summers with his grandparents on their ranch and after graduating from college, he hired on as a cowhand. He ranches in the sandhills of southern South Dakota.
“He ranches and his wife has a job at the courthouse. He’s real and that’s what we’re after,” said Lowman.
• Grassy Butte’s Nikki Alpin presents her traditional and inspirational songs.
“Nikki is a ranch gal from Grassy Butte. She and her husband help us brand. She does recordings out of Nashville,” said Lowman.
• Billings, Mont., singer and poetry Aleda Terry rounds out the evening show.
“She was raised on the West Coast — Oregon area. She’s taught music and lots of folksy stuff,” said Lowman.
Serving as emcees for the evening shows are Lowman nd Bob Petermann.
In addition to the poetry, saddle maker Bill Engen of Belfield will have his work on display. Raffle tickets will be on sale for the Theodore Roosevelt 125-year-memorial saddle that he made and donated.
The Big Hat Society and Slim’s Custom Leather also will have displays.
This year’s gathering also features a photo contest, coordinated by Kris Enzi of Beach and Lyle Glass of Medora.
The public is invited to submit one photo per category — farm/ranch, landscape, wildlife and animal antics. The prizes include Best of Show and People’s Choice.
The photos must be framed or matted suitable for hanging (no sawtooth.) They must be between 8-by-10 inches and 16-by-20 inches. Photos must arrive at the Medora Community Center by 10 a.m. on Saturday and removed after 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Everyone is welcome to attend. For more information contact Lowman at 701-872-4746.