Gathering to celebrate 25 years of Western heritageThe Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering will celebrate the Western way of life during its silver anniversary shows on Saturday and Sunday, May 29, in Medora. Founder Bill Lowman credits its longevity to people embracing the cowboy culture.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
The Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering will celebrate the Western way of life during its silver anniversary shows on Saturday and Sunday, May 29, in Medora.
Founder Bill Lowman credits its longevity to people embracing the cowboy culture.
“It’s being enamored by the cowboy culture in poetry and song,” he said.
He described the culture as the day-to-day mechanics of ranch life and the production of beef.
“We’re selling beef to support the hungry public — the steak houses and hamburger joints,” he said. “We’re the backbone for the supply of beef to the economy.”
The Dakota Poetry Gathering is credited to the vision of Lowman after he returned from the National Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev.
He wanted to showcase the region — North and South Dakota and Montana — as being ag-centered.
Whether reared on a farm or ranch or having relatives and friends who live there, Lowman said, “We all have roots to ag.”
The Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a mix of poetry and song.
“It’s very entertaining,” he said. “It’s telling stories of hardship or love stories — it’s the whole gamut of stories of life that really relate to everyone.”
In addition to ranching near Sentinel Butte, Lowman is an accomplished storyteller, poet and artist.
“I still use ‘ain’t’ and cowboy slag,” he said.
Lowman’s favorite part of the gathering is the camaraderie — the friendships that are renewed each year.
“Once a year, we get together with people you don’t see otherwise — you don’t have to be a performer to share that,” he said. “Everything is very laid back. We keep it uncompetitive and easy-going.”
The evening performances will each feature seven or eight performers.
“We’re trying to get more people across the stage as a review of 25 years,” he said.
Radio Stars duo of Merrill Piepkorn and Loy Larson will join Lowman on stage for the Saturday night performance.
“I first started coming out there to cover it for Prairie Public Radio and I wound up meeting a lot of people and making a lot of friends — that was 15 years ago,” said Piepkorn. “I’ve been coming back ever since.”
Piepkorn and Larson will be doing traditional country music and feature Larson’s skill as a fiddler.
“The fact that this is the 25th anniversary is really a great time to celebrate Western heritage and culture,” said Piepkorn. “It’s the real thing — it’s not something made for tourism. These are real people reciting poetry and songs of the culture — that’s the appeal to me.”
The afternoon shows feature an open mic for those interested in performing.
“The Sunday morning gospel packs them in with cowboy singing for three hours,” said Lowman. “It’s not ceremony or preaching — it’s cowboy gospel singing.”
Lowman credits his wife Joann, who manages the gathering, and a planning committee that focuses on the details.
When the gathering begins, he jokes, “I walk around and look important.”
In planning the event, Lowmans work closely with John Mottley, chief operating officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.
Mottley said the Foundation welcomes the gathering each spring.
“I guess it’s a real slice of culture and heritage of this part of the country — the cowboy way of life,” said Mottley.
“The other thing it does for us is kick off the season,” he added. “It’s one of the ways we brand ourselves as being the Old West. It’s a good reason to spend time with us.”