Friday, February 02, 2007

Some things I've learned about "Elko"

Ok. I've been talking with some of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering staff, volunteers and even a couple of Board members. For all you aspiring Western Entertainers out there I have some bad news.

First, a little background on my perspective. I am an entertainer and I would like to be featured at Elko. I have not been chosen to although I know John Westbrook and I are every bit as good the entertainers as anyone on the Elko Night Show. But I also organize a small Cowboy Entertainer Gathering in Townsend, MT and I have to select the night show participants, juggle the requests for attention and all that. Yes, on a much smaller scale but still the stress exists. I've experienced some of that here this weekend as a matter of fact.

All this to tell you that I believe the selection process at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is as fair and honest as it can be. I'm sure there are personality issues and even maybe some political issues but by and large I can't see what they could do to change it.

They get over 200 applications each year for only a very few slots. The selection board ( a top secret organization!) has to go through all these apps, reading bios, listening to Demo CDs (tapes? Videos? 8TRACKS?), asking each other: "Does anyone know this one?" "Has anyone seen him perform?" Sometimes one of the board members knows an applicant personally and can vouch for him. sometimes even that doesn't mean they get on.

Yes, there are people who are on the main show every year. But, are they performers who are requested by the public? I have this same thing in Townsend. I'm often asked about specific entertainers and if we are bringing them back.

I've performed with Bob Peterman, of Wiboux (Weebow), Montana before and I've known him for several years. He applied and was selected for the "Elko" Night Show. He doesn't "know anyone" in particular, didn't do any politicking or anything like that. Just submitted his application material like every one else and got "the call".

My access this year has given me a new perspective on this whole thing and my attitude is changing for the better here.

New business. If you think the selection process for the Night Shows is should talk to the guy who sets up the Day-Shows! I only checked out the music Day-show but I'm sure the Poetry area is much the same.

There are a total of 24 15 minute Day-Show slots for the entire weekend. At present, performers sign up for these slots on a "first come, first served" basis. Sign-up for the Thursday show was scheduled for 11AM. When Mike got there at 9:45 there were already 9 people waiting to sign up! I was there at 10:45 and there were over 20 people waiting for the process to begin.

Stan Howe was there with me and he had what I thought was a great idea. Assign everyone a number and then do a lottery for Day-Show slots. That might help. And I'm thinking as much for the volunteer here as for performers. Imagine how much abuse the poor guy gets in a weekend from people who feel that the process is unfair!

Anyway, for all of you who want to perform at Elko: Follow the process, send in your applications and keep on trying. If you are only able to sign up for Day-shows, however they may do that in the future, give the guy at the door a little break. He's not trying to personally ruin your career or get his friends in ahead of you. If you didn't make it in time to sign up...try again next time.

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