Monday, March 12, 2012

My comments about the e-mail I just posted

I have to say that I'm in full agreement with the writer. I haven't even gone to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in a couple of years and the last time I did it was because I had a paid gig there.

I played my gig and I played at the Open Mic stage at Duncan Little Creek Gallery that Billy Rose hosts. I never even went to the Convention Center and only crossed the parking lot to the Folk Life Center to visit with friends at the bar. I just don't have that much interest in seeing all the same "Big Stars" that grace the Elko stages.

In my opinion, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering would be a much better show with more and equal if not better performers if they would go back to their roots. Put the lesser known performers up. Take my night show list from the Townsend Gathering or take the list from the Cowboy Poets of Idaho show in St. Anthony. The audience would be just as entertained...maybe more so and the Elko Gathering would go back to doing what they started.

If you want to see good authentic Cowboy Entertainers then come to St. Anthony, Idaho in April, White Sulphur Springs, MT on Mothers Day weekend or the Townsend Cowboy Entertainer Gathering June 2nd.

An e-mail that was forwarded to me about Elko

I got this in a forwarded e-mail, originally from Vickie Mullen of
Snohomish WA

Western Folklife Center Board of Directors,

As a long time member of the folklife center, a 27 year attendee of the gathering, and active person in the industry it brings me no pleasure to be the bearer of bad news. The Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko has been a great source of inspiration and joy for me. I have spent the past month really trying to understand and collect information from a variety of individuals and performers. The consensus has been that the gathering for the past few years has been not meeting the needs of its followers.

Why is attendance down? The easy and short answer is to blame the economy and that to some extent is true, but the problem I feel goes deeper. The gathering seems to have lost its soul. The very essence of why it drew people like moths to a flame. The excitement and wonder that each new year would bring. This is the first year that ticket buyers have come from shows and just said they were awful. Then they start to reflect, that the programming seems to make no sense anymore, that it is a stretch to find the positive. Free shows seemed to be more entertaining than highly priced ticketed ones. That the midnight dance was punctuated by police cars and broken bottles littering the parking lots. Hotels rates were way to high and the Stockman's at $109.00 per night was an outrage.

In mid-February I attended and set-up at the Spirit of the West gathering in Ellensburg WA. It had that magical quality of authentic performers, activities, and audience. The town seemed to be welcoming and glad we all came. The trade show I exhibited in was very profitable. Some of the people in attendance talked about not going to Elko any longer because the folklife center just doesn't seem to "get it" anymore. So my quest has been since then to try to get to the bottom of "get it".

Elko's gathering is important enough for me to share my interpretation of findings. The magic comes from the mix of people. The cowboy world seems to be divided as "us" and "them". Too many of "them" are running the gathering, on the board of the gathering, and do not seem to know the difference. For those outside the cowboy and buckaroo world but on the fringe they come to town to see real ranch folks to be amongst them to try to understand the culture. They are really interested and respectful of ranching ways. For example one topic we all talked about was how excited and thrilled we all are to see horse slaughter brought back to the US. That it is currently something that we all support. Now if you are reading this and gasped or disagreed you don't get "it".

To many of us the gathering seems to be run by folklorist who wish to change the ranching culture to what they believe. Not embracing the reality of everyday life. Advertising, programming, the entire event seems to slant to a very liberal and cerebral look at Cowboys. That is not an authentic picture of the industry or its people. When you lose the authentic nature of a gathering you lose the soul and a downward spiral follows. Credibility is lost and a positive outcome as well.

Please consider going back to the basics. Put on a gathering of those who work and live in the west. Like the Wild West Shows of the past if it portrays as real, others will come to see it, if not it is just an audience looking at an audience. Bring back the hats and boots.

Vickie Mullen
Hitching Post Supply