Dakotas spotlighted during 27th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering | TSLN.com

Dakotas spotlighted during 27th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Photo by Jeri DobrowskiRodney Nelson drives home a point during a performance at the 27th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV.

In recognition of the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering’s upcoming silver anniversary, artists from North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana were featured during the 2011 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV. “Dakota Humor,” a day session, played at the Elko Convention Center, while “Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering” filled the seats at the G Three Bar Theater in the Western Folklife Center.

Founded by Sentinel Butte, ND rancher, artist and entertainer Bill Lowman, the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering is one of the longest running spin-offs from the national event. It has been held annually in Medora, ND, since 1987.

Known for turning out top saddle bronc riders, the Dakotas are likewise known for producing heavy hitters in the world of cowboy poetry and western entertainment. Which is exactly the point that Lowman set out to prove when he organized the gathering. He attended the inaugural event in Elko in 1985 and was certain there were others from the area who could and would share their works.

Teaming up with the North Dakota Humanities, the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, and the North Dakota Department of Tourism, Lowman extended an invitation to bards and musicians from the region to share their poetry and songs. Held in the auditorium of the Medora Community Center over the Memorial Day weekend, an overflow crowd greeted the 20 or so artists who responded.

The guidelines were simple: anyone who wanted could get up and recite or sing. The only limitations were that the pieces needed to relate to cows, cowboying, ranching, or rural life, and you couldn’t go over your allotted time. Rookies and more polished performers entertained the crowd during the day; in the evening there was a night show at the Burning Hills Amphitheater. A sales table offered publications and recordings produced by the participants. Adding to the experience was a western art show and displays by artisans and craftsmen.

The formula was an overnight success.

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The following year the event moved to the larger multipurpose room with seating for 500. After a few close calls with the weather, the night shows were moved to the community center. Beyond that, the format has remained pretty much unchanged.

Which brings us back to this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where artists from the Dakotas were spotlighted. Among the familiar faces invited to perform in Elko – and at other festivals and gatherings around the country – are several who consider the Medora gathering to be their gathering.

Making her home on a cattle ranch near Clearfield, SD, Yvonne Hollenbeck says Lowman gave her her first job as a cowboy poet. Since then, she’s been honored as the outstanding Female Poet by the Western Music Association, and her books and CDs have also won acclaim.

Formerly from Marmarth, ND, funny man Jess Howard now hangs his hat in Wibaux, MT. His deadpan delivery of poems co-written with his brother Pat Richardson keep audiences in stitches. He’s a regular in Elko and also performs regionally.

Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND, attended the first gathering in Medora, all the while protesting what he wrote was “just junk.” He’s gone on to develop a successful career as a banquet entertainer and also pens a weekly column, Up Simms Creek.

DW Groethe, Bainville, MT, had been writing poetry and music for years before he accompanied a friend to the Medora gathering. He came to listen that first year but has been performing since, including two appearances at the National Folk Festival.

With Lowman, Hermosa, SD rancher Linda Hasselstrom rounded out the Dakota-Montana contingent. An award-winning author who hosts writing retreats on her ranch, Hasselstrom’s forte is free verse poetry. A poem of hers appeared on the back cover of the 2011 Gathering program.

Lowman says his biggest satisfaction in ramrodding the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering is exposing a lot of good talent to the public who might otherwise have stayed home: “I’m glad to have gotten people like Rodney out sharing and preserving the heritage. It’s not just about the poetry, it’s raising awareness of cowboys in the Dakotas. So many people think we only have plowboys.”

The 2011 Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering starts Friday afternoon, May 27, with a free writing workshop conducted by Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird. A special anniversary concert will be held that evening. The workshop continues Saturday morning. Poetry and music sessions run during the afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, May 28-29, with night shows both evenings. For information on the workshop, contact Merrill Piepkorn, 701-205-2665. For information on the gathering, contact Bill Lowman, 701-872-4746.

In recognition of the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering’s upcoming silver anniversary, artists from North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana were featured during the 2011 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV. “Dakota Humor,” a day session, played at the Elko Convention Center, while “Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering” filled the seats at the G Three Bar Theater in the Western Folklife Center.

Founded by Sentinel Butte, ND rancher, artist and entertainer Bill Lowman, the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering is one of the longest running spin-offs from the national event. It has been held annually in Medora, ND, since 1987.

Known for turning out top saddle bronc riders, the Dakotas are likewise known for producing heavy hitters in the world of cowboy poetry and western entertainment. Which is exactly the point that Lowman set out to prove when he organized the gathering. He attended the inaugural event in Elko in 1985 and was certain there were others from the area who could and would share their works.

Teaming up with the North Dakota Humanities, the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, and the North Dakota Department of Tourism, Lowman extended an invitation to bards and musicians from the region to share their poetry and songs. Held in the auditorium of the Medora Community Center over the Memorial Day weekend, an overflow crowd greeted the 20 or so artists who responded.

The guidelines were simple: anyone who wanted could get up and recite or sing. The only limitations were that the pieces needed to relate to cows, cowboying, ranching, or rural life, and you couldn’t go over your allotted time. Rookies and more polished performers entertained the crowd during the day; in the evening there was a night show at the Burning Hills Amphitheater. A sales table offered publications and recordings produced by the participants. Adding to the experience was a western art show and displays by artisans and craftsmen.

The formula was an overnight success.

The following year the event moved to the larger multipurpose room with seating for 500. After a few close calls with the weather, the night shows were moved to the community center. Beyond that, the format has remained pretty much unchanged.

Which brings us back to this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where artists from the Dakotas were spotlighted. Among the familiar faces invited to perform in Elko – and at other festivals and gatherings around the country – are several who consider the Medora gathering to be their gathering.

Making her home on a cattle ranch near Clearfield, SD, Yvonne Hollenbeck says Lowman gave her her first job as a cowboy poet. Since then, she’s been honored as the outstanding Female Poet by the Western Music Association, and her books and CDs have also won acclaim.

Formerly from Marmarth, ND, funny man Jess Howard now hangs his hat in Wibaux, MT. His deadpan delivery of poems co-written with his brother Pat Richardson keep audiences in stitches. He’s a regular in Elko and also performs regionally.

Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND, attended the first gathering in Medora, all the while protesting what he wrote was “just junk.” He’s gone on to develop a successful career as a banquet entertainer and also pens a weekly column, Up Simms Creek.

DW Groethe, Bainville, MT, had been writing poetry and music for years before he accompanied a friend to the Medora gathering. He came to listen that first year but has been performing since, including two appearances at the National Folk Festival.

With Lowman, Hermosa, SD rancher Linda Hasselstrom rounded out the Dakota-Montana contingent. An award-winning author who hosts writing retreats on her ranch, Hasselstrom’s forte is free verse poetry. A poem of hers appeared on the back cover of the 2011 Gathering program.

Lowman says his biggest satisfaction in ramrodding the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering is exposing a lot of good talent to the public who might otherwise have stayed home: “I’m glad to have gotten people like Rodney out sharing and preserving the heritage. It’s not just about the poetry, it’s raising awareness of cowboys in the Dakotas. So many people think we only have plowboys.”

The 2011 Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering starts Friday afternoon, May 27, with a free writing workshop conducted by Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird. A special anniversary concert will be held that evening. The workshop continues Saturday morning. Poetry and music sessions run during the afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, May 28-29, with night shows both evenings. For information on the workshop, contact Merrill Piepkorn, 701-205-2665. For information on the gathering, contact Bill Lowman, 701-872-4746.

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