29th ANNUAL COWBOY POETRY GATHERING
'KEEPIN IT COWBOY'
History of the Montana Cowboy Poetry & Western Music Rendezvous,
by Karen Kuhlmann, Gathering Coordinator, 10/2012
Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Music Rendezvous, (MCPG), is a 4-day cultural festival, dedicated to celebrating and preserving the history, heritage and values of the cowboy lifestyle of the Upper Rocky Mountain West. Through cowboy poetry and western music lyrics, an oral history of the American cowboy is shared. A Western Art & Gear Show featuring artists of all genres and their endless western wares, is also produced in conjunction with the gathering.
Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering is held annually in mid-August in Lewistown, Montana. Over 120 cowboy poets, western musicians and artists primarily from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, Colorado and Canada, convene to share their talents and perpetuate the traditions of the American West. The Saturday night Grand Stage Show is held at the Fergus Center for the Performing Arts at Fergus High School.
Other highlights of the gathering include 52 hourly sessions of cowboy poetry and western music, discovery workshops, a Friday night Jam ‘n Dance, Saturday night campfire and storytelling session, and Sunday morning Cowboy Church. Teachers can earn up to six continuing education credits for attending the gathering.
Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering is particularly interested in involving youth and providing opportunities for their participation. Each year a ‘Young Cowboy Poet Search’ is sponsored by KXLO-KLCM our two local radio stations. In addition to other prizes, every youth poet has the opportunity to share their original cowboy poetry composition ‘live’ on the air. There are special hourly sessions at the gathering featuring young cowboy poets and musicians. Youth are always included on the Saturday night Grand Stage Show talent showcase. Making sure that the traditions and values of the American cowboy are passed on to future generations is a focus of Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
The American Bus Association selected our gathering as one of the Top 100 Travel Events of 2010, again making us feel really good about the authenticity and quality of our gathering. Patricia Schultz featured our Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering in her travel book, “1,000 Places to See in the US and Canada Before You Die,” so we’re on a lot of bucket lists!
Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Music Rendezvous was founded in 1986 in Big Timber, MT. After outgrowing the hospitality amenities of Big Timber, it moved to Lewistown in 1990 where it was produced by the Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lewistown Art Center. At the conclusion of the 2010 gathering, it was determined that Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the 2nd oldest in t he US, had grown to the level that it required its own non-profit organization with its own Board of Directors, dedicated to working year around to ensure production and perpetuation of a successful and vital gathering each year.
Lewistown, MT is in Charlie M. Russell country. The economy is cattle based, along with wheat and hay production. There are many 5th generation cattle operators and ranches in the area. Over 2,000 people attend various activities at Montana Cowboy Poetry each August. The gathering is an important and validating cultural festival for the central Montana community.
Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Music Rendezvous is self-funded and produced by a volunteer Board of Directors, three modestly compensated independent contractors and many local volunteers. Financing for the gathering is derived from gifts, grants, sponsorships, artist/vendor booth rentals, Saturday night stage show ticket sales, sale of 3-day pin passes and commissions from the sale of consigned cowboy poetry books, CD’s and cassettes.
Montana Cowboy Poetry is “Keepin’ It Cowboy,” in central Montana. Please join us as we celebrate the best of the west!