Three-day event to host nearly 100 poets, performers, artists and artisans
Cowboy poetry has its origins around campfires, when ranchers and cowboys would entertain one another with stories, poems and tall tales.
Today, cowboy poetry remains alive and well. Contemporary cowboys still compose poems and stories about their lives and work, and still share them with their peers around lonely evening campfires. Some cowboy poems are humourous, others deeply touching, but all are personal and build on one of the longest-standing Western traditions.
Sept. 16-18, Maple Creek will host its 27th annual cowboy poetry gathering, one of the largest in western Canada.
The “Maple Creek Mustering,” as the event has been nicknamed, is expected to draw poets, musicians and artists from across Canada and United States. The organizing committee has booked 56 performers and 41 artists and artisans.
“We have some top notch performers coming,” says Committee Chair Eleanor Bowie.
“We’re trying to encourage our young families to recognize the value of what we’re offering on our performance venues,” says Bowie. “It’s the heritage of what they’re living, and what those who have had a similar experience are sharing.”
Bowie emphasizes the spiritual nature of the poetry, treating the performances as an extension of the multi-generational bond cowboys and ranchers form with the land on which they live and work.
“Cowboy poetry is based on the Western farming and ranching culture,” she explains. “The rural lifestyle is more than a job. It is a way of life and it is what feeds your soul. These people have found a way to express that.”
For poet Buddy Gale, a long-time performer at the Maple Creek Mustering, cowboy poetry has always been about the truth.
“One of my girls brought home a piece in the paper about cowboy poets, and I thought ‘I can do that, I just never wrote them down.’ So on the first day I wrote four,” Gale told the News-Times from his Calgary home, adding he started composing poetry in 1990.
Since then, Gale has published more than 600 poems, which have been set to music by 25 different artists. “It’s a dying art,” says Gale. “The West itself has changed.”
The changes in the western lifestyle have inspired many of Gale’s poems, as he explores the end of an era he experienced firsthand during the ’30s and ’40s.
“There’s no use painting a picture that isn’t there,” says Gale.
The Maple Creek gathering will also host western-themed artists and artisans who work in media such as silver, leather, wood, wool, photography or paint.
This year’s event is also featuring a western designer fashion show, a cowboy church service, an art auction, a beef supper and a pancake breakfast. Noted Saskatchewan authors Byrna Barclay, Sharon Butala and Joan Soggie will be attending to read from their works Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Young musicians will also be featured at the gathering, as part of the Junior Wranglers performance or accompanying other performers. Among the young artists featured will be Rachel Clark, Dale Freimark, Hoss Fritz, Wade Pollock, Josie and Morgan Robinson, Kennedy Udal and Jordana Vos.
Although full weekend passes are no longer available for purchase, those wishing to attend specific events can purchase a gate pass for each day. On Friday night, musicians will be stationed in several downtown restaurants, providing residents another opportunity to take in performances.
Organizers are hoping for a big turnout this year.
“We didn’t sell enough tickets [last year],” says Bowie. “We just couldn’t make it fly.”
“This year, we’re back and we’re energized.”
A full schedule of events and performances will be available at the Jasper Centre and more details are available at maplecreekcowboypoetry.com.