And what an anniversary weekend it was. Held Sept. 19-21, the event was sold out, with the Armoury packed to maximum capacity for both the Friday and Saturday evening performances.
According to organizer Eleanor Bowie, all 400 weekend passes were sold – the first time she is aware this has ever happened.
The art auction on Saturday evening brought in about $4,700, with proceeds supporting the Jasper Centre. The highest selling item was a three-piece sterling silver buckle set hand engraved by featured artist Ester Nagel made specially for the silver anniversary. It was purchased by Ian Bowie for $375.
Raffle tickets were sold on a quilt by Linda Wright featuring the signatures of all 465 performers from the past 25 years. The quilt raised about $1,000 for the Jasper Centre and was won by Jasper Centre manager Cathy Rutley, who hopes to have it on display there for the community to enjoy.
A handful of performers, artists and audience members have made it out to the gathering every year since it began. According to poet Doris Bircham, who was also an organizer for 10 years, it’s the hospitality of the friendly community that keeps people coming back year after year.
Kim Taylor couldn’t be happier to see the gathering enter its 25th year. She spearheaded the event in 1989 after moving to town and seeing a need for a venue where local artists could display and sell their work. She was an organizer for 10 years before moving to Bragg Creek, Alta. But she still makes it back when she can, and brought some of her photography to display at the Western Art & Gear Show over the weekend. She never imagined the event would span this many years.
“We thought maybe four or five years and the novelty would wear off,” she said. “It’s very overwhelming and emotional.”
For Taylor, Cowboy Poetry has been a place to build friendships, and it even spurred her photography career.
“It’s one of the few shows that has stayed really authentic in keeping to the western tradition with saddle makers and braiders and silversmiths,” she said.
Guy Murphy also enjoys the time spent visiting with other artists, poets and musicians. He has made it to every Cowboy Poetry Gathering, bringing his rawhide braiding with him. The Maple Creek cowboy learned the trade from his grandfather and has been doing it for about 40 years. Now he’s teaching the younger generation how to braid. While he doesn’t travel to any other shows, he always makes sure he’s at the local gathering.
“We see lots of people that we know and some that we only see once a year,” he said. “It’s a good time with a lot of visiting.”
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