Old West feeling at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Annual state event offers a cultural counterpoint to Stock Show weekAnnual state event offers a cultural counterpoint to Stock Show week


It’s not only the stellar performances of cowboy — and cowgirl — poetry and songs that attract folks to the annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

It’s the people.

“I love meeting all the great entertainers,” said Jeff Loker, who sits on the board of directors for the gathering. “They’re a lot of unique people you don’t meet in today’s world.”

The 28th annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering took place Jan. 19-22 in Golden. Kicking off the event was a VIP, family reunion style meet-and-greet reception on Jan. 19 at the Table Mountain Inn, followed by a special sampler show at Miners Alley Playhouse. The gathering’s many performances took place throughout the weekend at the American Mountaineering Center.

People come from all over the metro area and beyond to perform, and to listen. This year’s performers included folks from Canada, Australia and across the western states.

Spectators enjoyed an entire weekend filled with stories — in poetry form and song — on horsemanship, cattle drives, campfires and fences, old cowboy hats, ranchers and their wives, neighbors and friends.

“A lot of magic comes out of the Colorado Cowboy Gathering,” said cowgirl performer Liz Masterson, a Colorado native. She mentioned this year, everyone was celebrating two marriages that recently occurred among the gathering’s regular performers.

R.D. and Barb Melfi, also known as Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, would normally be quite busy this weekend because of the National Western Stock Show in Denver. But because this year is the 100th anniversary of the famous Wild West showman’s death, they have been too busy with Buffalo Bill stuff, Barb Melfi said.

And besides, she added, “these are all our friends. We can’t ignore our friends.”

The historical aspect of the gathering can date back to at least the 1800s, said Lindsey Calvert of Denver who works as one of the event’s stage managers — a role she’s had for 11 years.

Calvert encourages everyone who enjoys western tradition to come and support the performers at the gathering, she said.

“The only way this type of event can continue is for people to attend every year,” she said.

Linda Matthews of Wheat Ridge attended the VIP event and Saturday performances this year. She especially enjoyed cowgirl performer Kristyn Harris’ yodeling.

“It was an expression of pure joy,” Matthews said.

Matthews, who has been attending the event for 15 years, said he likes that the gathering features a variety of acts, and appreciates that each performer provides a view into traditional Western culture.

“I never lived on a ranch,” Matthews said, “so it’s fun to get a little sample of that lifestyle.”

Denver is not like New York or some of the other major cities in the U.S., said Fred Powell of Denver, who, along with his wife Dianne, has been attending the gathering since 1995.

“Colorado is the west,” he said. “Here we have history. And the gathering is history coming to life.”

Rex Rideout of Conifer loves the old cowboy songs, he said, which he and Mark Gardner perform as a duo act at the gathering.

He described it as the music of the first American cowboys. And as with any culture, it’s important to preserve the past, Rideout said.

“In this country, we tend to race forward and not look back,” he said. “But some of us save what we can.”


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