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About the Gathering

About the national cowboy poetry Gathering

The nation’s original cowboy poetry and music festival


The Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering started 33 years ago as a place where Western ranchers and cowboys could gather to share poems about their lives working cattle. From the beginning, it was clear these men and women had found their tribe, an artistic community that few knew existed. Three decades later, the tribe is now a nation of Western poets, musicians, artisans and storytellers, sharing their creativity across the country, telling their stories of hard work, heartbreak and hilarity, and what it means to make your way in the rangeland West.

The Elko Gathering was renamed the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering thanks to an act of Congress. Known simply as Elko to many, the Gathering embraces its role as a pilgrimage destination for thousands of ranch folk and others who love the West and come to learn and experience art that grows from a connection to the rhythms of earth and sky. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is six days of poetry, music, dancing, workshops, exhibits, conversations, food and fellowship, rooted in tradition but focused on today’s rural West. Join us in Elko, Nevada, and celebrate the arts and cultures of the American West.

Tickets are on sale now. For the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 29-February 3, 2018, our theme is "Basques & Buckaroos: Herding Cultures of Basin, Range and Beyond.” The buckaroo and herding traditions of the Great Basin call out to surrounding lands and even across oceans in all their cultural expression, then and now. Among Basque communities overseas and in the American West, traditions of music, improvised poetry, literature, dance, cheese making and more are flourishing. We look forward to presenting these arts alongside other Gathering favorites at the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Planning your first Gathering? Check out FAQs and Planning Your Trip! Tickets to the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering went on sale to Western Folklife Center members the day after Labor Day and to non-members on October 5, 2017, one month later. To become a Western Folklife Center member or renew your membership, click here, or call us at 888-880-5885 ext. 222.

Banner image: Jessica Brandi Lifland;
Slideshow images: Charlie Ekburg, Jessica Brandi Lifland