What to Expect at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
What is the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering?
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a week-long festival of cowboy poetry, music and art. It began in 1985 with a small group of folklorists and poets and has grown into national and international event. Read about our history. Is this your first time at the Gathering? Become a member of the Western Folklife Center, and buy your tickets one month early, plus get a free ticket to a members-only show: read more.
What can I do during the Gathering?
Early in the week, you can take workshops during the day at several venues in Elko and then attend evening concerts of poetry and music in the Western Folklife Center's intimate G Three Bar (G III) Theater. Our special guests are always featured on stage in the first evening show of the Gathering. Then, during the latter part of the week (our three busiest days are Thursday, Friday and Saturday), you can spend all day at one or moving between our main venues, a little more than a mile apart: the Western Folklife Center’s G Three Bar Theater and Pioneer Saloon, and the Elko Convention Center/Conference Center. Read more about transportation here.
Thursday-Saturday, poets and musicians perform all day on various stages (including open mic sessions), which anyone can attend with the purchase of a Deluxe 3-Day Pass or a single Day Pass. There are also dance workshops and special ticketed shows throughout the day. There are performances every night of the Gathering, and the Pioneer Saloon is open for socializing, late night jam sessions and nightcaps. There are dances on Friday and Saturday, where you can show off new steps learned in the dance workshops. Throughout these three days at the Western Folklife Center, in addition to the poetry and music sessions, you will see films, demonstrations in the Wiegand Gallery and more: many of these are free to the public. Films are also shown at the Northeastern Nevada Museum. Other Elko businesses offer open mic nights, exhibits, gear shows and music.
There’s a lot going on. How do I figure out what I want to do?
We anticipate having the full daily schedule online by mid-December every year, so you can plan ahead for January's Gathering. Events enjoyed through the purchase of either a Deluxe 3-day Pass or Day Pass such as music and poetry sessions, panel discussions and films, are scheduled between 10:00 am and 5:30 pm. Most sessions run an hour to an hour and a half. Ticketed evening shows are 7:00 pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (if scheduled), and 6:30 and 8:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Participating artists’ biographies and samples of their work are also available online to help you choose new artists to enjoy.
How do I meet people?
Just introduce yourself! Artists, staff and audience alike are friendly and willing to introduce newcomers to their favorite parts of the Gathering. Sign up for a hands-on workshop and get to know your classmates, or you can also become a member of the Western Folklife Center and attend members-only events like the exhibition opening reception. One of the best ways to meet people is to grab your fiddle, guitar, washboard, flute, accordion, or other instrument and jam the evening away; or simply sidle up to the bar in the Pioneer Saloon.
I’ve heard that it is expensive to attend the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Is this true?
It is possible to attend the daytime poetry and music sessions for the price of a Deluxe or Day Pass. That can be as many as seven sessions per day, which means you could listen to 21 different poets between 10:00 am and 5:30 pm. Most people wander from one session to another, attending four or five sessions per day. All sessions are first-come, first-seated until all seats are taken (Please respect that no standing or sitting on the floor is permitted by the Elko Fire Code). We may have ticket discounts and special offers available, and we also offer tickets to working cowboys and ranch families--for ticket availability, just stop by the Ticket Desk in the Elko Convention Center if you qualify.
What about hotels?
Hotels can be expensive during the week of the Gathering; some hotels offered special discounts for attendees during the 2017 Gathering, noted here. There are many family-owned smaller motels that offer charm and hospitality, and there may be limited couch surfing opportunities in Elko as well. A good idea also is to check the Elko Chamber of Commerce for a list of hotels and motels in Elko. Be aware that many businesses in Elko do not have websites, but sometimes a phone call goes a long way. Click here for more planning information.
Is there anything good to eat in Elko?
Yes! Elko offers a wide variety of great international foods from sushi to Chinese, Mexican and more, as well as diners and casino restaurants. Many people enjoy the Basque restaurants, which offer family-style meals and more food than one person can eat.
Where do I buy tickets?
Tickets go on sale to the general public in October, at which time you may also call 775-738-7508, or purchase tickets in person. Remember, Western Folklife Center Members have the opportunity to purchase tickets one month earlier than the general public: read more or join now. See you at the Gathering!