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Gathering FAQ

gathering faq

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, rooted in tradition but focused on today’s rural West. 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 it your first time at the Gathering? We have some hints for you! For the ultimate first-time experience:

Become a member of the Western Folklife Center. As a member, you can buy your tickets during the month of members’ pre-sales when shows often sell out. You’ll also get a free ticket to a members’ show, a members’ discount on a 3-Day Deluxe Pass and the opportunity for pre-seating in shows at the G Three Bar (G3Bar) Theater: read more.

• Choose the mainstage evening shows you want to see and buy your tickets.

• Sign up for a workshop and learn how to craft western gear, cook delicious food, learn a new dance step, write poetry and more (and you can get an early-week discount on shows, too).

• Don’t forget to buy a 3-Day Deluxe Pass for access to dozens of daytime poetry and music performances Thursday through Saturday. Members receive a discount during the special pre-sales purchasing period.

• Visit the special exhibitions in the Wiegand Gallery.

There’s a lot going on. How do I figure out what I want to do?

“Early Week” at the Gathering begins with daily workshops and one evening ticketed show Monday - Wednesday. Get more ticket information.

Thursday through Saturday is when things really ramp up. In addition to ticketed shows, dance and music workshops and nighttime dances, there are dozens of daytime poetry and music performances, talks, films and demonstrations you can access with a daytime pass. The Gathering features over 40 featured artists and events in seven Elko venues.

We anticipate having the full daily schedule online in mid-January this year, so you can plan for the Gathering. Sessions 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 normally scheduled between 10:00 am and 5:30 pm. Most performances are 90 minutes. 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 poets and musician biographies and samples of their work are 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. Become a member of the Western Folklife Center and attend a members-only event like the exhibition opening reception. And one of the best ways to meet people is to grab your fiddle, guitar, washboard, flute, accordion, or other instrument and jam the late evenings 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 10:00am and 5:30pm. 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 during the Gathering, just stop by the Ticket Desk in the Elko Convention Center if you qualify.

What about hotels?
With more than 35 hotels to choose from, you will definitely be able to find a room during the Gathering. Some hotels offer special Gathering discounts, noted here. There are many family-owned smaller motels that offer charm and hospitality, some do not have websites. A good idea also is to check the Elko Chamber of Commerce for a list of hotels and motels in Elko. Click here for more planning information.

Have fun! Whether you’re at a show or simply sitting in the Pioneer Saloon and unwinding, the Gathering is a great place to meet new people and make new friends!

A bit about our main showroom venues:

The two main ticketed show venues are the G Three Bar (G3Bar) Theater at the Western Folklife Center and the Elko Convention Center Auditorium

G Three Bar Theater: drinks are permitted in the show, the Theater is open seating. Western Folklife Center members receive the option to pay a little bit more for pre-seating, where they can choose their favorite chair (if available).

Elko Convention Center Auditorium: food and drink are not permitted, and all seating is assigned and on the ticket stub - a note about your tickets to the Elko Convention Center Auditorium shows: when you receive your tickets, please note your assigned seats. Seating in the Auditorium occurs from both sides of the room: Single alphabet-lettered (A) seats are in the front side of the room - from the main lobby; double alphabet-lettered (AA) seats are in the back side of the room - on the other side of the auditorium itself (when you pass the Whoa Back Saloon, you are almost there).

Elko Convention Center and Conference Center breakout rooms are open seating.