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.
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 members’ pre-sales when shows often sell out. You’ll also get a free ticket to a members’ show, and a members’ discount on a 3-Day Deluxe Pass.
• 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.
• Don’t forget to buy a 3-Day Deluxe Pass for access to dozens of daytime poetry and music performances Thursday through Saturday.
• Visit the special exhibitions in the Wiegand Gallery.
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.