Thursday, June 21, 2012

25th Gathering ropes 'em in

Gathering performers Dusty Dee Litchfield, Shilo, Barry Heath, the Divine Bovines, and Trevor Panczak

Chris Davis -
The dust has settled on the 25th annual Cowboy Gathering. Established in 1988, the Gathering grew from a small event planned by the then newly formed Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association into the 4 day extravaganza it has since become. The Gathering has also been a major economic boon to the Pincher Creek area, bringing hundreds of tourists to town every year. The Pincher Creek and District Agricultural Society has been an integral part of the event from the beginning.

The incomparable Hugh Kelly

As in years past, the event took place on two stages simultaneously, one in the Pavilion and the other in the Commmunity Hall. The Pavilion also featured artisan booths and was the setting for a roast beef dinner prepared by Barry's Cookin' from Cowley in the evenings. I had the good fortune to be employed as soundman for the Pavilion stage, affording me the opportunity to hear and see most of the talented people performing at the event over the course of the weekend. The list of poets and musicians that performed is a long one, and the memorable moments were numerous.

Talented locals included Alyssa Barbero, Martyna Lively, Albert Prairie Chicken, and Jaiden Panchyshyn. Featured performers included Trevor Panczak, Phil Lethbridge and the Westwinds, Shilo Sharrard, and the Travelling Mables. The Divine Bovines made their Gathering debut, entertaining audiences with their pasturized hilarity. Dave Dance kept it real, every time.

Hugh Kelly gave others a lesson in performance with his delightfully smooth sound. One of the best vocalists I ever heard. Listen to him sing " I'm thinking tonight of my blue eyes" if you don't believe me. Mariya Soetaert wowed the crowd with her voice and also with her engaging original material. "Peanut Butter" was on of her standout moments. Mother and daughter duo Jill and Kelly Stewart brought some magical harmonies to the stage. Dusty Dee Litchfield and his extraordinary sideman Dave knocked it out of the park every time. Buddy Gale's laconic style was again enhanced by his remarkable memory, as he pulled poem after story after poem out of his memory as the mood suited him.
Ed Brown is always a treat to hear (C. Davis photos)
Albert Prairie Chicken
Mariya Soetaert 
Randy and Rai Smith 
Randy and Rai Smith duetted divinely, and Randy also played solo, demonstrating his superb baritone and strong song-smithing. Phyllis Rathwell was funny and poignant. The Bibby's tag-teamed the laughs. Harry 'n Jen were low key and marvellous. Perry Jacobsen and Rob McConnell rollicked through classic tunes. Bud Stewart made it all look easy, singing and reciting. Barry "the vet" Heath was as charming as ever. Mag Mawhinney turned whimsy into hilarity with regularity. Ol' Ugly was old, ugly, and really funny. Yodeler Miriam Dreher Colter represented the art admirably. Margaret Wilhelm, Phyllis Rathwell, "Gramma poet" Hazel Rust, Morrie Goetjen, Doug Kieth, each brought something special to the microphone. Impromptu bands formed for brief shining moments and then went their separate ways. And it just kept coming... song after song, laugh after laugh, excellent performer after excellent performer.

Some performers also left the venue to perform at Canyon School, the Pincher Creek Hospital, and at Vista Village and Crestview Lodge.
Calgary Stampede Royalty (sporting "Divine Bovine" ears) 
Dusty Dee Litchfield gets a hug from Harry the Horse 

The Calgary Stampede White Hat Round Up Volunteers visited on Saturday, bringing with them white cowboy hats, trinkets, rodeo queens, mascot Harry the Horse, and the show-stopping Keister Family Fiddlers.

2012 Calgary Stampede Centennial Native Princess Amelia Crowshoe (from Brocket) with yodeler Miraim Dreher Colter 
Cowboy Church on Sunday morning was very well attended, turning into a spirit-raising singalong.

The Gathering faces some challenges going forward. Younger performers joining the show are musicians, not poets. The poets who have been the cornerstone of the event are increasingly finding it difficult to attend. The audience too is getting older, and traveling less, affecting the attendance numbers. It's uncertain at this point exactly what direction the event will take in the future, but most of the organizers I talked with were confident that it will evolve and continue.

Eileen McGlynn receives a thank-you bouquet from Alyssa Barbero 

Another big challenge will be finding a suitable replacement for Organizing Chairperson Eileen McGlynn, who has announced she is stepping down from the position after more than a decade on the Gathering Committee.

The Ranchers Family Fun Rodeo held on Sunday was a hoot, and will be featured in a separate story, as will several other Gathering related stories and videos.


  1. To find the picture of the Calgary Stampede Royalty sporting my cow ears is a proud moment in my Divine Bovine life. These beautiful ladies were gracious enough to pose with me as well and I have proudly displayed that picture on my facebook page. Thank you for posting this. I'll certainly spread the word about this site. Thank you.
    Judy Williams Sings The Divine Bovines:
    Songs from the Cows' Point of View

    1. Just stumbled on this, sorry for the extreme delay in replying. I hope things are well with you, certainly a most memorable act!


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