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Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering expands

There will be several changes this year, appealing to a wider base
This year’s Durango Cowboy Gathering, which will feature new events, will take place from September 28 through October 1. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering will keep preserving, celebrating and teaching Western heritage as it aims to make the event more attractive to families and non-cowboys.

The group will hold its 35th annual gathering Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.

“Being a cowboy is as much a state of mind as it is a state of possession,” Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering board member Jack Turner said. “We want people to know that you don't have to own a ranch or a horse or a steer to love this event, or be a part of it. It's about your heart as much as anything else.”

The group will rebrand itself as the Durango Cowboy Gathering.

“Sometimes poetry scares people away because they have a preconception of what it is versus what it really is,” Turner said.

The history of cowboy poetry traces back to the 1800s, when cowboys were driving cattle westward across the Great Plains, said Sue McWilliams, president of the Durango Cowboy Gathering.

“They wrote poems about the hardships or the funny things that happened around camp,” McWilliams said.

Cowboys wrote down their poems, which was a form of storytelling, according to Durango Cowboy Gathering vice president Barry Longwell.

The name change is only the tip of the iceberg, though, Turner said.

McWilliams said the gathering, which will feature poetry readings, live music and more, will also add a slate of new events this year geared toward children and families.

The first new event will be the Cowboy Mosey, which will take place Sept. 29, where participants are encouraged to dress up in Western attire and “mosey around” Main Avenue.

“(The attire) doesn’t have to be authentic,” Turner said. “The idea is to have fun.”

Other new additions will include a petting corral, featuring animals like goats and rabbits; an event called “100 Kids and Horses,” which will give children under the age of 12 a chance to interact with horses; as well as a “Quick Draw” figure drawing competition, inspired by the Old West and Far Side comic creator Garry Larson.

Participants dressed in Western attire will be granted an additional 10 seconds to complete their artwork, and the winners of each round will progress in a tournament-style fashion.

The Durango Cowboy Gathering, which consists of a 12-person all volunteer board, has been preparing for the event for almost 11 months, and McWilliams said it is excited to see both new and familiar faces.


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