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Photo by Bill Patterson

The Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering Is Celebrating Its 30th Anniversary

It's one of several events around the country that showcase a distinctly Western art form.

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It started around the campfire—ranch hands swapping stories and singing ditties to relax after herding cattle. Over time, wranglers’ nighttime entertainment became known as cowboy poetry, an art form that relates the trials and hilarities of ranch life. In the 1980s, events sprang up around the country to bring the craft to a wider audience: The Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, for instance, launched 30 years ago this month in tribute to some of history’s best performers. (The late Bruce Kiskaddon, considered the foremost cowboy poet in America, rounded up herds in the Trinidad area more than a century ago.) And it’s still going: From January 17 to 20, 16 chaps-clad poets and musicians, including Emmy Award winner Connie Dover, will perform at Golden’s American Mountaineering Center; tickets start at $25. “The camaraderie at Colorado gatherings is the best in the world,” says Carol Heuchan, a nine-time Australian Bush Laureate poet. “There’s nothing like that excitement of being together and enjoying what we all enjoy”—whether it’s around a campfire or not.

Winter in Colorado

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