Cowboys and cowgirls of all ages came to town this weekend to celebrate the Western ranching lifestyle in song and verse.
During the Saturday morning Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering parade, stagecoaches, wagons, people on horseback and Blizzard the trained longhorn bull delighted the crowd that packed Main Avenue.
“Everybody loves cowboys,” said Nancy Romain from Key West, Florida.
The 28th annual gathering runs from Thursday through Sunday and draws in about 3,000 people, concerts and other events, said coordinator Linda Mannix.
“I think it’s great, it’s growing, the interest is growing,” said Sylvia Halldorson, a volunteer from Bayfield.
For some in the parade crowd, the idea of cowboys and poetry doesn’t seem like an intuitive pairing.
“I think its very unusual,” said Gail Theile from Naples, Florida.
It’s a tradition started on long cattle drives, when cowboys would compose their verses on the labels pealed off canned goods, Mannix said. Between 1905 and 1917, cowboy poems started getting published in books, she said.
The national poetry gathering started in Elko, Nevada, and Kevin O’Farrell, a hat maker, brought the idea to Durango, she said.
It’s a natural fit because of the area’s strong roots in agriculture and all those who still ranch in the area.
“We’re trying to keep that Western touch of Durango alive,” she said.
Cowboy songs focused on animals, the land and work on the ranch are a key part of this as well.
Jeneve Rose Mitchell was one of the musicians serenading the crowd during the parade. She is scheduled to perform in a Sunday concert.
“It’s a great venue, I love the people who come to the cowboy gathering,” she said.
The 16-year-old lives near Crawford, southeast of Grand Junction, and has performed several times in town but missed last year’s gathering because she was competing in “American Idol.”
Mitchell plays nine instruments and she was among the top 14 contestants in “American Idol.”
She bought all her own instruments and paid for her own music lessons, her father Tim Mitchell said.
“Because I love it, I practice a ton,” she said.