Mosey on downtown starting Thursday for the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The four-day celebration will offer residents and visitors a look into cowboy and Western culture.
Now in its 28th year, the gathering will kick of with a community outreach program that brings the Cowboy Poetry Gathering into area schools and other institutions.
“We try to keep the kids aware that this is a Western community and that Durango was founded on agriculture and mining,” said Linda Mannix, executive coordinator for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
It’s this element of education about our Western culture that also carries into the other programs in the gathering.
“My personal mission is to preserve that Western history and make people in Durango aware of it,” Mannix said. “Durango’s become such a ... I call it the ‘ings’ –biking, skiing, rafting – which is fun and wonderful that it’s gone that direction, but I don’t want them to forget that ranching – another ‘ing’ – was very important in the creation of this community. And so this event kind of keeps that culture going.”
Along with a weekend of celebrating Western heritage, the Cowboy Poetry Gathering is also a pretty big economic driver for Durango. Mannix said that over the course of the 28 years the gathering has been held, the event has only grown. What once started out as a way to fill in a fairly slow time of year, now it’s difficult to get a room in town for the gathering weekend.
The key to running a festival this long is to keep things fresh. New this year to the gathering is the cowboy comedy show.
“Cowboys have this weird sense of humor because the very job that they’re doing, they’re liable to get killed at any minute; it’s dangerous working with cows and horses and livestock,” Mannix said. “After the trail drives, after almost getting killed, they’d sit down and back in the 1880s, they’d peel labels off of fruit cans and scribble their thoughts and stick them in a pocket and maybe recite them at the end of the night.
“Of course, humor always helps us relieve stress, and so that’s where cowboy humor came from.”
You’ll also have the chance this year to scare up some vittles at the gathering’s first chuck wagon breakfast, which will be held downtown before the parade Saturday morning. A benefit for the Animas Museum, the breakfast will be held in the parking lot across from the Gaslight Theatre.