Fans of cowboy poetry know the arrival of February means it’s time to head to head to Alpine for one of the nation’s most authentic cowboy poetry gatherings. But this year will be a little different as the new Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering replaces the old Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Organizers of the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering announced at last year’s event that they were hanging up their spurs after 33 years of putting on the annual weekend of poetry at Sul Ross State University. The news came as a shock to dedicated fans, both from Alpine and afar, who banded together to produce a replacement event.
The Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering, scheduled for Feb. 21-22, retains the format of the original event, including free daytime sessions of cowboy poetry and music, ticketed evening performances, open-mic sessions, and chuckwagon breakfasts on Friday and Saturday morning.
“We’ve done about two years’ worth of work in about six months,” says event producer Bob Saul, referring to the all-volunteer effort to form a new nonprofit organization, raise funds, and produce this year’s event.
Saul, of Fort Worth, worked with supporters both local distant to organize the gathering, which typically fills up the hotels in Alpine and nearby towns. For attendees, he says, the main difference between the old gathering and the new gathering is that now tickets are available online before the event.
“We’ve had a lot of support from people who have attended over the years who don’t live in Alpine, and a huge amount of support from people who do live there—the city has been behind it, the local tourist bureau has been behind it,” Saul says.
Saul says the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering aims to retain the authenticity of Western ranching culture that the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering was known for.
“Most of these performers do not make their living performing, and that’s one of the criteria—they have to be born on a ranch, work on a ranch, come from a historical ranching family, or own and operate a ranch,” he says.
Thirty-nine performers representing Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Dakota will be on hand, including poets such as Red Steagall, Pipp Gillette, Andy Hedges, Andy Wilkinson, Joel Nelson, Vess Quinlan, and Amy Hale.
Along with the chuckwagon breakfasts at Kokernot Park, the weekend features morning and afternoon poetry sessions (no ticket required) across the Sul Ross campus with titles like “Whoop it Up,” “The Creak of the Leather,” “A Cowboy’s Life,” “A Good Hand Knows,” “Stampede,” “Skedaddle!” and “Aces High.” Thee ticketed afternoon and evening shows ($10 and $15, respectively) are at Marshall Auditorium on campus and the Spicewood Restaurant and Bar.
“This is not a festival,” Saul says. “We do our best to keep it noncommercial. All we have is cowboy poetry, and it’s two days of solid cowboy poetry.”