The history of cowboy poetry dates back to the 19th century, and can be found embedded in Western American culture. It follows a long lineage of hard-working men who would gather by the fireside or huddle in their bunkhouses and recount tales of hardship, history, and daily life on the ranch or cattle drives. Amidst the crackling fires and howling coyotes, these stories of cowboy values and practices served as entertainment aft er a long day’s work.
While cowboy poetry was indeed born from the cowboy lifestyle, the tradition is quite contemporary. The Heber Valley Western Music & Poetry Gathering first took place as a one-night event with a few hundred attendees and local cowboys swapping poems in the Midway Town Hall. Now, more than 10,000 attendees gather from miles around to have a genuine cowboy experience. Th e performers and events serve to remind audiences of the cowboy way of life, a heritage and legacy that helped settle Utah.
The Gathering has become a meaningful part of the cowboy poetry community, welcoming new performers and honoring seasoned entertainers, and each year the event is anticipated months in advance. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this year’s Western Music & Poetry Gathering will be held on October 30th through November 2nd at multiple venues in Heber City and Midway. Th e Gathering kicks off at the Midway Town Hall with live music and a steak dinner, with additional events taking place at Heber City’s high school and Zermatt Resort. Art shows, open microphones for beginners or enthusiasts, Western culture classes, cowboy grub, and continuous music and poetry keep the energy ﬂ owing throughout the four-day festival.
These Western music and cowboy poetry events range from one night performances to multi-day fi estas. Some include full-scale dinners while others welcome special guests, such as the Sweetback Sisters, Don Edwards, Billy Dean, Suzy Bogguss and the Bar J Wrangers. Others feature booths selling everything from saddles to spurs. One particularly popular event is Heber Valley Railroad’s “Cowboy Poetry Express.” Enjoy an aft ernoon of featured artists performing throughout the train, showcasing their unique cowboy talents. Th e Gathering welcomes everyone aboard the Heber Valley Railroad for live performances and legendary times.
Heber City and Midway continue to welcome the most renowned Western talent in North America, playing host to an impressive roundup of performers whose clever nostalgic brand of expression and musical talents enchants audiences year after year. Some of this year’s performance highlights:
New this year, the vocal band Home Free will entertain guests at the Gathering. In December 2013 Home Free was crowned season four champions of NBC’s The Sing- Off, but their victory was by no means the beginnings of a career for the five country stars from Minnesota.
Rather, it was a satisfying culmination of nearly a decade of hard work and commitment to a vocal craft growing in popularity. Home Free continues to entertain audiences with their high-energy show peppered with quick-witted humor that meshes Nashville standards with pop hits dipped in country flavor.
The Gathering is thrilled to have Billy Dean coming for a one-time concert before heading back to Branson Missouri where he performs at the Starlite Theater.
Dean made his chart debut in late 1990 with the single “Only Here for a Little While,” the first release from his debut album Young Man. Song favorites include “Let Them Be Little” and “Billy the Kid.” Dean has audiences laughing and crying as he sings about life and love.
To learn more about The Heber Valley Western Music & Poetry Gathering and this year’s line-up visit hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.