Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Jeff Carson is a well-known cowboy poet who shares some of his favorite highlights of the gathering.

Heber City will celebrate its 16th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair in grand fashion by opening the festival at Abravanel Hall with Riders in the Sky and the Utah Symphony on Nov. 1. The rest of the festival will take place in Heber Valley Nov. 2-7 with top western entertainers, including Ian Tyson, the Bar J Wranglers, Sons of the San Joaquin, Red Steagall, Hot Club of Cowtown, Suzy Boggus, R.W. Hampton and Wylie & the Wild West, with renowned cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell as the host.

What began 16 years ago as a one-night gathering with local cowboy poets sharing poems in the Midway Town Hall is now a full week of entertainment at seven different venues featuring entertainers from all over the United States. Now averaging more than 12,000 attendees each year, Heber City’s Cowboy Poetry Gathering has become one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the country.

“We don’t want people to forget the cowboy heritage that established not only Utah but the West,” said Tom Whitaker, event creator and trail boss. “The best way to experience being a cowboy without being ‘a cowboy’ is to be entertained by real cowboys. These performers live it, write it, rhyme it, sing it and perform all over the country.”

A retired businessman who is now a local rancher and farmer in the Heber Valley, Whitaker met up with a few cowboy friends sixteen years ago and discovered they all knew some cowboy poems. They decided to print up a few flyers, post them and see if anyone would show. More than 300 people attended the first gathering. After a couple of years, the event outgrew the Midway Town Hall and moved to Wasatch High School in Heber City. The new school offers a larger auditorium, more space and open areas to host the multiple events of Heber City’s Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair.

The 16th annual gathering will feature 10 main concerts and shows; nonstop cowboy poetry and entertainment; more than 40 western booths with arts, crafts and cowboy gear; Mountain Man Camp; Cowboy Church; The Wild West Show “Famous Outlaws of the West”; fiddle, guitar, harmonica and mule-driving clinics; Cowboy Express Train; Impact of the Horse, mustang horse competition; Cowboy Buckaroo Ball and more. Souvenirs include the Heber City’s 16th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair poster painted by Karl Thomas, a membership pin and a CD with poems and songs from all the artists.

Tickets for the Buckaroo Fair and continuous music and poetry are $10 at the door. A cowboy BBQ lunch and dinner is $15 for adults and $7 for children. Concert tickets range from $14 to $45 and are available online at www.hebercitycowboypoetry.com or Day’s Market Place in Heber City, 435-654-2352. For more information on event times and locations visit www.hebercitycowboypoetry.com.

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