RUPERT - As cowboys helped settle the Wild West, they often created their own entertainment through the use of poems, songs and stories while gathered around the campfire.
“Back then, people actually visited with each other. Now everybody’s got their face in some kind of a screen all the time. In the old days, that wasn’t there. For years, this is how people entertained themselves – in the evening telling stories,” said cowboy poet Wayne Nelson.
That storytelling went by the wayside as radio, movies and television were created but in the early 1980s, interest in the genre was renewed and Cowboy Poetry was reborn. About 16 years ago, the cowboys started meeting at the Wilson Theatre and they will do so again this weekend.
Nelson is helping to organizing the upcoming “Diamondfield Jack Cowboy Gathering” to be held at the Wilson this weekend. The event is scheduled from noon until 11 p.m., Friday, Nov. 12 and again the following day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It costs $10 to listen to the poets and a portion of the proceeds will go toward funding the ongoing efforts to restore the Wilson Theatre. It’s expected that at least 22 cowboy and cowgirl poets will perform during the night shows.
Nelson says the Wilson is a wonderful place to entertain.
“The acoustics are so good, and the place reeks of history,” Nelson said.
On both Friday and Saturday, a craft fair will also be hosted in the Wilson’s second story. While visitors check out the crafts, they will also be entertained by cowboy poets.
“During these day shows, poets who wish can get a shot in the day show. It’s an open mike. They can sign up and perform. Everybody’s welcome to this. It’s first come, first serve. There are usually three or four open slots,” he said.
The craft fair stage gives budding cowboy poets a chance to perform and a place to practice if they chose to also sign up for a night show.
“This is where a lot of budding cowboy poets perform who‘ve never done their poetry before and want to run their poems by. This gives people an opportunity to recite new poems or new songs. It’s kind of a proving ground. It’s also good practice for people that are kind of young and green. It takes practice to get up and get in front of people,” Nelson said.
Each one of the day shift shows will be supervised by a “session boss.”
“He’s a seasoned poet who is member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho. He will be in charge of that session to make sure that each performer in that session gets equal time,” Nelson said.
And those who would like to perform during the evening sessions are also invited to do so. Each performance lasts about an hour. Cowgirls are also very much a part of the event.
“In fact, it’s about 50-50. You bet. We’ve got girl singers and family bands,” he said.
Anyone with an interest in cowboy poetry is invited to attend. For more information call Nelson at 208-226-5929.