"Water ... Cool Water"

21st Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering is this weekend

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Welcome to the 21st Annual Gathering, to be held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Buena Performing Arts Center in Sierra Vista.

The theme this year is “Water … Cool Water.”

Water — the vital life blood to the land and to all that live in it and upon it. As people moved west and began to establish their homes in the southern Arizona Territory, they learned quickly how critical water was to their survival. On can survive weeks without food, but without water, life expectancy becomes three days.

Of course, 150 years ago, there was more water buildup. The San Pedro flowed from south to north and was wide and deep enough to support river barges. People caught malaria because of the heavy mosquito population around large ponds and the Cienega area surrounding the river.

In the 1880s, rainfall averaged around 7 inches per year. Water was limited and if a rancher obtained land with little or no surface water, they would dig wells and set up windmills to pump water and store it in water tanks. If a rancher was lucky, he might have a stream with runoff from the mountains or be close to a flowing river or stream.

Survival in our territory demanded access to water. Finding water in the desert is as much an art as it is a science. Newcomers relied on the skills of those who came before them.

They looked for plants that would grow only near a water source: cottonwoods, sycamores, willows, hackberry, salt cedar, cattails and arrow weed.

They observed birds circling or followed the animal trails. They let nature help them decide on where they would plant their roots and raise their families.

History of the Gathering

The Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering found its beginning in the vision of one man, John Shaver. While serving with the Sierra Vista, AZ Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vista Arts and Humanities Committee, John joined others to look for an event that would foster an interest in Western Heritage as well as promote the community and increase tourism. In the spring of 1992, he brought a proposal to the City to sponsor a Cowboy Gathering. He gathered a team of dedicated volunteers and proceeded to produce the first Gathering, which was held at Apache Point Ranch in February 1993. 

 He brought Bud Strom on board and together, they made a superb team. They eventually moved the Gathering to the Buena Performing Arts Center after experimenting with Apache Point Ranch, the Ft Huachuca Recreation Center and the University of Arizona. Together, John and Bud brought the magic of Cowboy Poetry to our community and made it a fashionable commodity. It was an art form that captured the history of the west, the life and legend and lore of the cowboy, talked of hurts and joys and downright humorous stuff. 

 John and Bud’s vision added school participation. The Gathering became the vehicle for introducing Western Heritage as part of the Arizona Curriculum into our Cochise County Schools and teaching the children not only the history but also the techniques for writing cowboy poetry. Children from grade three through high school submitted their poems each year and on behalf of the more than 9,000 students who discovered something about themselves through poetry, on behalf of the parents, and on behalf of this most grateful community, we dedicate this history to Mr. John Shaver, Co-Chair Emeritus, Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering.

Featured artists

Teresa Burleson 

Walt “Bimbo” Cheney 

Judy Coder 

Ken Cook 

Peggy Godfrey 

Yvonne Hollenbeck 

Mary Kaye 

Jon Messenger 

Terry Nash 

Chuck Pyle 

Saddle Strings 

Jay Snider 

David Stamey 

Syd Masters & The Swing Riders 

Morales Brothers 

The Red Hot Rhythm Rustlers 

Vince Crofts & Mindi Reid

Participating artists

Gary Allegretto 

William Boycott 

Almeda Bradshaw 

Broken Chair Band 

Marci Broyhill  

Buckshot Dot 

Call Of The West 

Allan Chapman 

Sam DeLeeuw 

Mike Dunn 

Doug Figgs 

Rolf Flake 

Kerry Grombacher 

Kristyn Harris 

Sue Harris 

Carol Heuchan — all the way from Australia 

Allen “Hook” Hill 

Jim Jones 

Kay Kelley Nowell 

Jo Lynne Kirkwood 

Susie Knight 

Carol Markstrom 

Slim McWilliams 

Al Mehl 

Miss Devon and The Outlaw 

Mike Moutoux 

Miss “V”

The Gypsy Cowbelle 

Dale Page 

Steve Porter 

Nancy Ruybal 

Ann Sochat 

Barry Ward 

Yampa Valley Boys

Performance schedule

Friday, Feb. 8 

Headline Stage Performance

7 p.m. — Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Buena Performing Arts Center 

Judy Coder

Jay Snider

Student Poetry Contest Winners

Red Hot Rhythm Rustlers 


Peggy Godfrey

Terry Nash

Vince and Mindi

Free Jam Session follows at the Windemere Hotel


Saturday, Feb. 9 

Multiple Poetry and Music Sessions

Buena Performing arts Center 

$5 admission fee, at the door — each paid admission receives a program, valued at $3 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (each session is 50 minutes) 

7 p.m. — Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Buena Performing Arts Center 

Dave Stamey

Teresa Burleson 

Student Poetry Contest Winners 

The Morales Brothers 


Jon Messenger

Walt “Bimbo” Cheney

Syd Masters and the Swing Riders 

Free Jam Session follows at the Windemere Hotel


Sunday, Feb. 10 

Headline Stage Performance

1 p.m. — Doors open at 12:30 p.m.

Buena Performing Arts Center 

Mary Kaye

Ken Cook

Student Poetry Contest Winners



Chuck Pyle

Yvonne Hollenbeck

The Morales Brothers


Saturday Daytime Sessions

$5.00 Admission Fee, at the door — no advanced tickets available for the Daytime Sessions. 

Stage Shows

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday

General admission $18 

Tickets purchased on line Will Be Held at the Buena Performing Arts Center ticket office.

Please bring your receipt when picking up the tickets.

There will also be a small PayPal administrative fee added to your purchase.

Student winners

The Student Cowboy Poetry Writing Program began in 1995 with a vision of providing students of Cochise County an opportunity to apply their lessons in history to the creative writing of cowboy poetry. This fledgling program has grown over the years and has now been introduced in twenty-three schools … public, private and the home school Association.

Each year, more than 1,500 poems are written and each school selects the best from each grade level to be judged by the School Committee. The best of those are published in the “Saddlebag of Poems” and winners present their poems at the Saturday session during the Gathering. The top winners also perform on stage with the Featured Artists.

The goal of the Writing Program is to encourage students to develop their talents, research a theme and write a poem. The program fits with the Arizona curriculum and provides a wonderful opportunity to teach a little of the Arizona history. It also gives students an outlet to create their own unique poem, to be shared with family and friends.  Truly a win-win program.

The Gathering also partners with the Friends of Brown Canyon Ranch who arrange field outings for fourth- and fifth-graders to this 1909 ranch, to hear about the history of that time and experience other ranch activities. This is another way to introduce students to nature.

Stay tuned for more. And when you come to the Gathering, put 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb 9, on your calendar to hear these marvelous student winners!

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