The 31st Annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering kicked off October 3, with the 12th Annual Cowboy Theatre— a western variety show with a twist.
The show depicted a romance comedy story of “The Marriage of Jenny Barr” taking place around Durango and at the Diamond D Ranch in the 1880s.
The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering was founded by Glen and Sharon Camarca in 1989 but cowboy poetry has a long history.
According to the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering program, cowboy poetry started in the early trail-driving days after the Civil War. The first official Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held in Elko, Nevada in 1985. Local hat maker, Kevin O’Farrell, returned home from the event and decided Durango needed to host an event just like it.
The play consisted of seven poets from all over the west. The cast had one day to practice the script which added to the fun. Many had to pause, and read the script or confirm with others on stage if they had the line right.
The play focused on Jenny Barr’s experience of marrying an evil man, Hyatt Moreland, who was only after her family’s ranch. The hero of the play, named Elias Montoya, whisked her away from him and eventually asked her father for her hand in marriage. Jenny first rejected him but then he won her over at the talent show that took place within the play.
The crowd was encouraged to cheer for the good guys and boo or hiss for the bad guys which made the crowd feel like a part of the show.
The cowboys were adorned with spurs, vests and bandanas and rode stick-horses into the scene which would even act up every now and again.
The comedy throughout the show was more relatable if a viewer had grown up on a ranch and in the cowboy lifestyle.
Within the play was a talent show. A total of 23 performers showcased their talents and gave a sneak peek into their performances that weekend. The talent show alternated between poets and musicians. There were performers as young as 13 and others well experienced in the cowboy life.
The talent show was a variety of poets and singers also from a variety of states out west, from Texas to Oregon to Nebraska. There were great poems about the cowboy lifestyle with a twist of comedy such as the story of roping a llama, and shooting a cow. Others were more heartfelt about a young lady’s broken heart.
A highlight of the talent show was listening to Durango local, Slim McWilliams, serenade the crowd towards the end of the show. It was clear to see he was a crowd favorite as the cheers went on and on.
There were other local talents in the singing category with their incredible yodeling. This included Lynne Lewis of Mancos and Tim Krebs of Dove Creek. There was also a star among us, Dave Munsick. He has opened concerts for acts such as Chris Ledoux, Ian Tyson and Lyle Lovett. He is now part of The Munsick Boys, voted best Western Band of 2016 by the Academy of Western Artists.
The talent show concluded with a duet with the main characters, Elias Montoya and Jenny Barr. They sang a song about how in love they were and then how she was going to make a good cowgirl and wife of a working cowboy. They then get married and the bad guy who tried to marry her at the beginning was taken to jail and of course, they all lived happily ever after.
To end the play all 23 talents came together and sang the classic song, ‘Don’t Fence Me In’, but with a twist about how they did in fact, fence each other in.