Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The cowboy way of life is heard in poem and song during a rowdy rendezvous weekend in Heber City.

The life of a cowboy is surely never short of muses to conjure up stanzas, whether their words be flavored as winsome or worrisome, somber or slapstick. With ample amounts of time on the range to sit and think, with long evenings saddled up by a campfire, and with Mother Nature always doing her worst to the herd and the land, cowboys have plenty of fodor to pen a poem.

And there’s no better place to hear it than at the Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which in nearly a quarter-century old.

The Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering began as a small cultural festival at the Midway Community Center to celebrate the heritage of the cowboy way and to ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the fold of new tech and the faster pace of life. The festival has now blossomed into a multi-day festival stretching out over the Heber Valley at nine venues—one of which is even the Heber Valley Railroad. More than 12,000 patrons not only come from all over the West and the United States to partake in the weekend, they often look forward to it throughout the year.

The Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering is the most important festival of its kind in Utah and one of the most prominent in the country. Every fall, cowboy poets, musicians, storytellers, and jokers meander their way to the two-horse town of Heber City. The spectacle is filled with performances, concerts, Western entertainment, arts and crafts, and more over the course of five days. You’re sure to spot more 10-gallon hats than you can count, see mustachioed gentlemen with mics or guitars in their hands, and gawk at the gussied up ladies of the West, all while laughing till your Wranglers bust at the seams.

You’ll learn more than you might care to about ropin’ and rhymin’ over the course of the weekend, and when you aren’t hearing the poetic banter of cowfolk, you can make your way to the Buckaroo Fair, mountain man traders camp, dances, and equestrian events. Don’t miss out on the cowboy grub, either. There’s something for every cowboy, young or old.

More than entertainment, it’s an authentic and intimate look at a lifestyle that is dwindling like a slow burning fire in a sage field. As such, the festival’s mission is to: “To preserve the cowboy way of life by holding an annual cowboy poetry gathering and giving back to the community along the way.“ Indeed, these cowboy poets are preservers of a nearly by-gone past-time, and it’s worth every minute hearing their tales.

Each year, the festival’s kicks off opening night at Midway Town Hall with a steak dinner and live music. Throughout the weekend, the majority of events are held at Heber City High School and the Homestead Resort. Some performances require additional tickets and will often sell out. There’s also art shows, open-mic performances, and harmonica and yodeling classes. But the real treat are the true blue entertainers.

Regular performers over the years have included Waddie Mitchell and Baxter Black—two of the most recognized cowboy poets in the world—the Bar J Wranglers, Michael Martin Murphey, Don Edwards, and many more. In total, there are more than 30 entertainers throughout the festival. You’ll chuckle and cry, because everything is fair game when it comes to cowboy poetry and good ol’ fashioned western music.

While the way of life that the festival illuminates may not be for everyone, it should be cherished and celebrated because it helped make the American West what it is today — at a minimum, a bit more colorful.

The Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering is held at nine venues across Heber Valley, with the majority of events at the Heber City High School. General admission tickets to see cowboy entertainment, the buckaroo fair, the art show, and open mics are $10 for adults for the weekend. Additional tickets must be purchased for the myriad dinners, parties, workshops, classes, entertainment, etc. More information about the festival can be found at HeberValleyCowboyPoetry.com.

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