By Trevor Busch
Town council defeated a motion to waive facility rental costs for a planned cowboy poetry event following a 4-3 split vote.
During the Jan. 13 regular meeting, council heard from a delegation headed by David Woodruff, chair of Taber Cowboy Poetry.
“With the harvest that we’ve had, and a downturn in the energy industry, we sure need a party. It’s part of our history.”
Planned for Saturday, March 28, Woodruff was seeking a waiver from council for use of the Taber Community Centre Auditorium and the White Room for the event, at a cost of roughly $900. Woodruff’s application indicated the event could help locals write and perform cowboy poetry and western music, bring in out of town performers to help guide the production, and spotlight local businesses.
“The loss of the Taber Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Gathering was a very sad occurrence to my way of thinking, but I think with a different approach it can be restarted and successful again,” said Woodruff in a written submission as part of council’s agenda. “These events are planned and executed to help keep the memory of the Old West, and the rise of the cattle industry, alive. I believe that with a few changes from what was done at cowboy poetry gatherings in the past, we can have more long-term participation and an ongoing strong activity for the community.”
“The gatherings that I’ve been attending — Pincher Creek, Stavely, Maple Creek, Kamloops, and Lewistown, Montana — draw performers and crowds from fairly great distances, so I have confidence that this will put Taber more in the public eye, all over the Western U.S. and Canada.”
Woodruff reported local schools had been approached to involve students in writing, composing and performing for the event, and it would include a modified competition with prizes to motivate children.
Coun. Garth Bekkering wanted to know why Taber’s previous cowboy poetry event had lapsed, and whether the Taber and District Museum Society was still involved. Woodruff indicated the annual event had been discontinued approximately three years ago.
“They wanted to help fund the museum — which is important — but their money was all going to bring in the (high profile artists) and there went all the money right there. My idea is to have these people come — those that can and will — and sell their tapes and CDs and books.”
Coun. Louie Tams asked for confirmation the planned event no longer has ties to the museum society or previous organizers. Woodruff was unsure of how the event had been funded in the past.
“Their projects are elsewhere doing other things, so they don’t want to do this,” said Woodruff. “I think they’ve stepped away from it. I sure don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and I can’t think that we’re stepping on their toes. The museum society started this, and it’s a good thing, and we’re grateful for them getting it going in Taber, and now we’re going to take over and keep it going in their memory.”
Referencing previous controversy surrounding the town’s Community Standards Bylaw, Woodruff hopes the event will help dispel what he termed as ‘bad press.’
“The rest of the world should know that Taber is a good place, you can have good family entertainment, and forget about this thing about not being able to dance or gather or whatever — the bad press we’ve got in the past — I’d like to just overcome that with something positive.”
Following discussion, council voted 4-3 to defeat a motion from Coun. Carly Firth to approve a Community Grant Application waiver for a Taber Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Gathering (rental of the Taber Community Centre Auditorium and the White Room) for $897.50. Councillors Bekkering, Tams, Joe Strojwas and Jack Brewin voted in opposition to the motion.
In a statement as part of his application, Woodruff had outlined that if council denied the waiver if would not make or break the event, but it would represent a hardship.
“It is possible to host still, however no other funding has been requested from any other organization yet.”