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Celebration of western heritage on stage this weekend

Posted on March 23, 2023 by Taber Times

By Ian Croft

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A western celebration is returning in style March 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. as the Taber Community Centre Auditorium will be hosting the Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Round Up. 

Shelley McGarry, a member of the Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Round Up provided a rundown of what people would be able to expect at this shindig.

“We have a lineup of over 20 performers that are coming,” said McGarry. “We have everyone from the almost famous Bud Edgar — he’s a joker, trick roper. He’s amazing. He’s performed so many places, including Calgary Stampede, and he’s coming up from Calgary. We also have Jen Zollner and she’s a poet from the Medicine Hat cowboy foundation. These are just a few starting names of some of the people coming. The day is going to be filled with, as the title says, both poetry and western music. Often people think poetry is so dry, but music is poetry with music behind it. We have a lot of musicians who are presenting cowboy, or our western theme, and heritage material. The cowboy poetry pieces often have a comedic flavour to it, but some are very serious and some are about the beautiful land that we live on. It’s a whole mix of material that is being presented.”

After the basic overview McGarry then went into detail about the two big ticket items that will be occurring at this event.

“We have two things that we’re very proud to bring forward to our community and the first one is our local rodeo greats Bud VanCleave, Malcolm Jones, and Patty Lund,” said McGarry. “Of course Bud and Malcolm are rodeo Hall of Famers. Bud has also been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Patty Lund, both she and her husband are in rodeo. Patty is a barrel racer, and these amazing people are going to be on at 11 a.m. at that time slot. The president of our Legion here in Taber — we’re setting it up, like a Johnny Carson hour if you will, and it’s titled Wild Rag News. A wild rag is the bandana or kerchief that goes around a cowboy’s neck. These folks we want to honour for their accomplishments. Prize saddles that will just blow you away. Other memorabilia will be on display. They are going to have pictures and do an autograph (session). These are people that really need to be recognized for their contributions to our history and past.”

The second big ticket event that will be happening at this round up is a charitable event, and involves a key member of Taber’s municipal government.

“Other big, big thing for us there is a youth, Sandy Cooper-Black, and on December 30 Sandy was at a rodeo in Brooks,” said McGarry. “Sandy was on a bronc from the Calgary Stampede and got bucked and broke his neck. They figure he’d never breathe without a breathing tube, he wouldn’t walk. It was just really dire. He’s in the Foothills Hospital. His family’s been up-ended, the ranchers and in this area frequent people as well. So we felt we wanted to do something for this young man and his family. We got a fundraiser. It’s at 5 p.m. Now the exciting thing about this for us, is that the whole community when we’ve talked has so supported this young man and his family. Mayor Andrew Prokop, when I called him and I said, ‘the classmates of this youth would like to write a poem for our event to have it presented. Would you present it?’ Mayor Andrew said, ‘Yes absolutely.’ Everything that we’ve asked Mayor Andrew to do he’s answered with yes. Including at 5 p.m. Mayor Andrew is performing. He’s singing, he’s been working amazingly hard we’ve got a group of us together to help and support him. We’re playing guitar and Andrew is singing three songs. We’re very proud of what he’s done himself but the support for Sandy Cooper-Black is important.”

Additionally, there will also be a live auction at 5:30 with all revenue from the auction going to Cooper-Black and his family. McGarry also provided a historical context to this round up, and cowboy poetry on the whole.

“Basically, if we think about the yesteryear or the history of the poetry it began with the long cattle drive. The cowboys were out herding cattle. They were out there for months, and with their fellow workers that sit around the chuckwagon after they had dinner. They would commiserate often with very comedic poems that they came up with. In 1907 the oldest known poetry book was compiled — it’s really amazing the history of this and we’re trying to keep it alive. Not just Taber this is a national genre. We are very pleased to be continuing. With COVID there’s a bit of hiatus of course that happened. This annual event in Taber started in 1998, and it was wonderful. We are revitalizing it and bringing it back. Keeping vibrant the memories of the gatherings of the agricultural communities, and how our ancestors worked hard to establish in this area.”

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