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Western Folklife Center shares traditions


In the historic Pioneer Building in downtown Elko, Nevada, Western Folklife Center is a nonprofit hub dedicated to American West culture. An exhibition gallery, a 300-seat theater, a 20-seat black box theater and a historic saloon tell the story of Western occupations, lifeways and traditions.

Cowboy poet RP Smith, Western Folklife Center, Elko, Nev.

Photo: Charlie Ekburg Cowboy poet RP Smith, Western Folklife Center, Elko, Nev.

“Western Folklife Center uses story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world,” said Darcy Minter, communications director at Western Folklife Center.

The center’s collection includes materials from original fieldwork conducted by the center, audio and video recordings and original artwork among other mediums. 

All tours are self-guided; however, docents are available during special exhibition events and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a celebration of cowboy poetry, music, dancing, workshops and exhibits.

“People who attend the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering appreciate its authenticity, the fact that the art is genuine and emanates naturally from a culture and an occupation that is grounded in the Western landscape,” Minter said. “It is an honest, open-hearted event and people come back year after year to re-experience it.”

In 2017, the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will take place Jan. 30 through Feb. 4. In the Western Folklife Center and all around Elko, guests can explore today’s renaissance of storytelling through poetry, song, video, visual art and new media.

“Many who come are from the occupation and are in Elko to share in a celebration of their own culture with others who understand their lifestyle and concerns,” Minter said. “Others who come are sympathetic to the ranching and cowboy life, love the rural West and want to celebrate all things Western. And others come simply to learn and share in an artistic experience.”

For more information, call 775-738-7508 or visit


About Author

Cortney Erndt, Associate Editor

Cortney Erndt oversees Student Group Tour magazine and contributes to all Group Tour Media publications, online and in print. She has an affinity for adventure travel; find her on a sky ledge — maybe sky diving — and reporting on it. Her favorite destinations connect cityscapes with captivating culture and good coffee.

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