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The Inaugural Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering: Music & Poetry

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It’s no surprise that the Hill Country, being the heart of Texas, is home to dozens of fascinating and creative events every year. This fall, a brand new gathering is joining the ranks of Hill Country festivals – the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering. The gathering promises to be an incredible weekend filled with a celebration of western history, folklore, and art. The lineup includes Waddie Mitchell, Dom Flemons, Cowboy Celtic, and Andy Hedges, and many more. The fun takes place November 8-10 in Fredericksburg.

2018 will be the gathering’s inaugural year, and the first official cowboy gathering to be held in the Hill Country. Andy Hedges, one of the featured performers, offered some thoughts on the event and what sets it apart from other events like it. “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an event like this in the Hill Country. I think this will be really great because it’s bringing a taste of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to the Hill Country – in a way, for the first time. Having it all in one place is going to be a significant thing. There’s also an outreach going on to schools, getting kids involved in writing poetry which is really cool.”

The Inaugural Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering: Music & Poetry

Photo: Andy Hedges performing, photography by David Tau

Holding the gathering in Fredericksburg was a significant choice. “This is going to be held inside the Fredericksburg Theater Company’s Theater, which is a really small room that holds 250 people. This will be different than a lot of gatherings, because they’re usually held at a lot of different rooms and scattered all over town. This one is going to be smaller and give people who attend the chance to experience more intimate shows and experience the entire gathering on one stage. You’ll be able to catch every bit of it. The other thing that’s really great is that it’s so close to Austin and San Antonio, places that have really deep history with music and art and culture.”

The Inaugural Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering: Music & Poetry

Facebook/Dom Flemons

The Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering also boasts an impressive and diverse lineup. Hedges said, “The lineup represents a lot of great things, just some of the facets of cowboy culture. We have the band Cowboy Celtic, from Canada. They really represent the Scottish and Irish influence on cowboy culture and have done a lot of research. They play examples where they play the old Irish version of a song, and then the cowboy version and then mix all that together really beautifully with their band. It’s really wonderful. We also have Don Flemons, who just released his new record ‘Black Cowboys.’ It just came out on Smithsonian Folkways, and he really highlights the African American influence, the trail-driving era, and the earlier part of the twentieth century – music that would eventually become the blues. His record highlights that influence on cowboy music and cowboy culture.”

Hedges went on to say, “One other interesting example is Amy Hale Auker.  She cowboys on a ranch in Prescott, Arizona, and writes poetry and essays and novels that are really flowing out of her experiences and life so she’s a very modern, fresh voice that’s coming out of the culture. Trinity Seeley works on a ranch in Montana and she writes songs. And then people like Waddie Mitchel, one of the best-known cowboy poets of all time, really, just a real legend in cowboy poetry circles.”

The Inaugural Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering: Music & Poetry

Facebook/Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering

The lineup also includes a featured presentation of Charles M. Russell’s artwork and letters on the first night of the event, presented by Randy Rieman. C.M. Russell was an artist who lived and worked on ranches in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His art is a revered representation of the history of the west today. “This is a show that Randy Rieman has presented at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko and other places,” Hedges said. “He has several versions of this show, but he’s done a lot of research and put together a program where he’ll be projecting images of these letters and Russell’s artwork, reading these letters, and offering his own commentary on them. It’s a riveting look at that time in history. Randy brings a really great perspective on it. Having the images of Charlie Russell along with the words of Charlie Russell immerses you in that time period and brings all that to life.”

Although this is the gathering’s first year, Hedges anticipates it being a successful event and seeing many more years. “The plan is for it to be an annual event. Half the tickets are already sold – sales are good. If you look at the website, there’s a lot of local sponsors. It’s really well supported by the whole community there. We’re definitely planning on this to be the first of many.”