35th Cowboy Poetry weekend postponed for August 2021

Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Friday, May 29, 2020
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Cowboy picker John Bacon, from Dillon, is one of many performers who will have to wait until next year to show off their new songs and poems.
Photo by Charlie Denison

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Red Steagall

It’s going to be another year before the cowboy poets and Western musicians return to Central Montana for a 35th celebration.
Cowboy Poetry Executive Director Karen Kuhlmann is saddened to be the bearer of bad news, but she knows it’s the right call, as do the Cowboy Poetry board members, who made a unanimous decision to postpone Wednesday.
“Everybody is feeling the stress of this,” she said. “There is just no way around it.”
For Kuhlmann, it’s simply not worth taking the risk.
“We would never want to put anyone in harm’s way,” she said. “None of the performers, none of the vendors, none of the attendees, none of the shoppers...there is a really nasty virus out there and – until we have testing, treatments and a vaccine ­– every gathering is like rolling a roulette wheel.”
This is extra concerning for the cowboy poetry festival, as Kuhlmann said the bulk of the crowd is 60 and over.
“They are the most vulnerable,” she said.
There are many reasons for this cancelation, Kuhlmann said.  The closing of the Canadian border, for example, is a blow to the festival, as there are many performers and spectators who come from Alberta and elsewhere. In addition, there are festival performers and spectators unable to attend as they are currently quarantined in senior housing.
“We had to look at this from a lofty vantage point,” Kuhlmann said. “It’s very painful to have to give up something that you love, something that you believe in, something that you think brings a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people, something that is a very successful four-day signature event for Lewistown and an economic shot in the arm.”
Instead of trying to reschedule the gathering for later in the year, the board agreed to take the 35th “lock, stock and barrel” and move it to Aug. 12-15, 2021.
“That’s the neatest way we can do it,” she said. “Grand Stage Show headliner Red Steagall and his people were relieved. He would have done it, but he had concerns and his wife had concerns.”
Those concerns are no more, as Steagall has confirmed he will headline the following year. Everything else will stay the same, as well.
“We will have the welcoming barbecue, the Jam ‘n Dance, cowboy church…all of our venues are confirmed,” she said.

Kuhlmann said Grand Stage Show and “Welcome BBQ” tickets will be honored for next August.
“If a refund is desired, full refunds will be issued for tickets returned by Nov. 2,” she said. “They can either mail them to me [962 High Meadows Lane, Lewistown] or drop them off at the Lewistown Art Center. We have to physically have the tickets back, and we’d like to have them all back by that date because we want to have all the fish in the net by Black Friday, when we usually begin selling our tickets.”
It’s an unfortunate situation, Kuhlmann said, but there is nothing else than can be done.
“This pandemic is a social tsunami,” she said. “Although we don’t want to do this, we have to do it. It’s the ethical thing, the moral thing and the adult thing to do.”

Other summer events also canceled
• The Lewistown Fly-In, an annual event hosted by the Central Montana Pilot’s Association, is postponed indefinitely.
• Pioneer Power Days, hosted by the Central Montana Flywheelers, is postponed indefinitely. The board of directors will meet in July and make a decision on how to proceed.