Cowboy Poetry Gathering pushes for younger audience

Organizers of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering say that social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube are helping draw a younger crowd to the annual gathering of cowboy culture in Elko.

Darcy Minter, director of communications for the Western Folklife Center, says the average age of people attending the event has been close to 60, and many of the musicians and poets are graying as well.

The Western Folklife Center began using Facebook advertising last autumn as a means of promoting the 27th annual event, which runs through Saturday at the 300-seat Western Folklife Theater at 501 Railroad St., Great Basin College, and the Northeastern Nevada Museum at 1515 Idaho St. The event also was promoted via videos of past events on YouTube.

Additionally, Minter says, the Western Folklife Center has booked younger cowboy poets and musicians in an effort to make the event more attractive to younger patrons.

"It is very important to us to bring in younger poets and musicians, and we hope that translates to a younger audience," she says. "We have had quite a bit of success in that area."

Minter says much of the marketing efforts for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering have been targeted to Reno, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Boise, Idaho because most of the event's patrons come from drive-in markets.

"We do get people from all over the country and all over the West, but with the economy most people are within driving distance," Minter says. "It is not an easy place to get to in the middle of the winter. Flights from Salt Lake to Elko have decreased, and you need to have a lot of resolve to get there."

Return visitors make up 70 percent of the audience, she adds. Although early ticket sales for the weeklong event lagged, Minter says sales increased each month leading up to the event, which begins today but swings into full gear on Wednesday.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is especially important for Elko's economy because it takes place during normally slow winter months, says Tom Lester, tourism and convention manager for the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority.

The event draws not only fans of Western folklore but media representatives from Western-themed magazines and even a production company from the United Kingdom that's interested in producing a film of the event, Lester says.

"It generates a lot for the local community and lodging folks as well," he says. "It brings in a lot of business for us especially during the winter months. Any winter events are a good thing for the Elko area."


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