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Cowboy poets ride in from all over for annual show

Posted on October 5, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Anna Smith

The Medicine Hat Cowboy Poetry Foundation is determined to keep their art alive, and invites everyone for a day of western music, stories and poetry.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the Medicine Hat College Theatre will be filled with storytellers, musicians, and poets from across every age, gender, and level of experience, beginning with a free show for everyone interested at noon.

“We want people to know about cowboy poetry and we want young people and older people to try it because little do they know it’s for everybody,” said Jen Zollner, president of the MHCP Foundation, adding that this year they’ve extended the show.

Throughout the afternoon, there will be several sessions of music and cowboy poetry, from all across the southwest corner and beyond.

“We’ve got people from Bow Island and Coalhurst, Nanton, Taber, Swift Current. And the furthest away, so far, is Meadow Lake, over eight hours away, all these accomplished poets and musicians who are contributing to the afternoon show which, incidentally, is free,” said Zollner. She did her best to combine the more experienced performers with those taking the stage for the first time, to provide a varied experience throughout the afternoon.

The Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede Rodeo Queen and Princess will also be present, as one of the Foundation’s many connections to the public.

There will also be a demonstration of Meliora service dogs that will follow at 5:30, and then a “chuckwagon supper,” said Zollner, which for those who have reached out for a $20 meal ticket ahead of time, will consist of beef stew, biscuits, and pie.

Everyone involved has been so passionate, said Zollner, which really speaks to the genre that she’s working so hard to preserve.

“It started with cowboys. But the times have changed. We don’t have, you know, the west like it was then. But we all have stories,” said Zollner. “And that’s really what probably poetry is about is stories and in song and verse that tell about their experiences, whether it be about country or anything else that they’re passionate about.”

After dinner, the evening show starts at 7 p.m., tickets for which cost $25 dollars. Neither of the ticket prices are likely to turn a profit, said Zollner, but it’s part of the way to recoup the cost of the event, and making the event accessible to everyone was part of the goal.

The evening performance will be headlined by singer, songwriter and musician Eli Barsi; Barsi is a Saskatchewan farm girl who has won prestigious awards in Canada and the United States. Barsi’s music is a blend of country, bluegrass, folk and gospel.

Joining her on stage is comedian and storyteller John Glawson, aka “Ol’ Ugly.” Glawson, from Nanton, Alta., has kept audiences in stitches with hilarious tales about his family and acquaintances.

Shelley Goldbeck of Innisfail, Alta., an accomplished speaker, musician and poet in her own right, will MC the event, and add some of her work to the mix as well.

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