Education & Programs

For 35 years, the Durango Cowboy Gathering has made a concerted effort to build our outreach to local schools at all grade levels in Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio. During the Gathering we send cowboy poets and musicians to perform in classrooms and assemblies. This year we will be sending 35 performers to15 schools in Durango plus schools in Bayfield and Ignacio. We do not charge schools or care facilities for the history and entertainment we provide.

Music & Poetry In Schools Program

The Durango Cowboy Gathering also encourages young poets and musicians to embrace western poetry and music by inviting many of these youth performers to our Gathering, and giving them a show of their own on Saturday afternoon. Several of today’s headliners have been our “Rising Stars” in Durango such as Krystin Harris, Mikki Daniel, Thatch Elmer

Cowboy poet and musician Sid Hausman performed a special week-long educational program at Park Elementary School in Durango to teach the children how to write poetry and write and perform their own cowboy songs.

Young performer Krystin Harris singing in the Poets in Schools program.

Rising Stars

The Durango Cowboy Gathering also encourages young poets and musicians to embrace western poetry and music by inviting many striving youth to be performers at our Gathering. Several of today’s headliners have been our “Rising Stars” in Durango such as Krystin Harris, Mikki Daniel, Thatch Elmer, Hailey Sandoz.

Harmonicas teach Cowboy Lore and History

The Durango Cowboy Gathering strives to share the rich heritage of western rural life and cowboy ethics with present and future generations. Music and poetry were very much a part of that life, especially on cattle drives, and harmonicas were the instrument of choice because of their versatility and portability. Teaching students to play a few simple songs on their harmonicas, Cowboy Gathering professional volunteers are working with 5th graders to share this knowledge and history during the four days of the Durango Cowboy Gathering in October. Each student receives a harmonica to keep—-for many, this is their first and only musical instrument. The goal is to reach 300 students this year.

Poetry and art contests in the schools

In the spring, board member Lindy Simmons visits classrooms and instructs students about the form and substance for writing cowboy poetry. Students are then asked to write an original poem to be judged by a panel, with the winners at each school receiving cash prizes. The winners are then given the opportunity to recite their poems at the Gathering.

Art classes are encouraged to participate in our cowboy art contest. A panel of judges selects winners from each school who also win cash prizes. Their art work is displayed around town during the Gathering.

The goodwill provided by these poets is beyond compare. The history they impart gives an education about our Western Culture to many children and people in our community who cannot otherwise attend performances at our venue in downtown Durango.

Krystin Harris said there is nothing better than “hearing 350 school kids sing Home on the Range!”

Young performer Krystin Harris singing in the Poets in Schools program.


FFA is an active youth organization that changes lives and prepares members for leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. Each year, local FFA student leaders make a formal request to the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering Board of Directors asking for funding for their chapters to help with expenses for various programs

Sponsor Mariah Klingler and the Ignacio FFA proudly show off the check they received from the Cowboy Gathering Board of Directors.

Delegates Diana Cundiff and Rachel Sanburg at the State FFA convention in Pueblo, Colorado.

Bayfield FFA
This year the Bayfield FFA Judging Team and their sponsor asked the board for financial support to help cover the cost of a very special event. The team had been invited to represent the State of Colorado at the Royal Highland Livestock Show in Glasgow, Scotland. Livestock judging is described as “Selected contestants compete, as a team and individually, to judge groups of livestock classes. Each contestant meets one-on-one with an official to give their reasons for their placement. Scores are based on presentation as well as accuracy of placement. Contestants gain skills in decision-making, critical thinking, oral communication, and self-confidence in addition to advancing their knowledge of the livestock industry.” Bayfield’s 4 person team performed exceptionally well and finished as the second high team overall, as well as numerous individual awards. This amazing accomplishment qualified them to go to Scotland and Ireland in June. We were very pleased to be able to help them with their many expenses to make this once in a lifetime experience possible.

Ignacio FFA
The Ignacio FFA Chapter continues to grow after a recent reorganization and they have added more events and learning opportunities for students in the program to participate in and learn more about agriculture. This year, they requested a grant from the Cowboy Gathering Board in order to send incoming freshman to the annual Hesperus Leadership Conference. These students participate in various leadership workshops which are led by past and present State FFA officers. They learn how to set goals, improve communication skills and work with others. It is a very important learning opportunity for all involved and we were happy to help out with the conference expenses.

Funding from the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering helps support the Agricultural Education program of the Durango High School FFA Chapter.

Bayfield, Colorado FFA

Guy Wright, Rylie Zufelt, Taylor Jenkins, Kori Jenkins showing off ribbons won in competition in Ireland


The Basin Rodeo Team is part of a larger organization — Colorado State High School Rodeo Association. Their mission is to promote the highest type of conduct and sportsmanship as they work to preserve our Western heritage and promote family values, while maintaining the highest regard for the livestock and the humane treatment of all animals.
Junior and Senior High School Rodeo teams compete in 4 rodeos in the fall, and five to six in the spring during school year. This June, three Jr. High school students represented the Basin Rodeo Team in Perry, Georgia: Tucker Jacobson in Bareback and Bulls, Shylene Drumm in Goat Tying and Breakaway Roping and Teagan McInnes in Pole Bending This year was the 74th annual High School Rodeo Finals. It was held in Gillette, WY with over 43 states represented, as well as competitors from Canada, Mexico, and Australia. This is the largest youth rodeo in the world, with a typical 1,200 qualifiers each year. The Basin Rodeo team sent 6 team members including Rhiley Montoya in Goat Tying, Quincy Montoya in Goat Tying, Bodine Hine in Team Roping, Caleb Lake in Steer Wrestling, Michell Story in Saddle Bronc and Teryn McWhirter in Breakaway Roping. These young cowboys and cowgirls exemplify the Western lifestyle and the high quality of sportsmanship and leadership promoted by the National High School Rodeo Association.

The parent sponsor for the Basin High School and Jr. High Rodeo team is Kerri Morgan Montoya. She works hard to make sure the kids attend these sanctioned rodeos and live up to the code of the high school rodeo standards. The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering is proud to help these upstanding young people by providing them with a grant that assisted them with their expenses as they represent our area in the various rodeos around the country.

Basin Rodeo Team member Hannah Belvin receives check from Board Member Pam Jacobs.

Jr. High Rodeo Team Members Shylene Drumm, Teagan McInnes and Tucker Jacobson.

In return for receiving the Cowboy Gathering grants, the FFA students and Basin Rodeo Team volunteer at several of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering events. You’ll see them ushering at the evening shows and assisting with the Saturday Cowboy parade by carrying banners and most importantly—pooper scooping! These students are dedicated to community service, leadership and promoting agriculture. They are learning to become valuable citizens and the Cowboy Gathering is very proud to support them in achieving their goals.