Utah cowboys show their softer side

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With boots, hats and Texas-sized belt buckles, Utah’s cowboys spent the weekend off the farm and in Heber City, brought together by music, poetry and a love for all things cowboy.

Select venues in Heber hosted the town’s annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair on Wednesday through Sunday night, showcasing the country’s finest cowboy poets and musicians.

Directly in front of the entrance, Dennis Page had the vendors’ most coveted spot. He has been with the Buckaroo Fair for more than three years, and his hand-carved wooden rocking horses are a fair staple. He began his career carving items such as mantles and doors, but upon request from a good friend, he carved his first horse. Now, his horses are ridden every day in the Kentucky State Horse Park Museum and the Tree House Museum in Ogden.

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]”I sell pretty much all over the world, but I always make sure I’m home for the Heber poetry event,” Page said. “I just come and enjoy the poetry and the music and all the people dressing up.”

Along with Page’s horses, vendors sold western souvenirs and apparel such as leather jackets and vests, lassos and cowboy art. There were also multiple food booths selling barbecue and Mexican food.

The main attractions, however, were not the booths, but the poetry and music. Well known Western entertainers such as Bar J Wranglers, Suzy Bogguss and Dave Stamey took the stage in front of hundreds of people each night.

Burton Christensen and his wife live in Heber, and he said they have never missed the event and specifically enjoys the genuine American atmosphere.

“Real American people, just good country people, that’s why I come back every year,” he said. “The setting’s beautiful, Heber’s beautiful and they get the best people to perform. Even the people who play by the food booths are good.”

Jesse Myrick, a 22-year-old film major from Wilton, Calif., attended the event for a school assignment, and said he was surprised at how much he enjoyed it.

“It turned out to be really big,” Myrick said. “You wouldn’t even think cowboys did poetry, but they were really good and well thought out, and funny too.”

Tom Whitaker, the founder of the event, said it grows every year. New this year was bull riding and an art rodeo, an event where artists compete and are scored similar to an actual rodeo. Although he loves it, he said he is always taken aback at how many more people attend each year.

“I wrangled horses up at the homestead from the time I was 6 to 18,” Whitaker said. “I love that way of life, and I love preserving it. We don’t have a lot of rappers here, it’s just good, pure cowboy music.”

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