Founded in 1980, and best known for The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Western Folklife Center has a year-round presence at their Pioneer Hotel Headquarters in Elko, NV. The Center is a non-profit that “works to expand our understanding of ourselves and our neighbors by celebrating the everyday traditions of people who live and work in the American West.”
The Western Folklife Center is dedicated to exploring, presenting and preserving the diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the American West. We celebrate the wisdom, artistry and ingenuity of western folkways through exhibitions, educational programs, national radio and television programs, research and preservation projects, our website, and our premier event, The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. We nurture connections among rural and ranching cultures globally, exploring universal themes in working traditions and artistic expression, which we believe are vital links to the past, present and future of the American West.
~ from the Center’s Mission Statement
The bar has been lovingly preserved as a back-in-the-day Western saloon, and the hotel has been remade as a cultural center, including an exhibit space and gift shop, and theatre/event spaces. The exhibit when I visited was The Life and Legacy of Ranching in Baja California Sur, a follow-on from the theme of last year’s Gathering. It was well done and informative, I particularly enjoyed the photos by Fermín Regadas-Dahl, which provided a beautiful glimpse into a very different lifestyle. I’m amazed and humbled by the self-sufficiency of those in remote areas. The gift shop had a nice selection of cowboy poetry and Western topic books, CDs, Western themed items and art by local artists.