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Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering will celebrate Western culture

Don+Bacon%27s+Leather+Shop+owner+stands+in+front+of+his+booth+last+year+at+the+Spirit+of+the+West+festival.+Bacon%27s+Leather+Shop+is+a+local+shop+that+makes+custom+leather+work.
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Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering will celebrate Western culture

Don Bacon's Leather Shop owner stands in front of his booth last year at the Spirit of the West festival. Bacon's Leather Shop is a local shop that makes custom leather work.

Don Bacon's Leather Shop owner stands in front of his booth last year at the Spirit of the West festival. Bacon's Leather Shop is a local shop that makes custom leather work.

Don Bacon's Leather Shop owner stands in front of his booth last year at the Spirit of the West festival. Bacon's Leather Shop is a local shop that makes custom leather work.

Don Bacon's Leather Shop owner stands in front of his booth last year at the Spirit of the West festival. Bacon's Leather Shop is a local shop that makes custom leather work.

Afton Prater, Staff Reporter

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The Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering is an annual event that takes place on President’s Day weekend in Ellensburg, which lands on Feb. 15-17. This event is mainly hosted at the fairgrounds, as well as downtown venues such as Fitterer’s Furniture, Blue Rock Saloon, Gard Vintners and Rodeo City Barbecue that will provide music throughout the weekend. Ellensburg’s small-town vibe and agricultural atmosphere makes it a perfect location for the event, which aims to highlight the western lifestyle.

Jarred Fudacz, the Director of Events at the Chamber of Commerce, recognizes that the western lifestyle and era has been forgotten by many, and the purpose of this function is to keep it alive.

“This event is very unique. Sometimes it’s hard to draw younger audiences to an event like this because the western style and theme seems to be dying, but I think it’s important for younger audiences to come,” Fudacz said. “It is still alive and well in Kittitas county because we are predominantly an agricultural community. Although cattle is on the decline, it is still an important commodity for our county, so I think it’s a great celebration of our county as well as the western lifestyle.”

This event features many activities such as watercoloring, painting, art shows, open mics, silent auctions, pine needle basket weaving, flint mapping, blacksmithing and coloring contests. For a full list of performers and activities, visit ellensburgcowboygathering.com. Most of these activities take place at the fairgrounds, but there are also many downtown venues hosting performers throughout the weekend.

This event includes performers of the classic western genre of music. Feb. 15 and 16 there will be concerts in the evening located in the McIntyre Music Building on CWU’s campus, as well as an afternoon performance on Sunday Feb. 17, at the Kittitas Event Center. One of these nationally known performers is 24-year-old singer/songwriter Kristyn Harris from McKinney, Texas. Having planned to perform at this event last year, Harris had the opportunity to audition for American Idol and ended up being granted a ticket to Hollywood, so she was unable to attend the Spirit of the West. She is looking forward to performing her acoustic set at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the CWU music building and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Kittitas Event Center, along with many other musicians. She talked about her western musical roots and her musical inspirations.

“I initially got inspired by some older artists such as Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Gene Autry, Asleep at the Wheel, and actually one of the names on the lineup, Dave Stamey, had been a big inspiration to me,” Harris said. “I write a lot about ranching or horses. My music is really energetic, has a swing vibe, and is a lot of fun.”

The High Country Cowboys (John, Joe, and Marty Kosel), brothers from Red Lodge, Montana, will be performing at the Spirit of the West as well. They started singing together in their early teens, and now the band travels around performing their original songs as well as classic western covers. The Pro Cowboy Country Artist Association (PCCAA) awarded The High Country Cowboys with “Music Group of the Year” in 2017 and 2018. They also were awarded “Best Album of the Year” in 2018 for their album “Cowboy.” They aim to keep the classic western style alive by performing the genre in front of mass audiences.

“We play to have fun. This music we’re playing is more and more getting lost and forgotten so our goal is to keep it alive as long as we can and to provide it for those who want to hear it still,” John Kosel said.

The Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering also hosts many vendors, from food to clothing, which stick with the western theme of the event. On Friday, with help from the Kittitas County CattleWomen, there will be sloppy joes, coleslaw, salad, brownies, ice cream, coffee, water and tea. On Feb. 16, the Kittitas County Sheep Producers will provide food such as lamb sliders and lamb stew.

Ticket prices range for the event if purchased online, including military and senior ($25), student ($15), and general admission ($35). Tickets can be purchased online at ellensburgcowboygathering.com, on the phone at (509)925-2002, or in person at the visitor’s center at the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce.

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