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History and Purpose

The 26th Annual National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration (NCSC) will be held September 4 - 7, 2014, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center in Lubbock, Texas. The purpose of the NCSC is to celebrate and preserve our Western heritage and cowboy culture for those who know and love it, and to introduce new audiences to the heritage and culture so they may embrace it as well.  The event schedule includes entertainers, poetry and storytelling, western writers and authors panels, film and movie seminars, a Youth Wild West Day, horse-handling demonstrations, a horse-themed parade, Native American Indian activities and presentations, the ever-popular Chuck Wagon Cookoff, and exhibits of Western artworks and merchandise. Currently, the 2014 NCSC is slated to feature more than 60 cowboy and cowgirl poets, musical acts, storytellers, more than 100 exhibit spaces filled with the best in Western art and goods, chuck wagons, and other special presenters and presentations. The event also includes the National Championship Chuck Wagon Cookoff.  The NCSC is truly the premier event of its kind in the country!

The NCSC is part of an American folklore revival that began in 1985 when Hal Cannon and other folklorists from the western United States started the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. The second such event was the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1987 on the campus of Sul Ross State University at Alpine, Texas. Other events were also started at Prescott, Arizona, in 1988 and Roswell, New Mexico, in 1989. In 1987, Alvin G. Davis participated in the event at Alpine, Texas, as a cowboy poet; he immediately decided to start a comparable event in Lubbock. Mr. Davis, in tandem with a group of like-minded folks, put the NCSC together June 2 - 4, 1989, on the campus of Texas Tech University at Lubbock.

In addition to the daily literary sessions, the newly-born NCSC also included evening performances, exhibits, and activities, including a book fair, arts and crafts, gear and trappings, music, and cutting and roping. Among the event's first participants were writers Elmer Kelton, John Ericson, and Max Evans; cowboy poets Baxter Black, Paul Patterson, and Clay Lindley; western artists Tom Ryan, Gary Morton, Keith Avery, and Clay Dahlberg; rodeo cowboys Toots Mansfield, Larry Mahan, Jim Shoulders, and Harry Tompkins; ranch managers from the Pitchfork, 6666, Waggoner, and Bell ranches; working cowboys Tom Blasingame, John Gaither, and Buster McLaury; horse trainer Ray Hunt; western musicians Red Steagall, Don Edwards, Frankie McWhorter, Buck Ramsey, R.W. Hampton, and Ray Reed; and cowboy cartoonist Ace Reid. Also attending were western wear and equipment-industry folk such as Bill Hervey, Paul Bond, and Ed Sims; western actors Barry Corbin and Barry Tubb; cutting horse enthusiasts Buster Welch, Zack Woods, and Fern Sawyer; editors and publishers Stanley Frank, Jim Jennings, Lional Chambers, and Randy Witte; cowgirls Stella Hughes, Betty Gayle Cooper, and Dixie Mosley; and Western music historians Dr. Charles Townsand, Velma Spencer, and Shirley Lomax Duggan.

More than 3,000 people from all over the country attended the first NCSC. The second NCSC was held the following year with an additional day of festivities and an evening dance. Attendance ballooned to 5,000, and space for entertainers, exhibitors, and participants was at a premium. The third NCSC in 1991 saw the start of commemorative photos for participants. This was also the first time the American Cowboy Culture Awards (ACCA) were sponsored by Wrangler, Inc. and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Attendance was 10,000. The fourth NCSC in 1992 included a chuck wagon "cookoff" at the Ranching Heritage Center. Then, due to a lack of event and parking space, the fifth NCSC in 1993 was moved to the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. This particular NCSC had international participation, with panels featuring French and German cowboy connections, and included a review of the works of the German writer Karl May. Participation grew to 225 artists, writers, and musicians, and the chuck wagon cookoff subsequently ran a competition for Best Chili as well as the Best Brisket and Beans. The event was then moved to September because the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center was not available at any other time of year. But since the event's permanent move to the Civic Center, the NCSC has always been held on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday following Labor Day Monday.

The American Cowboy Culture Association, Inc. was the sole sponsor of the NCSC up to its eighteenth year.  In 2006, the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration incorporated and received non-profit tax status in its own right; it will now serve as the primary sponsor with the ACCA as secondary sponsor.

We look forward to continued success as we host this great event once again in Lubbock, Texas!