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Western Heritage Roundup Returns to Chinook This Weekend for Its Silver Anniversary


April 10, 2019

Guitar pickers, poets, and storytellers from across Canada and Montana will take up residence in Chinook for three days to pick cowboy tunes, recite cowboy poems, and tell cowboy jokes. This smörgasbord of talent, humor, history, and entertainment is called the Montana Country Poets and Pickers Western Heritage Roundup. Presented by the Chinook Chapter of the FFA, the event will take place from April 12-14 in Chinook High School's (CHS) Lloyd Sweet Auditorium at 7:00 p.m.

In its 25th year, the Western Heritage Roundup will feature a different show each evening during a ticketed performance at the CHS auditorium, plus free day sessions, free jam sessions, a 50/50 raffle, and a cowboy church-which will celebrate a Sunday service at 10:00 a.m. at the Chinook Motor Inn.

According to one of the event's organizers, Dale Mailand, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, all of the performers from the night shows will share their talent, plus the audience will be invited to take their turn during an Open Microphone session. "This is a free Day Session at the Chinook Motor Inn," Mailand said.

"We are celebrating our Silver Anniversary this year, and the whole event will be a celebration. It's a wonderful thing to just listen in and laugh if not perform and participate," he added.

"We have a fellow from Denton coming; he's a Norwegian who plays with dynamite, so he's a pretty dangerous fellow," Mailand laughed. "He remembers Chinook and the girl in the martini glass, so I'm sure he'll mention her while he's here."

About those who gather for the Western Heritage Roundup (WHR), Mailand said, "Some of these people are crazy, you know. They travel hundreds and thousands of miles to attend because performance is a compulsion for them. We have people coming from as far away as Calgary and Montreal."

Mailand's role with the WHR began as a performer but has transformed to include organization and set-up. Although Mailand organizes the event, he insists that it is not his show: "It's the performers' show, so I won't crowd them out."

He and Arnold Hokanson are among the only two original members remaining, "Some dropped off and others passed away, but Arnie and I are still here to keep this legacy alive," Mailand said.

"Do you remember that young man from Virginia who submitted an editorial to the newspaper a while back? He asked for information about Montana, so I sent him about a dozen of my poems so that he could experience the flavor and feeling of what it is like to live in Montana. Lots of my poems are short, so I tell people when I'm performing to pay attention or they might miss the punch line!"

Actually, talking to Mailand was a lot like a comedy show in miniature. He shared stories about how he manipulates people to read the signs he hangs to announce events: "I intentionally hang them crooked so people look at them and think, 'Whoever posted this didn't even have the patience, pride, or presence of mind to hang it straight,' and the whole time, they're reading it!"

He also recounted an encounter with a performer who called him out by saying, "'Let's trade noses. You have a perfectly-shaped nose that would be an improvement to my face.' I replied by telling him that his current nose, as imperfect as he considered it, was helping to create the vibrations and sounds that perfected his musical performance, so he decided he'd just keep his own nose."

For more information on the Montana Country Poets and Pickers Western Heritage Roundup, interested persons should contact Mailand at 353-2383 or Hokanson at 265-2712.

Proceeds from this hometown event with its international flavor will go toward Chinook's FFA Chapter and the Montana Country Poets and Pickers group.

Although the WHR hasn't always occurred in April, the group typically gathers during National Poetry Month. National Poetry Month, which started as a concept, is now a large literary celebration recognized around the world. Inspired by the celebrations of Black History Month (which occurs every February) and Women's History Month (which occurs every March), April was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 as National Poetry Month. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, poets, and writers celebrating poetry's vital place in our culture.

In April 2002, initiated Cowboy Poetry Week, and for the celebration's second year, the United States Senate passed a resolution, with unanimous approval, recognizing Cowboy Poetry Week. Twenty-three states' governors and other officials have since recognized Cowboy Poetry Week, and in celebration many activities take place in communities across the West and beyond. Cowboy Poetry Week takes place April 21-27, 2019.


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