Monday, January 28, 2013

Italian cowboy exhibit at Western Folklife Center

Andrea "Drew" Mischianti on the fence, Western Games, 2005. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

An exhibition of Italian "cowboy" life will open at the 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada. The exhibition will then run from Feb. 1 to Sept. 9.

It was put together by Andrea "Drew" Mischianti and his wife, Natalia Estrada, and is based on photographs taken by Estrada. They document the "butteri," or Italian mounted shepherds/cowboys of Tuscany's Maremma region, but also the U.S. West-style round-ups and cowboy life lived in Italy by Mischianti, Estrada and other enthusiasts. (Call them "spaghetti cowboys"....)

Here's a video the couple put together about it:

I met Mischianti on several occasions, when he was working for a "ranch" near Lake Bracciano, west of Rome. He was a prime mover of the Western Games held there for several years -- rodeo and riding competitions, with lots of other attractions, stalls, Indian dancing and the like. I think I still have a text message saved on my cellphone when he invited me to come there to watch (or take part in) branding.

Disembodied Headdresses at the Western Games near Rome. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Mischianti has been very active in the Italian western, horse, riding and cowboy scene for many years and long wrote a column about the cowboy life for an Italian wild west magazine. He and Estrada run a "Ranch Academy" to teach and take part in "buckeroo" skills and lifestyle. They also take part in competitions and exhibitions of skills.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Yee-Hah! Berlin Country Music Messe next weekend!

I photograph the stands, at the 2010 messe. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The annual Country Music Messe (fan/trade fair) in Berlin takes place Feb. 1-3 -- and once again it will bring together scores of mainly European country music acts and thousands of fans, along with dozens of vendors of Wild West hats, duds, boots, gadgets, gee-gaws, housewares, decorative items, and a raucous, real imaginary world that spans the borders between fandom and fantasy, dream and desire.

See the full program HERE.

As every year, there are four separate stages where acts seeking bookings and promo play simultaneously, while fans, festival organizers and booking agents traipse around the huge halls.

I haven't been able to get to the Messe for the past couple of years, alas, but I always find it great fun.

Here are some earlier posts from the blog where I talk about it.

And again, the iconic Don Jensen, performing his iconic song, Sauerkraut Cowboy, at the 2008 Messe:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wild West Town in Poland

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I just found out about a wild west theme park in Poland called Twin Pigs -- it seems to be some punning reference to "Twin Peaks" -- that opened last summer in the little Silesian town of Zory, near the Czech border and between Katowice and Wisla.

In the promotional video it still looks brand new!

It seems to have the usual "real imaginary" look of a wild west town, with rides, country music, rodeo, Tex Mex and other attractions.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Looks like Equiblues is on for this year

Philippe Lafont (left, in hat) during Equiblues 2012. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

It looks like the annual Equiblues rodeo and country music festival in St. Agreve, France,  will take place again this year, despite financial problems that had threatened to close it.

A local news site,, reports that longtime Equiblues director Philippe Lafont says he will take the risk and organize the festival again this comingAugust.

In November, Lafont had announced he would cancel Equiblues in 2013 after the festival was assessed for non-payment of €61,000 of back taxes for 2009-2012, apparently regarding fees paid to foreign artists who appeared at the weeklong-event. He has been negotiating a payback schedule.

Local officials voiced support for keeping the event, which brings in considerable income for the little town. And a "save Equiblues" Facebook page got well over 500 likes.