American Cowboy Culture Association
The American Cowboy Culture Association is an organization based in Lubbock, Texas, which seeks to promote and preserve the western history and culture of the late 19th and early 20th century American cowboy. Founded in 1989, the association is principally known as a sponsor of the annual National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration. The 2013 symposium was held from September 5 to 8.
The symposium is held at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. It features musicians, storytellers, poets, western authors, film seminars, and chuckwagon cooking. There is a parade, Youth Wild West Day, and Native American activities. The American Cowboy Cultural Awards and the National Championship Chuckwagon Cookoff are announced at the symposium. The symposium is an outgrowth of the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in 1985 in Elko, Nevada. The Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering followed in 1987 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Similar events were hosted in 1988 in Prescott, Arizona, and in 1989 in Roswell, New Mexico. Alvin Glenn Davis (born 1927), as a cowboy poet, attended the event in Alpine and decided to launch a comparable exposition in Lubbock. The first symposium was held from June 2–4, 1989, on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration
The symposium recognizes those who have contributed to western culture through art, crafts, and ranch work. Awards are presented to those found to best represent the life of a cowboy. In 1999, the Pitchfork Ranch in Guthrie won the annual Ranching Award. The Pitchfork is a 165,000-acre spread established in 1870 and is still operational, encompassing land in both King and Dickens counties. Bill Cauble of Albany in Shackelford County won the Chuckwagon Award. Cauble has been known for decades for his outdoor cooking and was an organizer in 1991 of the Western Chuck Wagon Association.
In 1991, the association honored Frankie McWhorter of Lipscomb with the Western Music Award and the All-Around Cowboy Culture Award. Formerly a member of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, McWhorter recorded ranch dance music; he was a foreman at the Copper Camp Creek Ranch in Higgins in Lipscomb County and an inductee of the Western Swing Hall of Fame. Actor and rancher Dale Robertson, then living in Yukon, Oklahoma, received the 1999 association award for film and television. His career included sixty-three motion pictures and three television series, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Iron Horse, and hosting duties on Death Valley Days.
In 2001, the American Cowboy Culture Association honored Governor Rick Perry, who was reared in Haskell County in West Texas, with "The Top Cowboy of Texas" Award. In accepting the honor, Perry cited the importance of his father, Ray Perry, and a former neighbor, the late Watt R. Matthews (born 1899), who Perry said taught him "not only about Texas and [its] history ... but also about the importance of the values that we learned growing up in a rural environment."
At the 22nd celebration in 2010, the symposium honored the work of western novelist Elmer Kelton of San Angelo, who died in 2009. Steve Kelton, the author's son, said that after Kelton returned from his day job, "We'd have supper, and the next thing I'd know the typewriter was clattering. It'd clatter up into the night," as Kelton composed his multiple works of fiction. Kelton regularly attended the symposium. Kelton's mentor Paul Patterson was a recipient of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the symposium.
Over the years symposium participants have included rodeo cowboy Jim Shoulders, working cowboy Tom Blasingame, singer R. W. Hampton, cowboy poet Baxter Black, author John R. Erickson, cartoonist Ace Reid, entertainer Red Steagall, and actors Barry Corbin and Barry Tubb. Three to five thousand people came to the first gatherings, but by the early 1990s, some ten thousand were in attendance. Prior to 2006, the American Cowboy Culture Association was the sole sponsor of the symposium. In 2006, the symposium was incorporated as a non-profit organization; since that time the culture association has become the secondary sponsor. The symposium is held Thursday through Sunday after Labor Day.
The 2013 award winners are Tio Kleberg of San Antonio for lifetime achievement, Jerry Robert Wiant of Fort Davis for Western music, Karl Roger Stressman (born 1950) of Greensboro, North Carolina, formerly from Yoakum, Texas, for rodeo, and the Karl May Society for Western heritage and writing.
Guy Porter Gillette (1945-2013) and his brother, William Pipp Gillette (born 1946), sons of the photographer Guy Gillette, were twice recipients of the ACCA "Cowboy Culture Award". The brothers together operated the Camp Street Café and Store in Crockett, Texas, a type of western coffeehouse and bar in which they performed with live entertainment of various genres. Pipp Gillette, as he has known, has continued to operate the Camp Street facility since his brother's death of cancer.
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