Cowboy Church draws in faithful during WestFest |

Cowboy Church draws in faithful during WestFest

John Colson

Michael Martin Murphey’s WestFest in Snowmass Village may not have been the best attended festival ever to hit the resort.But, much like other festivals that carry over from a Friday through a Sunday, it had a church service yesterday morning to go along with the music and the mountain-man gathering of teepees and rough tents. Fare for sale included vintage guns and newly made bows and arrows.True to the event’s form, the religious observance was billed as Cowboy Church. True, it didn’t get started until after 10 a.m., a time that would seem downright tardy to any true cowpoke. But the hour of the service may have been due more to an understanding of the typical summertime ski resort kind of scheduling than any attempt to undermine the image of cowboys as early risers.The Cowboy Church drew perhaps a couple of hundred spectators to the dusty slope on Fanny Hill, some of whom might well have been there to worship, but many of whom were merely curious to see if anything out of the ordinary might occur.And it was somewhat out of the ordinary. Phil Janowski, a minister from Pagosa Springs, got the hour of worship going by noting that a number of musicians scheduled to play at the service did not show up on time for the 10 a.m. start.”So we’ve had our first lie of the day,” he joked, drawing a laugh. “It’s a good thing God is a God of grace … for all of us.”After it began, the service alternated between sacred music, readings of verse from the Bible, and recitation of poems by different men and women on the small stage. For instance, Nona Kelley Carver of Mesa, Colo., who grew up earning 75 cents a week for sweeping and dusting a “little country church,” recited a poem about the lessons to be learned and the piety to be earned from living such a life.Later, musician Fred Hargrove strummed and sang “The Old Rugged Cross” and alternated with cowboy Trey Allen’s recitation of a century-old poem by another cowboy, Bruce Kiskaddon. The poem is about the pathos and sanctity of a plainsman’s funeral where there was no preacher, just a rugged young cowboy to say a few heartfelt words over the casket.Murphey put in an appearance, singing his song, “The Kill Pit,” relating the song to the life of Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. He also urged spectators to read a book about the age-old Middle East conflict, “Why Do The Nations Rage?” by Charles Lynn.Besides those who came to worship, some were there by accident, having come to Snowmass Village unaware that WestFest was even happening, but drawn to the event nonetheless.”We got a better deal on a condo here than in Aspen,” admitted Ken Kolm. The retired hydrologist is in the valley to sing in this week’s chorale performance of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” at the Benedict Music Tent. “We didn’t realize WestFest was going on.”The family, who lives in Golden, came early to do some hiking, but heard about the Cowboy Church and decided to check it out.Jen and Emily Kolm, teenagers active in their church youth group, both said they were intrigued by how unique the church service was. They were also impressed by the fact that the show included a number of dances by Native Americans.”I liked how they had the Indian aspect at the end,” said Emily, to which Jen added, “I’m glad it showed both cultures.” Both girls had recently returned from a church youth group trip to the Blackfoot reservation in Montana.”I enjoyed the poetry” as well as the service’s unique cowboy flavor, said mom, Trish, before the family headed off for a day of hiking in the mountains.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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