In a beautiful valley that sits in the middle of Eden and Paradise, is a small little rural community named Avon. Dale and Dawna Major came to Avon, Utah, in 1988 with their first child. Dawna was raised in Lyman, Wyoming on a ranch. She was active in church, sports, 4-H, FFA, rodeo and queening. She had an opportunity to move to Sheridan to train with the current queen for the chance to compete for Miss Rodeo Wyoming but chose to stay home and attend college and work on the ranch. Dale was raised in rural Pleasant Grove and was active in church, 4H, FFA and music. He bred and raised hogs and was the winner of the KSL Calf Contest which awarded him his first calf.
Dale and Dawna had met at USU as freshmen. Dawna transferred to BYU to graduate and Dale graduated from USU. In 1982 Dawna came back to Cache Valley to work and they met again. Long story short, on their 15 acres they raise club calves, 6 kids, hay for themselves and neighbors, and horses. They enjoy living the western lifestyle and believe that those agricultural experiences taught their children to be smart, hardworking, and well rounded. Dawna’s folks live 86 miles due East and South 6 degrees as the crow flies. In 1999 when they were expecting their youngest son, Dale thought it would be fun to ride from their home in Avon to Dawna’s parents in Lyman, Wyoming. So, with GPS in hand, he headed out with a 13, 9, 7 and 4-year-old! That ride has been an annual event for the whole family for 16 years. It was often the highlight of the summer for their children. The 105-mile, 3-day trip made for, “tired horses and tough kids that learned to finish what they started.” They learned that you could not quit when things got tough.
All the Major children have participated in 4-H and FFA They all love to spend time together, fishing, hunting, and riding. The Major’s raise and show their own show steers and heifers. They have had multiple county and state fair Grand and Reserve Champions. More than a few buckles have been won in showmanship and other classes. Dale says he is writing a song titled, ‘They Won the Buckle and I Got the Bill.’
Along with the livestock and agriculture the Major family shares and enjoys music. Dale sang with a barbershop quartet for 9 years and plays guitar. His children had musical interests as well. Both of his daughters learned to play the fiddle while his 5th child, Jacob, learned to play bass and enjoyed singing. They had the makings of a band. The ‘Major Family Ranch Hands’ Band and has been fortunate to perform at different venues.
Dale was first exposed to cowboy poetry while watching Waddie Mitchell at the Festival of the American West at Utah State University, a program that has since been discontinued. He had no idea how entertaining it could be, and the western music resonated with him. After many invitations by good friends Chris Bailey and Steve and Jenna Vee Woolf, Dale and Dawna attended the Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair. They were hooked!
Dale and two children had driven to Moab to perform at a cowboy gathering during their open mic session. On the way home Dale thought, “If a small town like Moab could put on a show with big names like Michael Martin Murphey and Suzy Bogguss, Cache Valley should be able to support something like that as well.” He talked to friends who were interested in the same types of events and found some that were willing to help him put something together. It was then that The Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous (CVCR) was born! Dale credits good friends, like Blake Pulsipher who helped him figure out what it would take to cater such an event. Lynn Hulme had great sound equipment he was willing to share. Steve and Jenna Vee were excited to help as were Travis and Jean Sparks. Those dear friends became the original organizing committee with Dale and Dawna. The board saw this as a wonderful opportunity to bring some western entertainment to Cache Valley along with providing local entertainment opportunities to perform. As they reached out to more professional entertainers they found them willing to come and perform as well, and the local high school was gracious enough to host the event.
The Rendezvous is in its 11th consecutive year. It has presented some amazing entertainment with names like Michael Martin Murphey, Suzy Bogguss, Billy Dean, Ned LeDoux, The Bar J Wranglers, and so many more. Along with these phenomenal performers there have been award winning cowboy poets and the very best of local western entertainers from Utah, and surrounding states. And the Major Family Ranch Hands Band is an integral part of the band that plays for the Friday night dance at the CVCR.
CVCR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and with the help of several different grants, their goal is to provide some great entertainment for folks, educating youth about our western lifestyle and encouraging new performers. It is a labor of love for the Major family along with many volunteers from all over Cache Valley and into Box Elder County. Dale says, “Our volunteers have been just awesome, and many drive a long distance to help out! We could not do it without a lot of great volunteers!” They have over 60 volunteers as well as many students and they appreciate every one of them!
One of the most impressive things that the CVCR does is to educate the youth of Cache Valley and surrounding counties with their CVCR Educational Outreach Program. This brings world class entertainers into the schools, elementary through high school, with in-class performances, hands on instruction and full-blown assemblies. With the hope of “planting a few seeds” in our local school kids that may cause them to take the arts and literature a little more serious, learn of and pass on the western values of hard work and perseverance encouraging them to try new things, find success and build confidence as they connect with real musical and poetry professionals. One of the reasons they are able to share this with the school children is due to a generous grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation (SLF), which was founded by James and Beverly Sorenson. Beverly, a teacher, believed that, “the arts are essential to broadening our children’s minds starting in elementary.” CVCR and SLF have teamed up with entertainers to benefit over 39,000 children since 2015.
One popular example of entertainers in the CVCR Outreach Program is Gary Allegretto’s “Learn to Play Cowboy Harmonica Instantly Workshop,” where students are taught 3 or 4 songs, and receive a personal harmonica to take home. Gary is the current International Western Music Association Male Performer of the Year and acclaimed performing and recording artist. Western Horseman Magazineraves; “Gary’s music transcends genres, generations and cultural barriers, yet is so professional, engaging and core to the cowboy that listeners can’t help but want to ride along a while longer and discover something new in a song.” The following are some of the comments from teachers and students that had the privilege of Gary coming to their school:
“ Gary, Thank you so much for sharing your talent with the students of Canyon Elementary. Your workshop has inspired the students at our school. Having a professional artist close up in a classroom with students is such a wonderful experience. Most students will only hear a professional in an auditorium or concert hall. Having you in these smaller groups, instructing them on how to play the harmonica was a once in a lifetime experience for them. Students have been playing their harmonicas ever since your workshop. We are currently teaching classes online because of the Covid 19 outbreak. I was in a video chat with several members of my class this past week and I heard a harmonica song being played in the background. There are students from this group that may very well continue in the field of music because of your presentation. Thank you again for providing this opportunity for young children.” Brad Hawkes, 5th Grade Teacher at Canyon Elementary
“You opened a new door in my life.” Mac, 5th grade. “Best assembly ever!” Cole, 5th grade. “I want him to come again.” Olivia, 5th grade
The Rendezvous also has an amazing Kids Poetry Contest and a Patriotic Poetry Contest that is sponsored by Smith and Edwards and Kathy Smith’s, Loving Liberty, Inc. There is a Kids Corral, where childrencan learn about and participate in all things western, an ‘Open Mic’ stage to give amateurs a chance to perform, dutch oven dinners and a ‘Cowboy Family Dance’ where everyone can practice the waltz or two-step. The Cache Valley community has supported the CVCR in many ways thro ugh advertising to housing performers over the last 10 years. They have also been awarded RAPZ funding and a Utah Arts and Museum Grant to help put on the event. The committee is very grateful to have such great community and business support.
The goal moving forward is to continue to bring quality entertainment to Northern Utah. Even during COVID-19, the show hopes to go on March 12-14, 2021. The CVCR has been awarded the Sorenson Legacy Foundation grant again and are hopeful to be able to go into the schools with professional musicians and poets. Dale says, “We’re still planning on doing something, at this point, what it will look like is still questionable.” Dale and Dawna hope, “that folks who have never experienced cowboy poetry and western music would come and give it a try. We’ve found that once we get someone here, they are excited and looking forward to coming back.”
If you have never experienced the Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous you are missing out! Put it on your calendar for 2021. You can keep up to date of the happenings of the Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous by following them on Facebook or at their website. www.cvcowboy.org.