Those who attend this year’s Midsummer Festival at Elim Lutheran Church of rural Hooper are in for a real treat. Cowboy poet Jake Riley of Riverdale, Neb. is bringing his poetry and storytelling talent to Midsummer Festival on Friday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Elim’s sanctuary. The event is free and open to the public. Elim is located at 2312 Swaburg Road, Hooper (two miles south of Uehling on Hwy. #77 and one mile east on County Rd. D). Following Riley's performance, a pie and ice cream social will be held in the church parlors.
Riley grew up in the Upper Arkansas Valley of the Colorado mountains and graduated from high school in Buena Vista. He began roping and rodeoing as a kid, and was introduced to cowboy poetry as a young teenager. Much of his work involves first-hand ranch and rodeo experiences, often chronicling the contemporary "cowboy" who may not cowboy for a living but has ties to cowboy culture. He recently released an album of original poetry entitled Western Errors, which runs the gamut from cowboy wrecks to humor to philosophical observations and reflections on life.
Riley was a featured performer at this year's Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival in McCook, Neb. He has also performed at Old West Days and the Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Valentine; the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Durango, Colo.; and the Dakota Western Heritage Festival in Fort Pierre, S.D.
A 'closet poet' for the most part until recently, Jake got his start at his church, and has since gone on to perform at events from Iowa to Nevada. He was honored to take part in the 2018 and 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gatherings.
His performances are highly animated and engaging. He loves performing his own work, as well as reciting classic poetry. He credits the great cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell, with whom he was recently honored to perform, for introducing him to the oral tradition and igniting his love for the spoken word. Jake now lives near Kearney with his wife and four young children.
"This year's Midsummer Festival will be extra-special," said Pastor Judy Johnson. "Anyone who enjoys cowboy poetry will be in for a treat. This will a fun evening for the whole family. We encourage everyone to attend." For more information, contact Johnson at 402-380-1990.