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2013 Spring Conference

2013 Spring Conference

Custer County Nebraska, ca. 1888, by Solomon D. Butcher
Tuesday, June 5, 2012


"We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it - for a little while."

These words ring as true today as they did the day Cather penned them, 100 years ago. Our spring conference will celebrate the centennial of Cather's breakthrough novel O Pioneers! in which she "hit the home pasture." The novel celebrates the transformation of the American prairies by European settlers and marks Cather's emergence as a major novelist. Two contemporary American creative artists, Dan O'Brien, rancher and author of Buffalo for the Broken Heart, and filmmaker Charles Fairbanks will talk about how Cather's novel and the Great Plains have inspired their own work. Cather scholars will explore O Pioneers!, Cather's relationship with her mentor Sarah Orne Jewett (to whom Cather dedicated the the novel), and Cather's letters, a selected volume of which is being published this year. Rowdy string-band MAW will entertain in the Opera House, and award-winning cowboy poet, storyteller, and celebrity chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins will serve dinner on the Cather Prairie.

58th annual Willa Cather Spring Conference
"Fortunate Country": O Pioneers! and the Prairie Homestead's Legacy
May 30-June 1, 2013
Red Cloud, Nebraska

Author, Filmmaker, and TV Chuckwagon Cook to Appear

Award-winning Great Plains author Dan O'Brien (Buffalo for the Broken Heart), Nebraska filmmaker Charles Fairbanks, and cowboy entertainer and chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins will headline the 58th annual Spring Conference at the Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, Nebraska. The Spring Conference features arts and humanities programs related to the life and writings of Willa Cather. "2013 marks the 100th publication anniversary of O Pioneers!," says Tracy Tucker, Education Director of the Willa Cather Foundation. "The novel documents the way homesteading transformed the prairies, and the conference has evolved out of looking at ways we continue to grapple with the cultural legacy of the Great Plains."

This year's conference, directed by Dr. Melissa Homestead of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, also features a Museum of Nebraska Art exhibit of Solomon Butcher's pioneer photographs, original bluegrass by MAW, of Lawrence, Kansas, and a gallery exhibit, Inspired by O Pioneers! A chuck wagon dinner will be served on the prairie, which will also be the location for the inaugural Willa Cather Wildflower Walk. Bluegrass group MAW will perform in the Red Cloud Opera House, and Cather scholars will also be on hand to discuss the publication of O Pioneers!, a new volume of Cather letters, and the new virtual cather website,

Dan O'Brien is the author of the nonfiction Buffalo for the Broken Heart, as well as the novels Stolen Horses, The Contract Surgeon, and The Indian Agent. Dan is a two-time winner of the National Endowment for the Arts individual artist's grant, and a two time winner of the Western Heritage Award. He is owner of Cheyenne River Ranch and Wild Idea Buffalo Company.

Charles Fairbanks grew up in rural Nebraska and studied at Stanford and the University of Michigan. In 2010 Fairbanks was chosen by Werner Herzog for the first Rogue Film School. Fairbanks is currently a Guggenheim Fellow and assistant professor of media arts at Antioch College. His short film "Pioneers" will be featured at the conference.

Kent Rollins, cowboy entertainer and chuckwagon cook, and his wife Shannon travel the country with a restored 1876 Studebaker wagon. Kent is the Official Chuck Wagon Cook of Oklahoma and winner of the Will Rogers Award for Chuck Wagon of the Year. Recent television appearances include Food Network's Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Chopped: Grill Masters.

MAW is a Lawrence, Kansas, all-woman string band formed in 2006. They perform traditional and original songs have released two CDs, Advice for the Young and Foolish and Pit of Desire.

Conference Schedule

May 30, 2013

6:30 pm: Taste of the Prairie-Local wine and buffalo pairings with Dominic Burke, Superior Estates Winery, and Dan and Jill O'Brien of Wild Idea Buffalo Company (separate ticket required). Event to be held at Superior Estates Winery, 200 W 15th St, Superior, Nebraska.

May 31, 2013

8 am-5 pm: Registration and Coffee

Alternate tours (9:00 & 1:00 Town, 10:30 & 2:30 Country)

Inspired by O Pioneers! Exhibit-Gallery
Selected Photographs by Solomon Butcher Exhibit-Auditorium (from the permanent collection of Museum of Nebraska Art)

9:30 am: Welcome-Auditorium

9:45 am: Antonette Turner and Norma Ross Walter Scholarships, presentation of scholarship essays and O Pioneers! essay contest winners

12:00 pm: Lunch on your own

1:30 pm: O Pioneers! Hallmark Hall of Fame movie-Auditorium
Inaugural Willa Cather Wildflower Walk-Cather Prairie

4:00 pm: Keynote Address: Dan O'Brien-Auditorium

5:30 pm: Inspired by O Pioneers! artists reception-Gallery

6:30 pm: Dinner on your own

7:30 pm: Original bluegrass music with MAW-Auditorium

Note: Friday lunch and dinner available at the Starke Round Barn Historic Site. Reservations: (by May 24) or 402-746-4165
June 1, 2013

7:30-10 am: Kolache and coffee

8am-5pm: Registration

Alternate tours (9:00 & 1:00 Town, 10:30 & 2:30 Country)

Inspired by O Pioneers! Exhibit-Gallery
Selected Photographs by Solomon Butcher Exhibit-Auditorium (from the permanent collection of Museum of Nebraska Art)

8:30 am: Church service-Grace Episcopal, Reverend Charles Peek

10:00 am: "The Passing Show" with Melissa Homestead, Ann Romines, Elizabeth McLeod Walls, Susanne George Bloomfield, and Janis Stout

12:00 pm: Authentic Scandinavian luncheon-Gallery

1:15 pm: "Pioneers" with Charles Fairbanks-Auditorium
Prairie tours-Cather Prairie

2:45 pm: Readings from The Selected Letters of Willa Cather with Steve Shively, Ann Romines, Melissa Homestead, Andrew Jewell, and Nancy Sherwood-Cather sites

5:30 pm: Book signing & reception with Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, co-editors of The Selected Letters of Willa Cather-Gallery

6:30 pm: Chuck wagon dinner with Kent Rollins-Cather Prairie



Humanities Nebraska
Nebraska Arts Council
Nebraska Cultural Endowment


University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cather Project
Marion A. Arneson
Paul R. and Lynette Krieger
Thomas Reese Gallagher
Peoples-Webster County Bank
David Porter
John A Yost and G. Wade Leak

Virgil and Dolores Albertini
Alan and Sharon Amack
Gary Thompson Agency, Inc.
Richard C. Harris
Frederick J. and Diane Kaufman
LIPS Printing
Reverend Charles and Nancy Peek
Kathryne E. Shannon
Brad and Nancy Sherwood
Leonard and Kate Sommer
Pinnacle Bank
Starke Round Barn Historic Site
John and Ardis Yost

Oregon Trail Equipment, LLC
Roger and Joan Bassett
Melissa J. Homestead
Abigail A. Loomis
Ruth and Jim Keene III
Sharon Kohout
Linda Metcalf
Louise Mountford
Glenda J. Pierce
Ann Romines
Shirley Scarborough
C. Kay Stahly
Carol A. Jacobs