Yes, organizers may have dropped “Poetry” and “Music” from its name for its 20th year, but make no mistake, the Monterey Cowboy Festival does indeed have poetry and quite a bit of music.

The 20th Annual Monterey Cowboy Festival, previously the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, takes place from 11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Saturday, November 3, 2018, at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center at 2004 Fairground Road, in Monterey. 

The festival, founded in 1998 by former Monterey police chief, Gary Brown, who lost his battle with lung disease in 2016, celebrates Monterey's contribution to our country’s western heritage, bringing people together to enjoy and learn more about the "cowboy way of life," including its history, current values and culture.

In addition to the eclectic music lineup and food and drink vendors, one of the festival’s popular draws is The Marketplace, which offers some of the finest western art and gear vendors in the country, from customs saddles, fine leather boots and stunning paintings to handmade jewelry.

Here are the “5 Artists Not to Miss” at this year’s festival, with a special emphasis on acts with a local connection:

Jon Pardi

Of course, you won’t want to miss the headliner at any music festival and Pardi is no exception. Ever since his 204 debut “Write You a Song,” with its Top 10 party song “Up All Night,” Pardi’s star has been ascending. His latest album, “California Sunrise” is stocked with classic Nashville melody, blue-collar lyrical themes and authentic country instrumentation — real drums, loud-and-proud fiddles and tangy steel guitar. The album’s 12 songs draw a direct link to such forbearers as Dwight Yoakam, George Strait and Marty Stuart, and it’s intentional.

The Carolyn Sills Combo

This fun and swinging five-piece combo based in the Monterey Bay Area operates at the crossroads of cowboy music, Western swing and spaghetti Westerns. Winners of the 2018 Ameripolitan Award’s Western Swing Group Of The Year, this combo is on the fast track to fame. Their latest “Dime Stories Volume 2,” features 13 new songs about “the great outdoors, Buffalo Bill, the 1908 Cubs, villainous babies, Catalina Island and more.” What more could you want?

Mike Beck

Monterey-born and raised, Mike Beck spent his early years as a working cowboy in Montana and a true horse whisperer. He now takes that hard-won experience and knowledge and puts it into music so evocative and genuine you can practically hear the creak of a leather saddle and smell the sagebrush. His seventh album, “Alta California,” was recorded in a farm studio in Norway, where he often conducts horse clinics. “Mike taps into the best parts of west coast country music and lyrics straight out of tired old country bars that we use to dream about,” says country and bluegrass legend Herb Pedersen about the latest recording.

Cow Bop

Led by acclaimed jazz guitarist Bruce Forman and his wife and singer “Pinto Pammy,” both former residents of Carmel Valley, Cow Bop is a unique combo that describes its music as cowboy jazz or Western bebop, a thrill-a-minute and swinging ride that crosses the spectrum of American music, from the hottest jazz and the coolest swing to the most down-home honky-tonk. Cow Bop was recently inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and released its latest album “Cowlifornia Swing” to high praise from both the jazz and country music press. Wylie Gustafson of Wylie & The Wild West says, “They put some scoobie-doo in their wahoo!”

The Hasslers

Described as “genuine hard-hitting Montana folk-rock, erudite pool hall rock, folk-rockicana, and once even Latin emo,” the Hasslers hail from Montana and have a knack for writing catchy tunes. Frontman Matt Hassler began writing songs at 16, confronting themes involved with growing up in an agricultural community of the American Northwest. Now based in music-rich Seattle, which they use as a touring base and inspiration for their own music. They began winning awards and attracting the attention of national touring acts right out of the gate, playing with groups like Blitzen Trapper, the Heartless Bastards, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and sharing the stage with artists such as Merle Haggard, Jason Isbell, and Josh Ritter. 

Playing the Main Stage will be Pardi, Texas neotraditionalist country trio Midland, country singer Corb Lund, and cowboy poets Waddie Mitchell and Paul Zarzyski.

Playing on the Garden Stage on the grounds will be Ernie Sites, Cow Bop, Mike Beck, Juni Fisher, Andy Hedges, Tom Swearingen, The Carolyn Sills Combo, Joni Harms, Almeda Bradshaw, and The Hasslers.

Tickets range in price from $19 for a Grounds Pass to $247 for a VIP experience, and are available online at