A West Texas Original - The Cowboys' Christmas Ball

The first Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball was held in 1885 at Anson to honor area cowboys and their ladies. This 131 year old winter holiday celebration includes traditional western music, poetry, dancing, listening, refreshments and fellowship. The 81st consecutive annual re-enactment will be held on December 17, 18 & 19. It is a family event always open to the public.

Historic Pioneer Hall (and museum) at Anson has been the Ball home since completion of its construction in 1940. The Ball and Hall are designated an official state historical event and site by the Texas Historical Commission to promote its historic preservation and celebrate its Texas history.

1885 Ball rules remain in effect. Ladies are required to wear dresses on the dance floor. Gentlemen must check in hats, spurs and guns. No drinking, smoking, spitting, fighting, cussing or riding horses is allowed in the Hall.

The Ball was memorialized by rancher/poet Larry Chittenden with his famous poem “The Cowboys' Christmas Ball” (Ranch Verses,  Knickerbocker Press, 1893). The poem with music was later published in the John Lomax classic compilation Cowboy Songs & Other Frontier Ballads (Macmillan Company, 1910). It was first performed at the 1946 Ball by cowboy folklorist Gordon Graham. The Ball is portrayed in the large 1930s mural at the Anson Post Office and the 1930 watercolor painting by Maxine Walker Perini on permanent display at Abilene's Grace Museum. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Edna Ferber recognized the “Cowboy Christmas Ball at Anson in Jones County” in her memorable novel Giant. There is also a permanent historical exhibit of the Ball and Hall in the Southwest Collections Library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

The preeminent history of the Ball, its origin, preservation and continuation has been written by Dr. Paul H. Carson, emeritus professor of history at Texas Tech University. It is a classic, impeccably researched, historically accurate and thoroughly documented story (DANCIN' IN ANSON – A History of the Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball, Texas Tech University Press, 2014, www.ttupress.org).

The Ball is also the acknowledged genesis for the Cowboy Christmas concerts throughout the country performed by America's #1 cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey and his Rio Grande Band. They have highlighted the Ball one night for the past 21 years (www.michaelmartinmurphey.com).  Muddy Creek is the faithful house band that has played the other two nights for many years.

2015 SCHEDULE:

Thursday, December 17 – Michael Martin Murphey & his Rio Grande Band ($20 per person). For advance tickets, call (325)537-2589 or email suanneholtman@yahoo.com.

Friday, December 18 – Muddy Creek Band & old-time square dance exhibition ($10 adults, $5 seniors & ages 13-18, children 12 & under + active duty military free).

Saturday, December 19 – Muddy Creek Band & Texas Cowboy Santa with candy for kids ($10 adults, $5 seniors & ages 13-18, children 12 & under + active duty military free).

The nightly Ball begins at 8 pm and concludes at 12 midnight in Pioneer Hall, 2300 Avenue G, Anson, TX 79501. It is always held the Thursday, Friday & Saturday before December 25th. Additional information may be obtained from the musical website at www.ansoncowboyschristmasball.com or by calling (325)537-2589.

The Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball Association conducts the annual 3 day Ball as well as owns and maintains Pioneer Hall. It is a Texas non-profit corporation organized in 1937, an IRS 501(3)(c) tax-exempt public historical charity, and composed of couples who voluntarily contribute their time, service and resources. The Ball was copyrighted in 1937 and remains exclusive Association property. A $500 college or vocational school scholarship is awarded annually to the Jones County high school student writing the best Ball history paper. Jones County high school students also run the hat/coat check and concessions keeping all proceeds for school projects.

Our area “...offers visitors the look, taste and feel of the West. Events such as...The Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball in Anson are celebrations of who we are and are authentic. People come from across miles and miles of Texas, other states and even other countries to experience Texas as it was and still is.” - Abilene Reporter-News editorial promoting National Travel & Tourism Week (May 3, 2015).

John Compere

(Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball Association Historian and Santa)

 

 

 

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