ELKO – The Best of the West took the stage at the Elko Convention Center auditorium Wednesday night, as popular and beloved musicians performed to a full house for the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Riders in the Sky, Adrian Buckaroogirl and Wylie and the Wild West sang old favorites and new songs to an audience that happily stayed 20 minutes longer than scheduled.

Appearing first, Riders in the Sky combined comedy with yodeling and country-western songs, including “Back on those Texas Plains” and “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Frequent performers at the Gathering, the band is celebrating its 40th anniversary; however they appeared Wednesday night with Mark Abbott of the Sons of the Pioneers standing in for bassist Too Slim.

“His wife lost her long battle with cancer Friday morning,” said guitarist Ranger Doug, explaining Too Slim’s absence.

Singer/songwriter Adrian Buckaroogirl performed an acoustic set with songs drawn from her cowgirl past in Charleston and California, including “Buckaroogirl” and “100 Pounds.”

Wylie Gustafson of Wylie and the Wild West said it had been a few years since the band played at the mid-week concert.

“There’s something about the Wednesday night audience that’s special,” Wylie said, before launching into several songs including “To Ride,” The Whoop Up Trail” and “Hey Maria.” He also led the audience in the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

Gustafson said he remembered the band’s early performance at the Stray Dog Café 21 years ago.

“Those were wonderful days,” he said.

The audience groaned when the signal was given to end the set in five minutes, but Gustafson told the audience not to worry.

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” he said. “We might cheat a little bit and stretch this show.”

All of the artists will be performing at various events throughout the Gathering, which concludes Saturday night.