ELKO — Elko County youngsters tasted sarsaparilla, tied bandanas and stamped leather on Wednesday during school field trips to the Western Folklife Center.

From Tuesday through today the Folklife Center anticipated 744 student visitors, said Youth Education Coordinator Jan Petersen.

“We were booked to the max,” she said.

The groups included the Elko Institute for Academic Achievement and a number of homeschooled children.

“It exposes them to the cowboy way — what cowboys really do around here,” Petersen said.

Additionally, the children visited an exhibit on the Northern Plains cowboys, which exposed them to “a different part of the way we all live.”

Volunteer Ted Lefurgy passed out samples of old-fashioned sarsaparilla at the Pioneer Bar. Lefurgy, who visits from Washington, began volunteering in the late 1990s after coming to visit his sister.

“I have a ball — more (darn) fun than I’ve ever had,” he said.

Petersen noted that many parents remember coming to the Folklife Center for Cowboy Poetry Week when they were young.

“A good time is had by all,” she said.

The youth education program has been going for over 20 years, Petersen said.

Youths in kindergarten through 12th grade will have a chance to recite poetry during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at 6:15 p.m. Jan. 28. Youth open mic program coordinator Deb Howard said the event is free to attend in the Turquoise Room of the Elko Convention Center.

Presenters are encouraged to recite their own poetry, or poetry by others as long as they give credit to the author.

“Everyone gets five minutes of fame and a bottle of sarsaparilla,” Howard said.