January 2022 is going to be a busy month at the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum! After a great Christmas season, the museum is “Gearing Up” for the Fourth Annual Bit Contest and Gear Show and Sale, held the last week in January with bidding taking place on line January 26, 27 and 28. Bidders must preregister through the website www.cowboyartsandgear.com. Contest items will be available for online preview the last week in January on the website as well as in person at the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum.
This the fourth year for the Bit Contest and is limited to 20 entries. The cheek piece is from G.S. Garcia’s 1924 catalogue. All the slots were filled this year by October 1. Makers purchase two raw cheek pieces – all 20 pair are identical. The artist can inlay, overlay and/or engrave the steel itself into a finished piece. In the past, there were competitors from Missouri to Texas, Nevada, California and throughout the intermountain West. Their ages ranged from the 20s to the 80s. In early January, the bits are returned to the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum and are judged by accomplished horsemen. Two categories are on workmanship, balance and finish. Two other categories are on artistry and presentation. Cash prizes are awarded to the top four places. Finally, the bits are sold with the makers receiving the majority of the sale money and the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum receiving a portion. Past sponsors of the event include J.M. Capriola Co., Elko Convention & Visitors Authority, Dave Alderson Silversmith, Nicole Poyo Photography, Rio Grande Jewelry Supply and GRS Engraving.
Also, during the Bit Contest at the museum, the annual Gear Show and Sale will take place This show was initiated by the late Paula Wright over 20 years ago to showcase exceptional gear makers of all genres. On display and for sale are jewelry, rawhide braiding, leatherwork and furniture. A new category was added this year – Youth 18 and under. This will encourage emerging young makers. A $500 scholarship will be awarded to the People’s Choice Winner of the youth division. All items, adult and youth, will be sold on line
A reception will be held on Friday, January 28 from 6-8 p.m. as the bidding closes. Everyone is welcome to come and bid in person, remotely via telephone, or on a computer at the museum. The Bits and Gear will be on display at the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum through the end of February.
The Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum is located in G.S. Garcia’s Saddle and Harness Shop, 542 Commercial Street in historic downtown Elko. The building was recently nominated to the Nevada State Register of Historic Places.