“If you have ever or never enjoyed the charm of an annual small-town celebration, we have a classic example for all ages right here in Willcox, original home of a famous singing cowboy,” said Rex Allen Days committee president Peggy Judd.
“Join us, as we 'Cowboy through it all’ during the 58th Annual Rex Allen Days, held this year (Thursday through Sunday).”
A carnival is offered all four days of the celebration, while a country fair with food booths, souvenirs, mariachi dancers and the Ronald McDonald magic show will be featured Friday through Sunday.
“It gets better every year, though we have no idea how or why,” said Rex Allen Jr.
Former TV star Bob Hoy said, “You know, I love coming to Willcox. It’s like coming home because everyone here makes you feel so welcome.”
The Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame will induct four new cowboys into the hall on Thursday night. Keith Klump, 70, of Bowie, Jack Tunks, 68, of Benson, Jim Self, 65, of St. David, and Larry Moore, 64, of Elfrida, all now call Willcox their home and will be honored in the Cowboy Hall to kick off this year’s Rex Allen Days weekend.
The Rex Allen Days Rodeo is a Grand Canyon Pro Rodeo event held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Fans sit so close you can smell the bull’s breath during the spectacular bull-riding finales both days.
Other rodeo events include bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, calf roping, breakaway roping, team roping and barrel racing.
Willcox produces some of the finest amateur rodeo competitors in the state and they’ll get a chance to compete with the pros during the local events, which start at 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
The annual parade runs through downtown at 10 a.m. Saturday and will feature the theme “Cowboy Through It All.”
Well-known cowboys, politicians and entertainers love to join in the parade of tractors, marching bands and rodeo queens.
Kids bring out their competitive nature by entering their unique desert pets in the annual Orlando B. Willcox turtle race at noon on Saturday. The event features heats and a final crawl to the finish line for the championship in an event that is in its 27th year.
Tractor pulls, car shows, softball and golf tournaments also highlight the weekend for spectators and participants alike.
The stage show features Rex Allen, Jr. and sons, saluting their patriarch and the last of the silver screen’s singing cowboys, Rex Allen, Sr. This professional show is the backbone to a remarkable weekend and shows run at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Rex Allen, Sr. grew up in Willcox playing his guitar and singing at local functions, said Peta Anne-Tenney, who publishes the Rex Allen Days magazine. When singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were very much in Vogue, she said, Republic Pictures in Hollywood discovered Allen in 1949 and cast him in 19 movies in the leading role, with his horse Koko and comic relief sidekicks like Slim Pickens and Buddy Ebsen. He has the distinction of making the last singing western in 1954.
Allen was gifted with a rich, pleasant voice, leading him to write and record many of the songs featured in his own films and creating a “side” job as narrator for the popular Disney wildlife films and TV shows in the 1960s. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983.
His music is heard daily on historic Railroad Avenue in downtown Willcox, and his films will be revived again at the local twin theaters this weekend during the Rex Allen Film Festival. The Rex Allen Museum also memorializes his talent by hosting their 11th Annual Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Festival on Friday and Saturday.
“The stars think this is most hospitable and wonderful town they can come to,” said museum director Delcie Schultz.
The museum will celebrate its 20th year of displaying the Hollywood memorabilia of Rex Allen, Sr. with a wine and cheese reception Friday at 6 p.m. in the local community center.
Many of the entertainers enjoy the weekend so much, they hang around on Sunday morning to mingle with the crowd during the cowboy church and chuckwagon breakfast from 8-10 a.m.
“They think Willcox is a wonderful, wonderful place,” said Schultz.
Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative and the City of Willcox co-sponsor the celebration at exit 340 off of I-10 in southeastern Arizona.
Visit rexallendays.org for more information.
Tickets for the rodeo, stage shows and Hall of Fame dinner are still available by calling the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture at (520) 384-2272.
Willcox and the Rex Allen Days are an Arizona cowboy legacy. I would recommend a trip back in time with this Arizona legend and his hometown on display for your enjoyment.