Festival in Kanab rounds up Western Legends and Hollywood stars

Parade at the 2011 Western Legends Round-Up featuring Longhorn cattle | Courtesy of Stephen Browning

KANAB – The films, music and festivity of the Old West and the fictionalized West will be honored at the 14th annual Western Legends Round-Up, held Aug. 16-18 at various locations throughout Kanab.

2012 Western Legends Round-Up poster | Courtesy of Stephen Browning

Kanab is frequently referred to as “Little Hollywood” or “Utah’s Little Hollywood” due to the abundance of movies and television shows filmed there during the mid-20th Century. The city’s picturesque scenery served as an ideal backdrop for Westerns such as “El Dorado” (1966), “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976), “Gunsmoke” (1955-1975) and “Daniel Boone” (1964-1970). The science fiction epic “Planet of the Apes” (1968) and action-adventure “Broken Arrow” (1996) were also partly filmed there.

The residents of Kanab are proud of their city’s legacy, which is reflected in the numerous Western-themed businesses and entertainment. The Frontier Movie Town museum displays countless photographs and props; many old movie sets have been preserved and are still available for public viewing. Another popular tourist attraction is the Little Hollywood Walk of Fame, a collection of plaques honoring such stars as actress Adrian Booth, actor Dale Robertson, producer/director Howard W. Koch and location scout Fay Hamblin, who is often credited with putting Kanab on the film industry’s radar.

Keeping the spirit of Little Hollywood alive today is the Western Legends Round-Up, a three-day festival held annually since 1999. It was created by a trio of local businessmen who wanted to draw tourists to Kanab and share the city’s heritage with them. The festival has been successful in at least the former; over 4,000 attended last year and advance ticket sales are higher than ever.

“I meet hundreds of people who come to Kanab throughout the year and many of them tell me (how) familiar it looks,” said Stephen Browning, director of the Western Legends Round-Up. “When I explain that hundreds of feature films and television episodes were made (here) and share the titles with them, they are amazed and delighted as they recall their fond childhood memories. They often tell me that standing right where John Wayne, James Stewart, Robert Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Clint Eastwood and so many others stood has been the highlight of their trip.”

The festival offers a series of unique workshops throughout the weekend, with experienced instructors teaching such skills as rope making, blacksmithing, knitting and knapping (shaping flint into tools). A quick draw and target shooting competition in the style of Old West gunfights are among the highlights, plus the 16th annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo contest featuring poets from across the country and globe. Saturday is the Children’s Round-Up, featuring activities free to ages 14 and under.

Superior entertainment is a hallmark of the Western Legends Round-Up, and this year many big names have gathered to set the festive mood, including Lynn Anderson, a Grammy winner with 11 career No. 1 hits on the country chart and Belinda Gail, a five-time winner of the Western Music Association’s Female Performer of the Year known as “America’s Western Sweetheart.” Eric Dodge, a relatively new but accomplished face on the country music scene and St. George resident, will also be headlining. On the humorous side, audiences will be treated to a performance from poet and comedian Andy Nelson and professional impersonations of film heroes Hopalong Cassidy and George “Gabby” Hayes.

Aside from the entertainment, a variety of familiar faces from the silver screen will make appearances at this year’s festival. Among them are Clint Walker, star of “Cheyenne” (1955-1963), Peter Brown, star of “Lawman” (1958-1962) and Robert Fuller, star of “Laramie” (1959-1963) and “Emergency!” (1972-1977). Cast members of The Virginian (1962-1971), known for being television’s third-longest-running Western series, will also be featured in a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the show’s premiere. All celebrities will be available for autograph signings Friday and Saturday.

Cheryl Rogers and Roy Rogers | Photo courtesy of Cheryl Rogers Barnett
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett and Roy Rogers | Photo courtesy of Cheryl Rogers Barnett

“This event is a chance (for people) to come out and meet (their) movie and TV heroes,” said Cheryl Rogers-Barnett. The adopted daughter of film icons Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and a much-loved celebrity in the Western entertainment community, Rogers-Barnett first came to Kanab to accept a Walk of Fame plaque for Evans and was immediately taken with the area. She now lives in Washington City and is a leading figure in the Western Legends Round-Up, where she devotes the weekend to meeting and talking with fans. She also tours the nation frequently to promote her two books, “The All-American Cowboy Grill: Sizzlin’ Recipes from the World’s Greatest Cowboys” and “Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans” and is always willing to offer a nostalgic tale about the golden era of Westerns.

“It fills my heart with joy to attend an event that is not only entertaining and fun, but gives me a serious dose of good old American values and patriotism,” Gail said. “We live in a beautiful, gracious, generous, amazing nation, and (that) is reflected beautifully in the Western Legends Round-Up. I’m very excited to be sharing my music this weekend and can’t wait to see you there.”

A full schedule of events can be found here.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Fred August 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

    This will be a grand time. We went there several years ago and met Clint Walker who played Cheyenne. He was so nice to us and signed autographs and let us take several photos of him and his wife. I attended many festivals like this in the past and met Roy Rogers many times.

  • Murat August 15, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I haven’t heard of one of those supposedly familiar faces from the silver screen. This article gives me the impression that Kanab is desperate for tourism. “Look, some of the land surrounding our town was featured in a movie from 5 decades ago!” This is pathetic. I pass through Kanab on my way to Lake Powell and have never seen a good reason to stop in the dreary town.

    • techguy August 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      The truth is that most of them are “B” movie and TV supporting players who are barely famous. But I guess for fans of those shows, it’s a real treat. I’ve never been to Kanab so I can’t pass judgment on the town, but it looks to have wonderful scenery and I’ll be giving the festival a try this year. I’ll report back on just how “pathetic” it is… might just be a fun weekend.

    • Localgal August 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      I’m sorry “Murat” has never stopped in our beautiful town!! Dreary??? Maybe growing up surrounded by asphalt and cement has skewed your judgement of what is dreary and what is nice! Yes, some of the “stars” that come to Western Legends are from the past and aren’t “A” list stars, but for those that are old enough to remember shows like Gunsmoke and Bonaza being the big hits on TV and when Lynn Anderson was a Grammy award winning artist—-yes, its’ a treat! And maybe we didn’t get anyone here from our most recent film “Disney’s John Carter”, but there are film crews doing documentaries, music videos, TV shows most of the time around here! In these hard economic times, we probably are a little desperate for tourism, its our big payday, but who isn’t wanting to make money?? Pathetic, your comment is pathetic. Stop in sometime, say Hi to a few people, have a “Big Red” burger from the “Junction”, drive up Hog Canyon and up to the TV towers and look off at this beautiful land we live in and that for 5 decades has supported the real Hollywood, by being it’s little quiet place to come film movies! Hope to see you sometime, you might be really suprised!!!

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