Go Beyond the Archives

July 23, 2016, Tulsa, Okla. - The day was Nov. 4, 1938, the 59th anniversary of Will Rogers birthday on an Indian Territory ranch. Thousands of people swarmed over a hillside where Will once planned a retirement home. On that day the Will Rogers Memorial opened to fanfare, never to be repeated.

Horse drawn wagons, hundreds of riders horseback, Indians in tribal clothing and just plain folks were on hand when Will Rogers daughter, Mary, pulled a drape off the iconic statue that is the centerpiece of the Claremore Memorial Museum. There were a few artifacts provided by the Rogers family on display to the public for the first time.

Today the Memorial is filled with additional family memorabilia, saddles from all over the world, paintings of Will by famous artists, a gallery devoted to the Aug. 15, 1935, Alaska crash when he died with Wiley Post, pilot and fellow Oklahoman. There is also the largest known collection of Will Rogers’ movie posters, a generous gift from Gordon Kuntz, a Tulsa native, who now lives in Minnesota.

Ten years to the day after the Memorial opened; Oklahoma Palomino Exhibitors Association enacted a memorable and spectacular scene on the Memorial grounds.

After a giant parade through downtown Claremore with more than a thousand horses, only the Palominos rode to the Memorial grounds and encircled the outside walls of the sunken gardens and tomb of Will Rogers.

A rider on a beautiful Buckskin horse descended the 20 steps and placed a turf-covered wreath of roses on the tomb. On that date, which would have been Will Rogers’ 69th birthday, it was 69 mounted Golden Palominos circling the gardens.

For Palomino owners, it was a fitting tribute to Will and "Comanche", known as the "yellow" pony.

The Palomino Horse Breeders Heritage Foundation wants to bring back those memories for Will Rogers Days 2016, on what would have been Will’s 137th birthday by depicting Will Rogers himself on a golden Palomino as the grand marshal of the parade and also at his Memorial on November 6, 2016. Not only is this a celebration of his birthday, this is also the 75th anniversary of the Palomino Horse Breeders of America, a celebration by both organizations that should go unnoticed.

"The Palomino Horse has been in households for decades, and children still aspire to be cowboys, wranglers, and statesmen such as Will Rogers on a beautiful golden horse. Not only is the Palomino Horse Breeders Heritage Foundation proud to promote the historical value of this animal, but we are also equally proud to present Will for future generations. Will Rogers himself and the Will Rogers Memorial share in our efforts to exemplify the man he was and the horse he loved, Comanche," said Alda Buresh, Foundation President.

"We want Will Rogers Days to again be one of the biggest weekends in the State," said Tad Jones, Will Rogers Memorial director.  "We are excited the community will be offering so many activities for visitors that weekend and that the Palomino Horse Breeders Heritage Foundation has partnered with us for the parade.  We hope people from all over will come to Claremore and Oologah to celebrate the birthday of "Oklahoma’s Favorite Son," he said.

On National Day of the Cowboy, July 23, 81 years after Will’s death, it was announced the Palomino Horse Breeders Heritage Foundation would serve as parade marshals with Todd Branson, Palomino Horse Breeders of America life member, riding a golden Palomino portraying Will Rogers in original attire and equipment for the Sunday, Nov. 6, Will Rogers Days parade and conclude several days of activities spanning Rogers County.

While there may not be as many horses as in 1938 and 1948, horse groups including those from the Will Rogers Roundup Club and Stampede Rodeo and other riding clubs are expected to join bands, floats, Shriners, car clubs, motorcycle clubs, politicians, and Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club. Pocahontas, formed in 1899, welcomed Will and some of his male friends as honorary members and has been marking the anniversary of Will’s birth each November 4 since 1938.

Will Rogers Days activities surrounding the Memorial Museum and Birthplace Ranch near Oologah include special days for children’s events, Mid-Afternoon Frolic and the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club "Hats Off to Will".

Other activities in Claremore and the surrounding area include:

  • Art on the Hill, Rogers State University, Nov. 4-6;
  • American Cowboys Rodeo Association Finals, Nov. 3-6 Claremore Expo Center;
  • Christmas at the Belvidere, Claremore, Nov. 1-5;
  • Shepherd’s Cross Pumpkin Festival, Nov. 3-5, north of Claremore; *High-Noon Shoot-Out, JM Davis Arms & Historical Museum, Claremore; and
  • 19th Annual Native American Heritage Festival, Nov. 5, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Rogers State University Centennial Center.

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