CLAREMORE — The 75th anniversary of Will Rogers Days has been named one of the “Top 100 Events in North America” for 2013.
The designation was awarded by the American Bus Association, an influential voice in the tour bus industry. The Claremore event was selected from more than 500 applications.
“It's a major designation for us here in Oklahoma,” said Steve Gragert, director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums in Claremore. “We should see a greater number of motor coach tours coming through here at least around Will Rogers Days and maybe the whole year.”
The annual event celebrates the birthday of Oklahoma humorist, entertainer and cultural powerhouse Will Rogers, who died with Wiley Post in a 1935 plane crash in Alaska. The 75th anniversary of Will Rogers Days will be Nov. 1-4, 2013.
The celebration will be listed with the bus association's other top events in a supplement to the September/October issue of Destinations magazine. The association's list, which began decades ago as a way for motor coach operators to identify new destinations, has grown into an industry leader, pointing the way to itineraries that provide quality entertainment to groups and individuals.
“The attractiveness of Will Rogers Days as a ‘don't miss' entertainment value is only part of why its selection this year is such a distinction for Claremore,” said Peter J. Pantuso, the association president and CEO, in a news release.
“The real news here is that Will Rogers Days has been recognized as a potential magnet for tourism dollars at a time when re-energizing domestic tourism is so important to our spirit and our economy. The honor gives Claremore an important boost in visibility among professional tour planners.”
The news release suggests that one overnight stay by a bus tour group can bring $5,000 to $11,000 into the local economy.
While that's significant, Gragert hopes those who visit take home with them something even more valuable: an appreciation for Rogers' unparalleled contributions to society.
“He put more than 2 million words in print, and so many of them are timeless,” said Gragert, who has cataloged and edited Rogers' work. “So many of his quotes remain relevant today. And universal, too. People come here from all over the world. They read his quotes here in the museum … and they, too, find them relevant to their lives, no matter where they came from.”
Rogers' influence left him without peers, Gragert said. At the time of his death, he was the top movie star in Hollywood and had the top radio show. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt waited until after Rogers' show was over before making his own radio broadcasts. Rogers' witty newspaper columns were syndicated in more than 500 newspapers.
“When you think about that,” Gragert said, “it's understandable why everyone reacted the way they did when he died, why they created this museum for him.”
Rogers' annual birthday celebration in Claremore offers a range of activities for adults and children. While next year's event is the one lauded by the bus association, there's no reason to miss this year's party, also in November, which will include a parade and car show.
“Children's day will attract several hundred children to the museum,” Gragert said, “although it may seem like thousands as they take over the museum. There'll be neat activities: games and roping and other activities to get them involved in the museum and Will Rogers' life.”
There's no reason to wait for November — this year or next — to spend time in Claremore. For more information about the Will Rogers Memorial Museums and other activities there, go to www.visitclaremore.org.