“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.