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Willcox celebrates hometown hero with 62nd annual Rex Allen Days

Week-long festival celebrates life of Willcox native

The sleepy ranching town of Willcox, in Cochise County, comes alive once a year as it celebrates the life of local hero Rex Allen with a week-long festival.

This year's event took place Wednesday through Sunday.

Allen, who lived from 1920 to 1999, was born and raised in Willcox, east of Tucson. Allen grew up in a ranching family; from an early age he sang and played guitar at local gatherings, until getting his big break at Chicago radio station WLS-AM.

Dubbed the "Last of the Singing Cowboys," Allen’s career saw success with songs such as “Don’t Go Near The Indians” and “Tiny Bubbles.” He worked in film as well; starring in the TV series “Frontier Doctor” and narrating "Charlotte’s Web" and numerous Disney productions.

Rex Allen Days began 62 years ago. “The FFA (Future Farmers of America) wanted to have a rodeo,” said local historian Kathy Klump, “they asked Allen if he would provide a buckle to the rodeo.”

Allen was happy to provide the silver buckle, as well as a saddle for the winners. He also performed a free concert at the event.

“He came, and he wanted the money that was raised to go to the hospital,” Klump said. Since then a portion of every Rex Allen Days profits are given to the local hospital.

Today, Rex Allen Days takes over the small town for most of a week, featuring a variety of events including professional wrestling, a parade, beauty pageant, car show, soccer tournament, concerts, and vendors on Main Street.

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Note: Historian Kathy Klump is the aunt of reporter Eric Klump.
Correction: Rex Allen died in 1999, not 2009, as this story originally reported.

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Eric Klump/TucsonSentinel.com

The Rex Allen Museum is across the street from a statue of the singing cowboy.

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