WILLCOX — Locals celebrated one of their heroes at this year’s Rex Allen Days.

A gathering that celebrates the life and achievements of singing cowboy Rex Allen, this year marks the 69th annual Rex Allen Days event.

According to Michael Clement, who is on the Rex Allen Days Committee, this year’s event attendance was healthy.

“The Wild Bunch Film Festival reported much larger crowds. The gun show vendors bought and sold, and were happy, and the rodeo stands were standing along the fence-only on Saturday. This drew even a larger-than-recent norm for Sunday,” Clement said.

The official start of the event began Friday, Oct. 4, with the annual gun show, carnival and vendors. On Saturday, the Rex Allen Days Parade kicked off at 10 a.m., followed by live entertainment in Keiller Park, a car show, rodeo, as well as a free concert by Rex Allen Jr. at Windmill Park. Festivities continued through Sunday, with rodeo, another gun show, cowboy church at Quail Park Arena and the final day of the carnival.

“For someone who has never been to Rex Allen Days, they are missing out on the chance to see what a small rural city can do to honor one of its homegrown heroes. To a lot of us, especially natives, at least to me, he (Rex Allen) is a hero. He went out from Willcox into the world and became a movie star and a famous country western singer and never forgot where he came from,” said Rex Allen Days Committee President Jody Clement.

This year’s Rex Allen Days reina is Angeliana Martinez, from Willcox High School; the Rex Allen Days princesses are Selena Verdugo, from Willcox High School, Giselle Molina, from Bowie High School, and Gabriela Salas, from Bowie High School.

“Reina and princesses will be crowned during the pregame activities at Friday night’s homecoming game, and they will be participating in the parade,” said Rex Allen Days Reina Chair Rachel Garza. “They will also be participating in events over the upcoming year.”

The rodeo is one of the biggest draws of the event. Dennis Williams, Rex Allen Days Rodeo Committee rodeo chair, has orchestrated the event for 10 years. The rodeo itself is on the Grand Canyon Rodeo Circuit. According to Williams, Rex Allen Days Rodeo is the second-best in the circuit.

“The only way that there’s a rodeo better than us is the Holbrook County Fair Rodeo. They don’t put in any extra added money more than we do, but they get so many more contestants from the Navajo Tribe that it runs up the payoff on the rodeo, that it makes it a higher-paying rodeo,” Williams said, “but I feel we got the best stock contractor. His bucking horses are NFR quality. I’ve had a lot of the rough stock competitors tell me that they’re not going to go to the rodeos where the other contractors are because the key to being a competitor in these things is what is referred to as the draw. They draw everybody a horse out of a hat. A good stock contractor, all of his horses will be as even as possible. So no matter what you draw, you have a chance to win. Some of these other stock contractors don’t have that.”

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