“Every man has wanted to be a cowboy,” said Will Rogers years ago. “Why play Wall Street and die young when you can play cowboy and never die?”
On Saturday, July 30, beginning at 11 a.m. the public will have a chance to play cowboy for a day at the Will Rogers Jubilee at Will Rogers State Historic Park.
Rogers was perhaps America’s most unusual cowboy. In the late 1920s, the cowboy from Oklahoma took his trick roping act on the vaudeville circuit and, by the early 1930s, he was the most popular and highest paid actor in Hollywood, as well as a newspaper columnist, philosopher, radio and Broadway star and an enduring folk hero and wit who regularly skewered politicians. He was also mayor of Beverly Hills for a time, and a shrewd businessman, who owned what is now Will Rogers State Beach. But, it is said that his favorite place in the world was his ranch, above Sunset Boulevard, in Pacific Palisades.
Following his death in a plane crash, the ranch was given to the state of California, and, since 1944, the Will Rogers State Historic Park has been operated by the State Parks Department.
On the ranch are a 31-room ranch house, an historic stable, corrals, riding ring, roping arena, polo field, golf course, and hiking trails.
Polo matches are still played there and, until a couple of years ago, area residents boarded horses in Rogers’ stable.
The Parks Department is currently restoring the ranch house and landscape. Saturday’s celebration is designed to increase the public’s awareness of the park.
Speaking of it, State Parks Director Ruth Coleman said, “This is the kind of event that makes the wonderful history of this man and his home come alive. If we were to turn back the clock, we would probably see events very similar to this, with people enjoying western traditions at their best.”
On the jubilee agenda are demonstrations of trick roping and cowboys working cattle, horse, pony and wagon rides and music. Such cowboy fare as barbecue, tamales, beef jerky will be available for sale.
Actress June Lockhart, Ambassador to California State Parks, will open the jubilee and Will Rogers impersonator Robert Basgall will serve as MC.
Scheduled to appear are the Santa Monica Police Department Mounted Patrol, Ramon Becerra, trick rider and roper, Patty Mayer in a dressage demonstration, Felix Lopez and the Broken Horn Ropers, Pat Puckett and Dave Thornberry, trick ropers, and the Drew Davis Band
In addition, a blacksmith will demonstrate how to shoe a horse, and visitors will be invited to learn cattle roping, trick roping, and quick-draw.
The park is located at 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, off Sunset, in Pacific Palisades. There is free vehicle parking for the event with complimentary shuttle service from the off-site event parking location at Paul Revere Middle School, on Sunset at Mandeville Canyon east of the park. Visit California State Parks on-line at www.parks.ca.gov