Take a Pilgrim-age to the John Wayne Birthday Celebration

Can’t get enough Duke? Turner Classic Movies network is showcasing John Wayne as their April ‘Star of the Month’ with an ample series of his very best films. And if you’re a big fan of this bigger-than-life legend of classic films like me, you may already be feeling the melancholy set in, knowing this Wayne-loving month has come to a close. Fear not fans- John Wayne’s birthday is approaching on May 26. And partner, I’ve got just the thing to set you straight up in your saddle… the John Wayne Birthday Celebration in Winterset, Iowa.

In the sleepy little midwestern town of Winterset, you will find a fitting tribute to their celebrity son, Marion Robert Morrison who was born here on May 26, 1907. Long before launching his incredibly popular five-decade career in film, John Wayne spent his childhood in this charming town as Marion Morrison. Every year to honor their hometown legend, the proud folks of Winterset host the most marvelous weekend-long celebration on the weekend closest to his birthday. This year, this event takes place May 23-26th. I had the great pleasure of making the journey to this festival last May when their special guest of honor, and theme of events, was the legendary Maureen O’Hara who shared five films with Duke. (You can read more on my trek to last year’s fest, by clicking here.)

This year’s schedules of events promises to awaken this sleepy small town with much of the same fun-packed frivolity as before. An adventure awaits from FREE film screenings, to a tour of his birthplace home, to a real rodeo, to pie eating and a celebrity benefit dinner plus so much more! If you’re the type that absolutely must get up-close to some relatives, co-stars or even book experts of John Wayne because it almost feels like being part of the Wayne inner circle, you’re in for a treat. As part of this year’s line-up, you will have the chance to nab those name-dropping bragging rights with the following folks:

Lana Wood, co-star with John Wayne from THE SEARCHERS…
-as special guest to the Birthplace Museum Benefit Dinner and Auction, Wood will recount her tales of portraying “little Debbie” on the set while working with Wayne and Ford in Monument Valley. Wood is also known as Natalie Wood’s real-life little sister and for her stint as a ‘Bond girl.’ Following, John Wayne’s daughter Aissa will host the popular auction of John Wayne memorabilia.

Scott Eyman, biographer of “John Wayne: The Life and Legend”…
-discussion and autograph session from the celebrated author who has been this month’s guest programmer along side Robert Osborne, introducing Wayne’s “Star of the Month” film series. 

Glenn Frankel, author of “The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend”…
-discussion and book signing from this New York Times best-selling author who accounts the real back stories behind this enduring classic western.

Many activities at the John Wayne Birthday Celebration are free, some events attach a reasonable cost and certain key events require reserved tickets (such as the Birthplace Museum Benefit Dinner and Auction)~ so get your tickets early! Check out their site for all the details at www.johnwaynebirthplace.museum/birthday or call (877) 462-1044. Donations are happily accepted so fundraising is ongoing for the world’s only museum dedicated to John Wayne. Groundbreaking for this museum should kick off this spring!

(*photos and scheduling are courtesy of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum site)

The full schedule of activities and events:
Friday, May 23

9am–5pm John Wayne Birthplace
All Day
FREE John Wayne Movies The Searchers, Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Iowa Theater
6pm Madison County Fairgrounds
9pm Western Swing Dance Madison County Fairgrounds

Saturday, May 24

7am – 11am
Fire Station
All Day
FREE John Wayne Movies The Searchers, Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Iowa Theater
9am–5pm John Wayne Birthplace
John Wayne Birthplace 5K Run/Walk
John Wayne Birthplace lot, corner of Washington & Second Streets
John Wayne Birthplace lot
Madison County Chamber
12:30pm – 3pm
Courthouse Square
Book Symposium with authors Lana Wood, Scott Eyman, Glenn Frankel and Aissa Wayne
Madison County Historical Complex
1pm Cowboy Mounted Shooters Madison County Fairgrounds
Madison County Chamber
John Wayne Birthplace Museum Benefit DinnerMadison County Historical Complex, 815 South Second Ave., Winterset

Doors open at 5pm
Social hour, followed by a delicious Dinner and a lively talk about John Wayne, John Ford and The Searchers by Lana Wood (little Debbie)
Auction hosted by Aissa Wayne

Sunday, May 25

All Day
FREE John Wayne Movies The Searchers, Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Iowa Theater
10am Cowboy Mounted Shooters Madison County Fairgrounds
10am–4:30pm John Wayne Birthplace
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