By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Apple Valley) -– Roy Rogers was known as the King of the Cowboys during his years of fame. To those who knew him personally he was known as a kind, caring, giving man. He was also a local – he and his family moved to Apple Valley in 1965 and both Rogers and his wife Dale Evans lived out their final years here.
Saturday would have been Rogers’ 100th birthday. The Town of Apple Valley hosted a Roy Rogers Centennial Celebration that began with a prayer and breakfast at the Roy Rogers – Dale Evans Sunset Chapel.
The afternoon was filled with music at the Apple Valley Civic Center Park Amphitheater with an outdoor concert featuring Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr. and the High Riders. What an amazing show it was! The group brought back memories of Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers with their melodious harmonies and western music.
Roy Rogers Jr. resembles his dad in appearance and sound, and he entertained the crowd not only with his music but also with tales of his dad in between songs. He was both funny and reverent in his memories of his father and mother.
I had the chance to talk to Rogers while his son Dustin was on stage. I asked about his father’s legacy. He responded, “Both Mom and Dad were huge stars worldwide. Their legacy lives on – they stood for morals and ethics and family values. That kind of thing I don’t think ever gets old.”
He continued, “They just loved the High Desert. I think the people of Apple Valley deserve a lot of credit because Dad could go anywhere and do anything he wanted – he loved to go to Denny’s for a strawberry waffle and nobody would bother him. He and mom felt at home here. This is where they wanted to spend the last years of their life, which they did, over 35 years, and then of course they were put to rest here too.”
When I asked him what his dad would think of Apple Valley today, Rogers laughed and said, “Dad would be shocked – when we moved up here in ‘65 there were only like two houses on the highway, and the highway was just a double-lane road with dirt on both sides.”
“People ask me that all the time, what he would think. There are two things I’d have to tell him. I would have to say, ‘Dad, you can get your picture taken on your cell phone now, AND you have to pay $5 for coffee.’ That’s something he would not understand.”
Rogers Jr. and the High Riders played a mix of songs from the senior Rogers’ performances, as well as songs Dusty has written. And the crowd was treated to a blue grass tune from the High Riders. Of course everyone’s favorite “Happy Trails to You” was a crowd pleaser.
The performance was also broadcast on RFD TV, touted as Rural America’s Most Important Network, which is also celebrating Rogers’100th birthday. Visit their website to catch a replay of the afternoon concert and other celebrities recounting their memories of Roy Rogers http://www.rfdtv.com/
Rogers Jr. said that people always ask him if it is difficult to stand in his father’s shadow. He said that his job is not to stand in that shadow, it is to lengthen it. I would say that he is doing an amazing job of it.
Roy Rogers Centennial Celebration continues today at the Roy Rogers Ranch in Oro Grande. Visit the Town of Apple Valley’s website for more information www.applevalley.org.