Nope, America's favorite Hollywood Singing Cowboy wasn't born here. And no, he didn't die here. In fact, he only visited Kenton once in his life, in 1938. Yet, since the mid-30s, the folks in this small town have always felt like they've known the man personally. You see, the Kenton Hardware Company, which employed half the town at that time, was quickly moving toward bankruptcy. But they hung on, cutting jobs, until 1936, when they received a contract to produce toy cap guns to be sold as Gene Autry collectibles. That toy soon became the hottest selling toy in America (records show that over 6 million were manufactured), which not only saved the company, but the town in general. So this is the feel-good entry of the book.
Go make yourself feel good by getting your mule to take you to Gene Autry Days to celebrate the Singing Cowboy, who died in 1998, and the employees of the Kenton Toy Company. Besides lots of western music and entertainment guests — Peter Breck, who starred in Big Valley as Nick Barclay showed up in 1999 — there is an antique and toy market and the Sullivan Johnson Museum, which has a Kenton Hardware Company display and dozens of cast iron toys, plus a good representation of Gene Autry collectibles. Staged since 1992, this annual July event is $4 per person per day to enter.
The above article is just one of a collection of off-beat articles on 2Camels from Nelson Taylor's wonderful America Bizarro.
America Bizarro is a unique travel guide that celebrates humorously interesting, pop-culture kitschy and off-the-map odd festivals, out-of-the-way gatherings, kooky conventions, conferences and contests throughout the United States.