By Frank Lewis
From 1958 to 1963 when you saw Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain on “The Rifleman” on your black and white TV screen, you knew his son Mark McCain was somewhere close-by. Mark was played by Johnny Crawford, who was one of the original Mousketeers in 1955. Now he’s a bit older but he can still perform rope tricks, performs as director and chief vocalist of the Johnny Crawford Orchestra, and is looking forward to visiting Portsmouth for the 32nd annual Roy Rogers Festival Aug. 5-8 at the Holiday Inn.
Crawford is just one of the stars who will be bringing back memories of the great day of American westerns to the Portsmouth area. Steve Connors, Chuck Connors’ son, who was a part of “The Rifleman” TV series, as well as the series “The Schoolmaster” in 1960, will also take part in this year’s festivities.
Russ McCubbin has become a hometown favorite for the event each year. His career started as stunt double for Clint Walker, but he also appeared in motion pictures like “Sudden Impact,” “High Plains Drifter,” and many more. His TV credits include “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Magnum P.I.,” “Knight Rider,” and more.
Hank Garrett, best known as Officer Nicholson in the TV series “Car 54, Where Are You?” has also appeared on the silver screen with stars such as Al Pacino, Sophia Loren and other household names. Hank will be here along with Laurene Landon who first began appearing in movies in the eighties. She is best known for roles in “Maniac Cop 1 and 2,” “Airplane 2 – The Sequel,” and “All The Marbles,” with Peter Falk.
The Roy Rogers family is again an intricate part of the Roy Rogers Festival. Dodie Rogers Patterson, the youngest daughter of Roy and Dale Evans will be here with her husband, Jon Patterson, who is a star in his own right. Jon is a space engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He also is a singer and performs with his band Natchex Trace.
“We have numerous of the look-alikes who will be coming this year,” Jane Lilly, president of the Roy Rogers Festival Committee, said. “A few came last year, but they hadn’t been to Portsmouth in quite a few years, but now they’re back and they work with Dogwood Pass. Dogwood Pass is a western re-enactment group, and they are here all day Saturday to do their shootouts.”
Lilly said in last year’s shootout, all of the look-alikes came out against Dogwood in a spectacular western scene.
“When you can walk down the street or even in the hotel and pass by Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) and Tonto and the Lone Ranger, Lash Larue, Paladin, Bob Steele and, of course Roy and Gene (Autry), it is something to see,” Lilly said. “They’re all walking around in costumes through the whole festival.”
Dogwood Pass is set to perform from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Aug. 8 in front of the Holiday Inn.
The event will get underway with a reception in the hospitality room of the Holiday Inn at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5. In the days to follow there will be a dealers room, questions and answers with the stars and tours of Roy’s boyhood home.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.