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Trigger, Bullet skip Portsmouth festival

Jul. 31, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

The 28th annual Roy Rogers Festival will go on as scheduled Aug. 3-6 in Portsmouth, Ohio, but without the planned guests of honor - Trigger and Bullet, the screen cowboy's famed horse and dog.

When Trigger died, Rogers had him stuffed. ("I couldn't bear to put him the ground.") Later he did the same for Bullet. The stuffed animals were star attractions at the former Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum. But when a downturn in business forced the museum to close, the ionic items in its collection were sold at auction.

Patrick Gottsch, the founder and president of the RFD-TV cable channel, was the successful bidder on Trigger and Bullet. He paid $266,500 for Trigger and another $35,000 for Bullet at last year's auction.

Since then, RFD-TV has sent the two animals on an extensive nationwide tour, which had included a scheduled visit to Portsmouth. However, at the last minute, the organizers of the Roy Rogers Festival were told the pair would not be coming.

Festival spokeswoman Carolyn Van Horn said those involved in the festival are saddened and disappointed by the cancellation. "It seems they have upcoming tour dates that take Trigger and Bullet all the way to Beijing, China, for Rodeo China, an eight-day rodeo," she said. "We're sure it will take a lot of preparation for the long trip."

Throughout the four-day event, several special guests will attend, including members of the extended Rogers family. Friday evening, Aug. 5, will feature a 7:30 concert with Rogers' son Dusty of Dustin and the Highriders at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts. The festival will include a costume contest at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Holiday Inn. Costumes may be look-alikes of their favorite cowboy or cowgirl or anything derived from the American west. There will be a dealers' room with DVDs, books and other items for sale.

More information about the festival can be found at www.royrogersfestival.org.