The John Wayne: An American Experience exhibit in the Fort Worth Stockyards tells the life story of the western legend.
If you haven’t been to the Stockyards in Fort Worth lately, now is the time to go.
My family and I have traveled there regularly to visit the John Wayne: An American Experience exhibit, and to attend Western events at the Cowtown Coliseum next door. My brother Ethan worked tirelessly with our team to create an 11,000-square-foot interactive exhibit that honors my dad’s personal and professional life as well as the American values he cherished.
From the moment you enter the Experience, you are transported room-by-room into different stages of my dad’s life. You will see videos and photos of family, friends, celebrities, and presidents, from a very young Marion Morrison through his personal life and beyond, up to his final days.
There are never-before-seen correspondence, telegrams, mailgrams, and handwritten notes. You witness firsthand his playful sense of humor, his humility, and his utmost respect for the USA.
The most dramatic room, in my opinion, displays his Oscar. I had to pause to catch my breath the first few times I entered this larger-than-life gallery with backlit photographs ranging from The Big Trail to The Shootist, lining a pathway directly up to the Best Actor Oscar he won for True Grit.
On display behind his Oscar are authentic articles of clothing he wore in different films. His wardrobe, including outfits from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, is in fabulous condition and adds a cool backdrop to this magnificent room.
Each time I walk through, I tear up, and I see others wiping their eyes as they take in what this man has accomplished not only in life, but in his legacy since passing away from cancer.
Much more awaits visitors, but I’ll skip to the last room. There you can see the names of the surgical oncology specialists previously trained at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. Reading the names of surgeons practicing globally and treating approximately 500 to 600 cancer patients per year, you will be moved by the cutting-edge work being done because of my dad’s dying wish and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
The Experience houses a retail store showcasing rugged John Wayne Brand clothing, books, hats, scarves, and more. Chances are, one of my family members or myself might be present. We love to hear your exhibit thoughts and stories of what John Wayne means to you. We are happy to sign purchased items and take photos. We may even pour you a sample of Duke Bourbon, John Wayne Cabernet Sauvignon, or our brand-new Duke Tequila.
We are extremely proud to have a home in the Stockyards. Tell your friends and family to join us for a uniquely American experience. We look forward to celebrating our Western heritage together.
Marisa is the youngest daughter of John and Pilar Wayne, and the mother to two teenagers and two rescue pups. Discover more of her Stockyards haunts at cowboysindians.com. Find out more about the permanent exhibit John Wayne: An American Experience at johnwayne.com/experience.
Photography: (All images) courtesy John Wayne Enterprises/Marisa Wayne
From our August/September 2021 issue