From June 19 to June 22, fans from all over America will be in Kanab for the Zane Grey’s West Society annual convention. In an unprecedented move, the society is opening two sessions to people from the Kanab/Fredonia area. President Terry Bolinger notes, “The people from this area were so important to Zane Grey’s career that we wanted to give back to the communities by allowing them to attend two of our main sessions at no cost.”

The first free session is from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, June 20. The overall theme of the conference this year surrounds Grey’s adventures with wild mustangs. This session will include society co-founder Dr. Joe Wheeler’s keynote address, Zane Grey’s Equine Friends; a presentation about a mustang who traveled in the Kanab area in one of Grey’s books by Alan Pratt; and a Power Point about  a 1929 trip by Zane Grey that involved two Lincoln Phaeton automobiles and three spectacular side trips on mustangs.

The second presentation is on Thursday, June 22, beginning at 1:30 p.m.  It involves a preview of a new documentary by award-winning documentarian Kristin Atwell Ford entitled Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera and a circle discussion of Wildfire and Wild Horse Mesa, two of Grey’s novels.

Both of these events are offered at the Kanab High School Auditorium.

Some might ask why Kanab was so important to the great author. On April 15, 1908, Zane Grey, soon to become known as the world great author of western romance novels, staggered into Kanab, Utah, after walking across the Painted Desert from Flagstaff. He weighed only 115 pounds and was ready to abandon his hopes of becoming a great writer. After visiting Kanab, he returned home to become one of the world’s most successful authors.

At the time of his visit, Grey was a fledging writer largely known for a few fishing stories he had placed in publications like Field and Stream Magazine. However, he had seen the success of Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian, and hoped he could also write books about the West. On his way across the Painted Desert to join a crusty old plainsman named Buffalo Jones in an adventure roping mountain lions on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, he traveled with a group of Mormon cowboys.

In a letter to his wife, he wrote: “You ought to see this crowd of Mormons I’m going with. If they aren’t a tough bunch I never saw one. They all pack guns. But they’re a nice bunch of fellows … Mr. Wooley wants me to go to Kanab to study the Mormons. He has two families and 13 handsome unmarried daughters … I really would be afraid of so many.”

While in Kanab, Zane Grey visited “Wooley,” actually the LDS Stake President E.D. Woolley, a mysterious man with five wives and 55 children. After leaving Kanab two days later, Grey rode a horse to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for his adventure with Buffalo Jones and returned to his home in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.

Grey went on to pen 58 western romance novels, the most famous of which was Riders of the Purple Sage. He is purported to have been the world’s first millionaire author and was the most published writer of the first half of the 20th century. It is said the only books that outsold his works were The Bible and the McGruffey Reader.

Anyone interested in attending the entire conference should send an e-mail immediately to ed@kekanab.com for more information.