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John Wayne Birthplace Museum Open Again

Coronavirus Impacting Iowa

WINTERSET, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds has lifted the order that closed museums across Iowa due to COVID-19.

The John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset could not open its doors fast enough. Visitors are required to wear masks and keep their social distance.

“Truthfully, we didn’t want to shut it down in the first place,” said Brian Downes, the executive director of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. “But we had to go with orders from the governor. It was very sad for all of us.”

This weekend was planned for the John Wayne Birthplace Museum’s annual celebration around the Duke’s birthday. But that was canceled a while back when guest celebrities began to cancel their trips out from Los Angeles.

“It’s a major fundraiser for the year. It’s a dinner and auction concert. We had planned to host Marty Stuart who was returning here to do a concert at our dinner, Patrick Wayne was to be here, Aissa Wayne, of course, and Christopher Mitchum. A lot of the cast from the 2015 celebration for our grand opening,” said Downes.

Having to close has meant a financial hit for the nonprofit. Spring is usually a busy time for visitors.

“Around St. Patrick’s Day in March is when people start coming back,” said Downes. “They didn’t this year, they couldn’t. We’ve had people outside, we’ve had people come to the door, we’ve had people taking the picture with the statue.”

The museum would still love to stage a fundraiser in the fall to make up for the pandemic-related closure. The organization is planning to raise a million dollars to expand the size of the exhibit area.

“If there’s any comment that doesn’t thrill us about the John Wayne Birthplace Museum is people use the word ‘small.’ We don’t like that word in regards to John Wayne,” said Downes. “We’re going to double the size of the current exhibit area room. We have items off-site that we just simply don’t have room for right now. We have a scale model of John Wayne’s Alamo movie set, we have a cannon from the Alamo. We have so many pieces that we just simply can’t display.”

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