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Porter Rockwells celebrate his birthday in look-alike contest

Published June 29, 2013 2:29 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lehi • Porter's Place filled with Porter Rockwell look-alikes Friday night to celebrate the legendary Mormon mountain man's 200th birthday. Twelve men that looked like they'd just walked out of a John Wayne movie vied for first place in the restaurant's first "Porter Rockwell Look-alike Contest." Scott Barker from Orem came out on top.

"When we first got down here, my wife said I was going to win," Barker said. "She knew it and that was good enough for me."

Porter's Place owner Robert Trepanier thought the contest would be a unique way to celebrate the restaurant's namesake.

"Not too many people can look like Porter Rockwell," Trepanier said. "There are only four pictures of him in existence."

Rockwell was a childhood friend of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rockwell was one of the first converts to the new religion and served as Smith's bodyguard. After a mob killed Smith in Illinois, Rockwell helped lead the early pioneers west where he became a gunslinger and owner of Hot Springs Hotel and Brewery. Legend says Smith prophesied that as long as Rockwell never cut his hair, he would not be harmed by bullets or knives.

"The Indians respected the legend," Trepanier said. "Joseph Smith prophesied and [Rockwell] died of natural causes."

Barker brought Rockwell to life for judges Amanda Dickson and Grand Nielsen of KSL Radio.

"The winner had to look like he could take someone out if need be," Dickson said. "And Barker really does."

Dickson and Nielson used facial expressions as the deciding factor in their choice, but they also asked the participants questions to test their knowledge of Rockwell.

"Some of them knew a lot about Porter Rockwell," Nielson said. "Some of them obviously didn't."

Porter's Place patrons enjoyed seeing Porter Rockwell come to life during dinner. Reed and Kathleen Thacker came to the contest for their 51st anniversary.

"We thought it would be fun," Kathleen said while her husband snapped pictures.

The Old West décor, live saloon piano music and clan of Rockwells created an atmosphere where Porter Rockwell might have felt right at home.