Wanda Rogers recalls roots

Submitted PhotoWanda Miller Rogers grew up in Lowndes County. Her family still lives here. She’s pictured here on stage with her sons and husband Kenny Rogers.

VALDOSTA — Just because Wanda Miller Rogers married a musical superstar doesn’t mean she has forgotten her Lowndes County roots.

The wife of Kenny Rogers, she returned to Valdosta earlier this year for the 30th reunion of her Lowndes High School graduating class of 1985.

Living in Atlanta, Wanda Rogers estimates she and 11-year-old twin sons Justin and Jordan visit her parents, Charles and Teena Miller of Lowndes County, nearly a dozen times a year. They recently visited for Thanksgiving.

Kenny Rogers also regularly stops by the Millers, usually with the tour bus parked behind their house, Wanda Rogers said.

With Kenny Rogers’ Christmas musical, “The Toy Shoppe,” stopping in Valdosta as part of its national tour, Wanda Rogers spoke with The Valdosta Daily Times to support the show created by her husband.

It’s not the first Kenny Rogers-related production in Valdosta. He’s performed at Wild Adventures. The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts exhibited his photographs several years ago.

Now, the arts center’s Presenter Series hosts the musical co-written by Kenny Rogers. “The Toy Shoppe” is about an independent toymaker up against a corporation. Kenny Rogers has starred in the musical in the past. Alan Thicke plays the toymaker in the production stopping Tuesday night in Valdosta.

“The Toy Shoppe” has another Valdosta angle. It will feature Valdosta High School, Lowndes High School and Valwood students singing in a winter scene on the Mathis City Auditorium stage. The featured students are Collin Dorsett, Joely Peterman, Bryce Mixon, Laine Fletcher, Kenny Dao, Allyson Broyles and Brandon Sharp (LHS); Nick Paoletti, Lindsay Thomas and Evan Creamer (Valwood); Allie Smotherman, Mary Catherine Burns, Anna Consolini, Raven Ford, Brooke Meindl, Kaylee McCutchan and Alijah Patterson (VHS).

Last week, Wanda Rogers and her sons were traveling to Nashville where her husband was receiving the CMT lifetime achievement award. Kenny Rogers is embarking on his farewell tour which will see him into retirement in the coming couple of years, she said.

Wanda and the Rogers twins will join Kenny Rogers on the road on several occasions. Having children changed several priorities for Wanda.

“The first 12 years we were together, I went everywhere with him,” she said. “Then when the kids came along, you have to prioritize.”

Wanda and Kenny Rogers have been together 23 years. They dated five years. They have been married 18 years.

They met while she worked as a hostess at the Pricci restaurant in Atlanta.

She was working, back in college, 26 years old, whining to the maitre’d about not being able to meet anyone, she said. The maitre’d said, one day your knight will arrive.

The same evening, Kenny Rogers walked into the restaurant on a blind date. He spoke to Wanda.

Later that evening, Kenny Rogers called the restaurant manager.

He asked for Wanda’s name, her age, etc. He left his phone number and asked if the manager would pass it along to Wanda.

“I came in the next day and they all said, Kenny Rogers called asking about you,” she said. “They gave me a piece of paper with a number on it. I threw it away. I thought it was a joke. They dug it out of the trash and said it was for real.

“I called him back but I never thought I would date him.”

She said she was soon attracted to him, and he’s always been wonderful to her and everyone.

“He’s so nice. I’ve only seen him mad or upset maybe four times,” she said. “He really could be a gambler but he’s not. He has that even temperament.”

In recent years, the twins have shown an interest in following in their father’s footsteps. They have joined him to sing on stage.

“He would never discourage them but he would never encourage it,” she said of Kenny Rogers and their sons’ interest in music. “He believes they should follow their dreams.”

SHOWTIME

Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts Presenter Series hosts “The Toy Shoppe.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St.

Tickets, admission: $49 each ticket. To order tickets, contact the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, 527 N. Patterson St., (229) 247-2787, or visit www.turnercenter.org.

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