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By Sandy Pantlik
Oklahoma Events that make you go Yum!
If you are on a mission to get in swimsuit shape by the end of May, then read no further and head straight to the treadmill. From ice cream to crawfish, the next 30 days in Oklahoma offer a culinary excursion like no other, serving up treats sure to make funnel cakes everywhere green with envy.
For barbecue to make it on this event A-list, it has to be serious – and Claremore’s Boots and BBQ Festival May 11 – 12 is fanatical. With $12,000 in winnings on the line, more than 50 of the top barbecue competitors in the country sling sauce at this sanctioned event for Kansas City-style barbecue.
The annual Italian Festival in McAlester has been one of the finest annual events in Oklahoma since its inception. Held on Saturday and Sunday, the festival draws thousands of visitors to the area's fairgrounds for this two-day event. Join the many thousands of festival-goers who enjoy delicious Italian food, live entertainment for all ages and shopping among the hundreds of vendors, craft show booths and fine art booths.
Italian immigrants settled the area around McAlester in southeastern Oklahoma, working in the coal mines and leaving a proud legacy. As a nod to that heritage, more than 3,000 Italian dinners are served every May during McAlester’s Italian Festival. That translates into 900 pounds of meatballs, 800 pounds of Italian sausage, mountains of spaghetti and acres of garlic. Travel advisory: Forget the white shirt and bring the breath mints. The festival runs May 19 – 20.
Keeping it local since the 1940s, Stilwell’s Strawberry Festival is a fitting tribute to the juicy fruit. The first festival started some 70 years ago with the hope of promoting the strawberries grown in the area and now is one of Oklahoma’s most-loved hometown events. More than 30,000 visitors are expected on May 12 to nosh on all-things strawberry and of course pay homage to the newly-crowned Strawberry Queen.
Never has a salad been so revered than during Bristow’s Tabouleh Fest, May 12. Celebrating the city’s Lebanese heritage, festival-goers are treated to generous portions of Tabouleh, a fresh mix of bulgur wheat, vegetables, parsley mint, olive oil and lemon juice. Belly up to the Tabouleh bar and create your own masterpiece by choosing from a variety of toppings for this tasty side dish.
If there is a culinary creation that can top the Indian Taco, I’m hard-pressed to name it. Pawhuska does it up right during the National Indian Taco Championship May 19. With fry bread as the foundation, this all-time favorite takes on many personalities during the event. From the traditional toppings of meat, beans, lettuce and cheese to dessert varieties (yes, life just got a little better), Indian Taco experts serve up their best inventions. After making the rounds, you are going to need a nap before heading home.
As home to Braum’s Dairy, the town of Tuttle knows its ice cream and is happy to share during the Ice Cream Festival on May 19. From tastings to an ice cream eating contest, fans of the frozen confection will be more than satisfied, brain freeze excluded. If the Tuttle event leaves you wanting more, Chandler also celebrates its local Hiland Dairy plant with an Ice Cream Festival on June 9.
Featured on the Food Network's "Top Five: Summer Sensations,” the Chuck Wagon Gathering & Children's Cowboy Festival at Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is known for its mouthwatering fare. Authentic chuck wagon crews practice their craft, ladling out biscuits and stew, beans and cobblers. In addition, there is plenty to keep the pint-sized cowpokes busy at this May 26-27 event.
For the ultimate backyard cookout, head to Norman June 2 for the Battle of the Burger. Whether you want to compete or just sample the work of the grilling teams, it is burger nirvana.
I might need to check my history, but it seems unlikely drovers along the Chisholm Trail filled up on Cajun-style crawfish. That’s what makes Yukon’s Chisholm Trail Crawfish Festival June 2 so irresistible (besides the flavorful food). This clash of cultures features Cajun food and music against a backdrop of living history encampments circa the Chisholm Trail with roaming cowboys, mountain men and blacksmiths.
Bon Appetite, Okie style!
For more information on food festivals and other events and attractions in Oklahoma, go to TravelOK.com.