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Popular Red Fern Festival Invites Visitors to Enjoy Events Reminiscent of a Simpler, Less Hectic Time
Tahlequah: Come back to a time of searching for crawdads, hound dog field trials and just plain fun at the 5th annual Red Fern Festival April 29 and 30 at Norris Park in downtown Tahlequah. If the past seasons are an indication of its popularity, this year’s festival is certain to be a crowd pleaser with all of the amazing events being offered.
Materializing as a way to honor native son Wilson Rawls and his best-selling book, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” the Red Fern Festival has matured into an award-winning event recognized nationally.
“We are proud that our event went from an intangible thing to a popular festival that so many visitors enjoy,” said Kate Kelly, tourism director with the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce. “Everyone in the state should be proud that one of our native sons authored ‘Where the Red Fern Grows,’ she added.
In its premiere year in 2007, the Red Fern Festival achieved a Merit Award for Outstanding New Event in the state from the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association, Kelly said. The next year, the Festival took the coveted Red Bud Award for Outstanding New Event in the State.
Kin Thompson, past chairman of the Tahlequah Area Tourism Council has been involved with the Festival from its inception and is a master of the crawdad hole, where children catch crawdads in a small pool filled with water.
“The kids love the crawdad hole and catching crawdads,” Thompson said. As “King of the Crawdads,” Thompson assures children of all ages that the event will be even bigger and better than last year’s.
Author Wilson Rawls grew up in the Tahlequah area where the story is set. Many may not realize the impact this story has had, and continues to have, said Kelly. The book is in the curriculum of at least fifty percent of schools in the United States, and its popularity does not seem to be waning.
“The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council receive letters and phone calls from students and teachers asking about Tahlequah because the story intrigues them and they want to learn more. They become captivated by the story and touched by the magic,” she said.
“There are so many universal aspects of the story that there is something for almost everyone. The book has it all: drama, comedy, tragedy, triumph, evocative descriptions of our terrain, suspense and history. Above all else, this is the story about the love of a boy and his two dogs.”
The Festival is composed of some of the best aspects of the story with one of the highlights being the hound Dog Field Trials, held throughout the two-day event. Visitors are amazed and delighted by the dexterity and intelligence of these working hounds as they follow scents, Kelly explained.
Children’s activities are many and varied and range from old-fashioned 1930s-era games to modern art activities, and of course, catching crawdads.
Other events include Red Fern Chili Cook Off and Barbeque Extravaganza; live entertainment; 5K Run and One Mile Dog Jog; 5C’s Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show; Red Fern Poker Run; Tahlequack Duck Rack and more.
At 1:30 on April 30, visitors may gather in the Carnegie Room of the Tahlequah City Library for the 10th Oklahoma Literary Landmark Site Dedication, honoring the late Wilson Rawls and the community of Tahlequah. More than 100 Literary Landmark sites have been designated across the United States.
Green Country Marketing Assn. is one of 11 multi-county organizations working with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, the Oklahoma Travel Industry Assn. and the other 10 multi-county associations to promote state tourism, a $6.1 billion industry. The Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce is a member of GCMA.
(By Jeanette Swindell, Public Relations Consultant, Green Country Marketing Assn.)