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Return the knitted sweaters to the shelf and let your limbs feel the warmth of the emerging afternoon sun as you enjoy the sweet Oklahoma breeze after a winter spent indoors. Spring is in the air across Oklahoma. As the short days of winter expand to embrace the warmer temperatures of March and April, festivals and events throughout the state prepare to welcome visitors to their celebrations of spring. From homegrown street fairs to lively Western heritage jubilees, this list of the top spring events in Oklahoma will provide the inspiration for a getaway to some of the finest events in the region.
Indulge your inner artist with a trip to Oklahoma City’s renowned Festival of the Arts, lovingly known as the city’s annual “rite of spring.” This massive artistic bonanza set in the middle of the city’s bustling downtown area is held in honor of the visual, culinary and performing arts. Join over 750,000 visitors at this annual festival to peruse booths filled with artistic masterpieces ranging from photography and sculpture, to jewelry and oil paintings. Come for the scrumptious culinary selections available in the festival’s famous International Food Row and be rewarded with heaping plates of Indian, Mexican, German and Asian delicacies, plus everything from barbecue sandwiches to sundaes piled high with sweet treats. Continuous live entertainment is performed on four stages and a children’s activity area features crafts and face painting.
Whether you love the smooth sounds of indie pop or prefer the sharper tones of rock-‘n-roll, there is a sound for every ear at the Norman Music Festival. Attracting over 100 bands from every genre, visitors to this musical treasure trove in the heart of Norman enjoy endless live performances on multiple outdoor stages. Take in a rousing performance under bright Oklahoma skies, or duck into a local venue lining the downtown area for intimate performances and jam sessions. Poetry slams, spoken word performances and craft booths are all on-hand, so make your way to Norman and spend the entire day jumping from one act to the next. Stick around for the May Fair Arts Festival, held the same weekend in nearby Andrews Park, for artist demonstrations, a variety of fine art and delicious fair food.
Honor the beauty of the blooming dogwood trees in Idabel with a trip to the city’s annual Dogwood Days Festival for an event that epitomizes spring. Step outside into the sun and onto the streets of downtown Idabel for live entertainment, craft vendors and plenty of children’s games. This small town event, set amidst the springtime glory of white and pink dogwood blossoms, serves up a myriad of old-fashioned entertainment with a country showdown dance contest, chainsaw carving demonstrations and a barbecue cook-off. Bring the kids for a scavenger hunt or enjoy browsing through Main Street sidewalk sales. After an afternoon in Idabel, load up the car and take a short journey north towards Beavers Bend State Park for a spectacular, peaceful drive along dogwood-lined roads.
Fashioned after the classic children’s novel Where the Red Fern Grows, the Red Fern Festival celebrates the simpler times of bygone eras with old-fashioned family activities set amongst the beautiful surroundings of northeast Oklahoma’s Tahlequah. In honor of the Wilson Rawls novel, which was set in Tahlequah, the Red Fern Festival entertains visitors with hound dog field trials, children’s games from the 1930s, a vintage car show and country food vendors. Tour locations from the novel, enjoy live music performed throughout the event and don’t miss the showing of the movie. Whether fishing for crawdads with the kids or tasting entries in the barbecue cook-off, there’s something for everyone at the Red Fern Festival each spring.
If the sight of a perfectly restored ’55 Chevy makes your heart quicken and a 1940 Mercury convertible induces a state of pure joy, then consider Oklahoma City’s Southwest Street Rod Nationals your heart’s desire this spring. Oklahoma’s largest gathering of pre-1949 automobiles and street rods, this event also features 1950s-era Chevys, as well as Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Pontiacs. Browse through more than 1,900 specialty vehicles, visit the swap meet for vintage cars and car parts, and secure a seat in downtown Oklahoma City for the auto parade Friday night. Take your love of new and vintage cars to the next level with a visit to the Tulsa International Auto Show, held in early-April, for 600 new models and concept vehicles.
Celebrate the birth of Guthrie and the Land Run of 1889 by attending the city’s much-loved 89ers Days Celebration. Home to stunning Victorian-era brick architecture, the city of Guthrie pulls out all the stops during the month of April by rolling out the Western-themed red carpet for locals and visitors alike. Attend an 1889-style baseball game, witness as wagons, buggies and horses snake their way through downtown in the annual parade, or hot-foot it over to the 89er Rodeo for calf roping, barrel racing, bull riding and more. Visitors to this Oklahoma event will also enjoy an arts and craft show, carnival food vendors and themed window displays throughout the town.
For an event both unique and astonishing, point your compass toward Mangum for the annual Mangum Rattlesnake Derby held in late-April. Join a caravan of adrenaline-junkies on a snake hunt and try to land a championship-length rattlesnake under the springtime sun in the Mangum countryside. Visitors to the derby can also forego the hunt and opt for slightly tamer activities like having their photo taken with a live rattlesnake, trying a serving of fried rattlesnake meat or visiting the infamous Snake Pit for a 45-minute live snake show. If you prefer to stay free and clear of all snakes, there are plenty of other entertaining activities available. Take a spin through one of the largest flea markets in Oklahoma, visit the carnival for a variety of rides and games, or dance the night away with square dancers in Mangum’s downtown square. Rattlesnake festivals are also held in the cities of Apache, Waurika, Okeene and Waynoka.
Considered one of the top spring festivals in the South, the Azalea Festival in Muskogee glorifies the beauty of the season with events centered around the city’s Honor Heights Park, home to over 40-acres of blooming azaleas, tulips and wisteria. Take a leisurely drive on curved roadways around the park to experience the springtime charm of the area, take a carriage ride through the colorful blooms and enjoy a myriad of activities in downtown Muskogee. Join visitors from around the world for a parade, food vendors, classic car shows, live entertainment and more. A highlight of the festival, the annual Azalea Powwow presents traditional Native American dancers in full regalia performing in a variety of dance competitions, while Muskogee’s Chili & BBQ Cook-Off features delicious chili and barbecue entries from over 100 cooking teams.
Take a trip back to Indian Territory of the 1820s through 1840s at the Spring Mountain Man Encampment at the Woolaroc Ranch, Museum & Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville. Immerse yourself in the lives of pioneer trappers and traders as skilled and costumed re-enactors present live history demonstrations, old-fashioned craft tutorials and a variety of Western goods and wares for sale. Celebrate the Western heritage of the state as you browse the grounds filled with hundreds of tents and teepees while munching on tasty snacks and authentic chuckwagon food. Also, don’t forget to visit the Fur Trade Era Rendezvous, held at the Fort Washita Historic Site in Durant, for storytellers in character, re-enactors in Western clothing and lifestyle demonstrations dating back to the mid-1800s.