By ROB W. ANDERSON
Press Staff Writer
Area residents and visitors can expect to enjoy a down-home, stepped-up experience this year at the seventh annual Red Fern Festival.
Red dirt and bluegrass music fans will revel in Friday night shows by psychedelic cowboys including the Red Dirt Rangers, or Brad Piccolo, John Cooper and Ben Han. Monica Taylor, dubbed the “Cimarron Songbird” by fellow Red Dirt and Oklahoma songwriters Jimmy Lafave and the late Bob Childers, will also be performing on the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino Music Stage.
Taylor and Don Morris, who sits in with the Red Dirt Rangers on bass, will kick off the festivities at 6:30 p.m. April 26, with the Red Dirt Rangers taking the stage an hour later. Tahlequah’s own Randy Crouch, often referred to as the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll fiddle player, will sit in with the Rangers.
Aside from the usual food vendors, arts and crafts booths and other traditional activities, festival-goers will have an assortment of larger-than-life inflatables to choose from this year for $3 each per session. A $10 wristband provides access to the bounce houses, slides, playcenters, obstacle courses, interactive sports and games, said Tahlequah Main Street Executive Director Drew Haley.
“The new thing this year – or the biggest new thing this year – will be the inflatables, provided by Muskogee’s Show It Off. They’re going to set up right on Muskogee Avenue, Friday and Saturday,” Haley said. “For $10, they can play on them until they can’t play any more. Some of these are 30 feet high. There’s all kinds of really cool stuff.”
Other new additions to the annual festival, which honors the 1961 Wilson Rawls novel “Where the Red Fern Grows,” include a horseshoe and checkers competition.
“They’re free, but we’re limiting it to 32 teams on horseshoes and 32 players on checkers,” Haley said. “The sign-up information is online, so get signed up. We will award a first-, second-, and third-place trophy. The horseshoe pit is going to be behind Love’s. There’s a map on the website that shows where everything’s going to be.”
The checkers competition will be hosted by the Iguana Cafée, Haley noted.
The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class 16 is selling tickets for the duck race, which will get afloat Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 each or five chances for $20, said Leadership Class 16 member Mindy Barnard.
“We’re raising money to buy shoes for school children who don’t have decent shoes,” she said. “That’s our project for the year. We’ll be selling tickets at the [2013 Tahlequah Business Expo], and we’ll also be selling tickets the day of the race in the park. We’ll be selling red ferns at a booth there, as well. They could also come by the Chamber to purchase a ticket or see any of the Leadership Tahlequah members. There’s 16 of us at different businesses around town.”
Haley said the festival will also feature some new food vendors this year. One in particular presents a sort of meal in a cup, he said.
“One of them that I think people will find fascinating is Smoke Stack Barbecue, and they have a barbecue parfait. It has pulled pork, mashed potatoes and barbecue sauce [served in a cup],” he said. “They say they’re pretty hot. A lot of the regular vendors are coming back, but another new one we have coming is Alligator Ice. They’re doing a frozen drink kind of thing.”