Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

May 2, 2012

Red Fern Fest draws record attendance

TAHLEQUAH — Mother Nature threatened to dampen spirits of attendees at this year’s Red Fern Festival but held back, providing only cloud cover and moderate temperatures throughout the weekend.

Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Kate Kelly said she couldn’t be more pleased with this year’s event, and that the threat of possible bad weather had no influence on attendance.

“Since we don’t charge admission, there’s no way to finitely quantify [attendance],” said Kelly. “But after talking to local firefighters and food vendors, who seem to have an accurate read when it comes to crowds, we’re estimating we had about 6,000 to 8,000 people this year. We feel it was a success.”

The sixth annual Red Fern Festival stretched from the base of the campus at Northeastern State University south to just beyond the Cherokee Courthouse Square.

Weekend events included a Friday-night showing of the “Where The Red Fern Grows,” based on the novel by Wilson Rawls, about a boy and his Redbone coon-hunting dogs growing up in the Tahlequah.

A statue of “Billy,” the main character in the novel, stands in the middle of Norris Park, where the movie was shown Friday night.

“Seeing all the people in Norris Park Friday night for the movie was incredible,” said Kelly. “I think all of Tahlequah was there, along with part of the rest of the state.”

Kelly had an opportunity to watch some of the children’s events this year, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

“There are so many different aspects to the festival,” said Kelly. “I loved watching the kids around the crawdad hole. I got to see the children’s games for the first time this year, and what I thought was so wonderful was that there weren’t just little kids, but teenagers taking part in sack races and jumping rope.”

The festival touts its family friendliness, and Kelly said this year was no different.

“We saw so many families out enjoying themselves, which is what we hoped for,” said Kelly. “The music was excellent, the smell of barbecue smoke was in the air. I’m truly happy with the way things turned out.”

Mayor Jason Nichols attended several of the festival events, and agreed with Kelly about the crowd turnout.

“We had more than ever before this year,” said Nichols. “Everyone was well-behaved, and it went off without a hitch.”

One of the favorite events is the Chamber’s Leadership Tahlequah Duck Race. According to Mary Kay Masters-Jobe, this event also had record participation. Attendees could purchase a rubber duck for $5.

Purchased ducks were rounded up on the west end of the Town Branch creek, and floated – or raced – to the finish line at the bridge behind The Branch restaurant, right before reaching Muskogee Avenue.

“We had 951 ducks in this year’s race,” said Masters-Jobe. “I know we sold more than in previous years, and I don’t think we lost a single duck.”

Cash prizes were awarded to the first three finishers, which included Melanie Stopp, first place, $300; Lauren Monroe, second place, $150; and Patti Morton, third place, $50.

Most would agree, a successful festival must include food, and this year’s attendees had plenty to choose from, including the Kiwanis Club Chili Cookoff. Tasting kits could be purchased for $5.

“This year, we had 11 teams entered, but they all participated in a number of categories, from chili to barbecue to best church cooking,” said Patti Morton. “We raised close to $6,000 for Kiwanis, which funds children’s interests. You smell the barbecue in the air, and it just brings people down.”

Morton believes a charity event held in conjunction with Red Fern was key to its success this year.

“I think this year, it was especially important they had Help-In-Crisis’ Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event,” said Morton. “You get 350 men in high heels who bring their families down, and well, that really makes a difference.”

Categories and winners for the Chili Cookoff and Barbecue Extravaganza are listed.

• Crowd-Pleasing Barbecue: First place, Roxie’s Barbecue; second place, Sweet Willies Barbecue; and third place, The Soul Shack.

• Crowd-Pleasing Chili: First place, Sweet Willies chili; second place, First Baptist Church; and third place, Ace High Hospitality.

• Community Servants Challenge: First place, Hope Hospice; and second place, Go Ye Village.

• Best Booth Challenge: First place, Sweet Willies Barbecue; second place, Ace High Hospitality; and third place, Hope Hospice.

• Best Church Cooks: First place, First Baptist Church.

This year’s Red Fern Festival also featured the 5C’s 25th Anniversary Car Show. According to President Mitchell DuVall, they, too, had a record number of entries.

“We awarded first- and second-place trophies in 37 categories, and had over 200 vehicles around the [Cherokee Courthouse] Square this year,” said DuVall. “We seem to grow every year, and are really happy with the turnout.”

Specialty trophies included: Best of Show, Robert Flippen, 1923 Studebaker touring car; Mayor’s Trophy, Larry Smith, 2007 Corvette; Chamber’s Choice, Cotton Hamby, 1957 Ford Anglia; and 5C’s 25th Anniversary Trophy, Mitchell York, 1933 Chrysler.

Kelly thanked all the volunteers, and is already beginning the planning phase for next year’s festival.

“Without the people who volunteered time and energy, this literally could not have happened,” said Kelly. “This is not hyperbole, this is solid truth.”

Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Moore appreciates the work of Kelly and Tahlequah Main Street Director Drew Haley.

“I just want to send out a special thank you for the hard work and dedication to Kate Kelly and Drew Haley for putting together such a successful festival,” said Moore.

Text Only
Local News
  • ths-jazz-2.jpg THS jazz band gets up early to hone performance skills

    It means getting up an hour earlier, and it doesn’t count as a class, but the jazz band at Tahlequah High School enjoys the dedication of a group of enthusiastic students.
    The THS Jazz Band practices every day at 7 a.m., an hour before the start of classes. It numbers 17, and is led by Director Orien Landis.
    “They have to do this before school and they get no class credit, but we have a full band,” Landis said. “They are really excited about this.”

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Easter-basket-kid.jpg Easter traditions date back centuries

    Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.
    The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Some oppose minimum wage hike; others decry strong-arming by state

    President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate recently announced a push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, to $10.10. On the heels of the announcement, an initiative petition was introduced in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to the suggested $10.10. If it gained 80,000 signatures, it would be put to a vote of the people.
    This legislative session, a bill passed prohibiting municipalities from setting a minimum was or vacation and sick-day requirements. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law earlier this week.

    April 18, 2014

  • Phone scam takes $500 from couple

    Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.
    According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.

    April 18, 2014

  • Missing local teen found dead

    The body of a missing 17-year-old boy was found in southern Cherokee County on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said.
    Brikk Pritchett was reported missing earlier this month after disappearing on March 30, a day before his 17th birthday.

    April 18, 2014

  • ts honor flight 1.tif Flight of honor

    World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase

    Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sex offender bonds out after failing to register

    A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.

    April 17, 2014

  • jn radiator shop.jpg ‘Greenbelt’ progressing

    Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts slut walk.tif SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime

    “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
    This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest