Around this time of year, red dirt music can be heard bouncing off the ravines of the Illinois River, as thousands of people flock to Diamondhead Resort for the annual Medicine Stone Music Festival.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced yearly events all over the country to be canceled, including Tahlequah's largest musical event. However, the rhythmic sounds of guitar strumming and drum whacking will echo throughout the river's realm this weekend, because operators at Diamondhead have decided to host a jamboree of their own in Medicine Stone's stead.
The Diamondhead End of Season Show will be held Friday and Saturday, with a number of familiar faces gracing the stage.
"[Diamondhead owner] Kevin [Kelley] wanted to do something for the people who have floated all season," said Daniel Tye, who is helping organize the festivities. "Since Medicine Stone was unable to happen with the coronavirus going on and ongoing legal issues, we decided to just do something for the community of Tahlequah and for those who regularly attend Medicine Stone, so they would still have a safe environment to listen to music."
The Turnpike Troubadours, Jason Boland, and the Medicine Stone Festival recently filed a lawsuit against their former management company, claiming the financial records were not handled properly.
But that's of no concern to the organizers at the moment, as they're tasked with hosting a music festival while adhering to coronavirus guidelines.
"We've taken several measures to protect the audience, including fencing off the concert area," said Tye. "We've fenced off enough space where 8,500 people could stand 10 feet apart. So there's plenty of space for social distancing. We'll also have hand-sanitizing stations throughout the concert area."
While there will be enough room for 8,500 people, there will far fewer than that. Organizers are capping the event at 1,500. As of Thursday, they had sold around 550 tickets, and are expecting a few hundred more at the door.
The event will be on a much smaller scale, but the crew running it has upscaled the Diamondhead Resort's river stage to allow for more musicians.
"We've expanded the river stage that's out there to a 44-foot by 30-foot stage," said Tye. "So it's a lot larger than it used to be."
Music starts Friday on the river stage at 5 p.m., with Ahna Jennings kicking things off. Jennings will be followed by the White Trash Banditos, 6 p.m.; RC & The Ambers, 7:30 p.m.; The Steel Woods, 9:30 p.m.; and BC & The Big Rig, 11:30 p.m. At the gravel bar stage, Cynthia Rausch will perform at 7 p.m., and Dan Martin will follow at 11 p.m.
On Saturday, the main stage will start music at 2 p.m. with Doc Fell & Co. and Osage County performing first. They will be followed by Jacob Tovar at 3:30 p.m.; Red Dirt Rangers, 5:30 p.m.; Chris Blevins, 7:30 p.m.; John Fullbright, 9:30 p.m.; and Tennessee Jet at 11:30 p.m. At the gravel bar stage, Jake Marlin will start at 2 p.m. He will be followed by Autumn Ragland at 5 p.m.; Megan Marlene, 8 p.m.; and The Great American Wolf, 11 p.m.
The event is sponsored by Buffalo Apparel Co., Rhodes Printing, and the Tahlequah Daily Press. Tickets are $50 and can be found at eventbrite.com. Tickets may also be purchased upon arrival.