Whether it is out on the Illinois River, on the shore of Lake Tenkiller, or somewhere in the city, Tahlequah residents and visitors will have a plethora of activities to choose from over Labor Day weekend.
Aug. 30-Sept. 1 will ring in a range music events, tribal festivities, and an Oklahoma University college football watch party in the area. For the third year in a row, Falcon Floats will host Jerry's Rock the River, a music festival with a heavy dose of rock 'n' roll and heavy metal. The three-day event is free, and Chuck Eastham, Falcon Floats owner, expects a good show and large crowd.
"We expect a big weekend and a phenomenal festival," said Eastham. "Every year, it's gotten bigger and bigger. The concert itself is free. It's BYOB, so bring your own, bring a lawn chair, and have a good time."
Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for float operators. At Falcon Floats, all the RV sites are already booked and most its kayaks have been rented, but it still has some camping spots available, one bunk house, and rafts.
All the float operators will likely have similar amenities left, as visitors begin to reserve rafts, kayaks, canoes and more well in advance of the weekend. Therefore, folks might want to call ahead soon to ensure they'll have the appropriate floating devices and places to sleep before the weekend arrives. Other Illinois River float operators include: Diamondhead Resort, Riverbend Floats, All American Floats, Peyton's Place, War Eagle Resort, Eagle Bluff Resort, Arrowhead Resort, Buck Ford Floats, and Riverside Resort.
Grand River Dam Authority expects a large number of people to float the river on Labor Day weekend, as always. And recreationalists can expect GRDA officers to be out in full force to make sure they are staying safe.
"The main thing is to float safe, smart and sober," said Justin Alberty, of GRDA. "Wear your life jacket, use common sense on the water and check with float operators for the latest update on conditions, but we expect it to be a great time to visit the river."
The water of Lake Tenkiller is likely to be teeming with boaters and swimmers enjoying the extra-long weekend. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Manager Dennis Covey expects a large crowd.
"I feel like our campgrounds will be pretty full for Labor Day, because everybody has been champing at the bit," said Covey. "I think the lake level is still probably going to be around this same level, 9.83 feet above normal. It may come down a couple feet between now and then, but I would say around this level due to the barge removal process that is still ongoing."
Covey was on hand for the Tidy Up Tenkiller event, when volunteers went out and picked up trash and removed garbage from the water. Nearly 200 old tires and around 10 dumpsters of styrofoam were removed, so lake aficionados will have a cleaner body of water to dive in for the Labor Day holiday. Covey encourages visitors to help keep it clean by taking packing out what they pack in, and to take a piece of trash with them before they leave. He also wants guests to remember to stay safe when they're boating and to wear life jackets while on the water.
One Tenkiller location, Pettit Bayside Resort, will offer music Friday, Aug. 30. Guests can show up to hear Harley Tinsley and the Pumpkin Hollow Band perform, after they grab some food and drinks at Piddle's Bar & Grill. Music will start at 8 p.m. and run to 11 p.m.
For landlubbers staying in town, plenty of events are planned, as the Cherokee National Holiday will also be held in Tahlequah. Every year, thousands of Natives and non-Natives converge on the city to celebrate Cherokee culture. The list of Cherokee events includes an annual powwow, art show at the Cherokee Heritage Center, sports tournaments, Stickball games, quilt show, garden tour, and much more. For more information or a schedule of Cherokee National Holiday events, visit holiday.cherokee.org.
Saturday, Aug. 31, the annual Cherokee National Holiday Parade will kick off in downtown Tahlequah at 9:30 a.m., and one local establishment is opening up for customers to watch it with cold beverages.
Kroner & Baer Pub, at 200 N. Muskogee Ave., will serve mimosa on the patio, so parade viewers can have a drink while they watch. Also on Saturday, Kroner & Baer will have live music from 8 p.m. to midnight. Cherokee Rose, an instrumental jam band quartet, will perform. The next day, Sunday, the pub will open for an Oklahoma University watch party for the kickoff of college football season. The party starts at 4 p.m. and the game begins at 6:30 p.m. The outfit will have a projector on the patio, broadcast the games on all the TVs, and serve up hot dogs for those who attend.
At Dewain's Place in Tahlequah, more music will be on tap, as Doc Fell and Co. will be performing on the bar's stage Saturday of Labor Day weekend.. Music typically begins at 9:30 p.m. and there is a $5 cover charge.