Although rain fell on Tahlequah early Saturday, it stopped in the time for the first year of Reggae in the Park, and actually generated a cool breeze that swept through Leoser Pavilion that afternoon.
The wind and blend of reggae, ska punk, blues, and rock created a comfortable atmosphere for concert goers, as they felt relaxed enough to let loose and shake their limbs. It was an event for everyone, as people of all ages and races danced to the melodic rhythm bouncing off the downtown pavement.
It was a welcome site for reggae lovers and a fresh experience for those unfamiliar with the popular genre.
"I've always been a huge reggae fan and didn't realize this was even going on until I drove past earlier," said J.J. Ross, local resident. "When I walked up and saw the stage, I kind of expected it to be some country music or something, but then I hear that bass playing and was like, 'Oh yea, that's what I'm talking about.'"
Local band Franke Lee kicked off the festival with its fusion of rock, reggae and blues. They paid homage to the Father of Reggae, Bob Marley, with covers of "Three Little Birds" and "Is This Love." They also performed "Luckiest Man" by the Wood Brothers, and other popular songs for people to jive to.
Daniel Franke of Franke Lee helped create the event with Synaptic Studio and Production, and he said his passion for reggae influenced him to bring the town a genre that often goes forgotten in the land of red dirt music.
"This came about because of my personal love of reggae, our band's love of reggae, and the lack of outlets for it in the area," said Franke. "There's not a lot of opportunities for it. World music is not as popular as a lot of country or red dirt - which I love, too, but reggae is just what does it for me."
Also on the scene were members of The Big News, a ska punk band out of Oklahoma City. Lead Singer Jacob Niceley said that while the band is from OKC, he is actually from Wagoner and recalled spending a lot of time in the Tahlequah downtown area in his youth.
Their sound could be compared to punk rock bands like Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake, with strong trombone and trumpet notes for an additional layer to the punk rock sound.
Franke said he wanted to bring an event to town that was "culturally different," and one that provided artists with a venue to share their unique sounds.
"It's just to showcase some new bands," Franke said. "When you're in the music scene, you meet other bands that are super-talented, but also come up against that same struggle of not having a lot of outlets for their music, just because of the type of music it is. We wanted to create that and give people an opportunity to see new musicians."
There was an apparent community vibe to the festival. Although people showed up to the concert separately, it wasn't long before strangers danced alongside and with one another. Meanwhile, children were running around and playing with one another, sometimes stopping to bob to the music.
"This has been such a wonderful event," said Beth Brooks. "I was so looking forward to this and it's been awesome to see all of these people who have never met get along and dance with each other. What I've really liked seeing are some of these babies - well, toddlers - shaking to the music with their parents. It's been really fun."
Local Hero was the headliner for Reggae In the Park. The band is a favorite among folks in the Tulsa scene, and has had several songs featured in movies and TV shows.
Frontman Doc James' dreadlocks were wrapped up under a large hat as he plucked away at his bass guitar. At one point, the crowd granted his request when he spoke into the microphone, "Come closer to the stage."
The concert groovers raised their hands in the air and sang along with the group-participation portions of Local Hero's reggae jams. Franke, who helped find the bands to perform at the reggae festival, said it was all about support live music.
"If you just go and watch live music, it's amazing how many talented people there are, and particularly here," said Franke. "We're blessed with great music in Tahlequah, and Tulsa, northeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. It's just a great little artist community with all those places. I think it comes down to going out, seeing music, and finding those bands that stimulate you like you've never experienced before."