CHURNING THE FERN: Annual festival kickoff delayed by inclement weather

Apr. 26—The opening day of the 16th annual Red Fern Festival was delayed an hour by rain, but later in the afternoon, participants were expressing the hope that the weather would improve.

Kelten Weaver, marketing coordinator for Tahlequah Main Street Association, said even with the hindrance, everything was still going as planned and on schedule in downtown Tahlequah.

"It's not the sunny and 75 we hoped for, but we're making it happen and we're making it work, so that's why our motto this year has been 'Rain or shine, it's festival time,'" Weaver said. "We still would love for everybody to come out and experience these awesome vendors."

Before the rain and thunder subsided, food and arts and crafts vendors were setting up shop.

Melissa Middleton, of Middleton Custom Leather, was assembling a booth with her family, and they were putting together some last-minute items. Middleton said that last year was the first time the business was a vendor at the festival.

The Red Fern Festival is different than others, Middleton said, because it is larger, and the organization by staff is better than for a lot of similar events she's attended.

"The organization was fantastic, as far as the staff; they did an awesome job," Middleton said. "There was just so much to do and see, so it was really nice."

Pat Wilcox, Pecan Creek Winery employee, said the business has been represented at Red Fern for several years. It was offering wine, frozen wine slushees, and free samples Friday evening.

Wilcox said the Muskogee company keeps attending the event, because it's so close to their home turf.

"It's a delightful festival. We love participating in hometown festivals," Wilcox said.

Wilcox described Red Fern as a more intimate experience than other festivals, with a focus on the famous book and the local residents.

To keep everyone safe at the event, Weaver said the festival has a mass text software to alert all vendors, employees, and volunteers of inclement weather and delays.

Weaver said this was his first year to work the festival, but he has attended it several times. From his perspective, Weaver said, going from being an attendee to a festival worker was "night and day different."

"I feel like this goes for anything when you talk about festivals or anything like that, but you never know how much work goes into it until you volunteer or you are a part of it," Weaver said. "To me, you kind of get more of an appreciation because of all the amazing people who are at Tahlequah Main Street and with the Red Fern Festival. They're like, 'All right, let's get it done.' They just all have this positive and hard-working attitude."

What's next

The 16th annual Red Fern Festival will continue into Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Event times and locations can be found at, with updates, including those regarding the weather, and on the Red Fern Festival social media platforms.