Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stilwell Strawberry Festival

When G and I travel, we like to do tourist-y activities and then observe the local wildlife. We prefer to eat and hang out with the natives. Even though we miss friends when they move away, we're always excited we have another potentially cool place to visit. Seeing an area with someone who lives there never fails to enlighten.

If you visit eastern Oklahoma during May, you should definitely attend the Stilwell Strawberry Festival Parade. It's not Wrigleyville in Chicago during a Cubbies game. It's not Melbourne during an Australian football game. It's not NYC after a Broadway show.

But Adair County Oklahoma is different--with a flavor all its own.

They have more princesses than Disney World. Of course, the Stilwell Strawberry Festival Queen had a float, as did her three runners-up. But there were also the princesses and courts of Cinco de Mayo, Cherokee Nation, Keetoowah Band of the Cherokees, Winter, and Loyalty. (I still don't know what those last two are, but one of the little princesses wore a fluffy dress and waved from the hood of a car with a Confederate flag as her cushion. No kidding.) That's a lot of royalty.

Bands played. Politicians kissed babies. Lollipops, doodads, and propaganda were distributed. What looked to be a homemade armored vehicle for the local police rolled down the street with smiling teens lounging atop it. A firetruck's siren sounded periodically. Police cars flashed lights. A bearded lady from the carnival kept trying to steal from our diaper bag.

The parade ended with the rodeo crowd. We smelled the horses before we saw them. Hundreds of them. Many of the parade riders were real cowboys, not just the weekend, country-dancing kind. And these modern cowboys had their royalty, too. In fact, my cousin's daughter was the Rodeo Princess.

Clocking in at an hour and forty minutes long, the festival parade was still shorter than the Rose Bowl Parade at two and half hours. Unlike watching the Rose Parade, however, I never grew bored. Trust me. If you ever visit, you won't either, because you won't know what to expect.

And word has it that the strawberries are good this year.

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