Chuckwagon Cookoff & Western Swing Festival
Down the winding road from award winning Arbuckle Wilderness, an exotic animal drive-through park near world-renowned Turner Falls, and just off Interstate 35 at the northern foot of the Arbuckle Mountains at Exit 51, is Arbuckle Event Center, the newest and brightest star in Arbuckle Country's long list of tourist attractions.
Located about 1.5 hours from Oklahoma City and two hours from Dallas/Fort Worth, this family-oriented facility spreads out over hundreds of oak-covered hills, winding creeks, ponds, and scenic overlooks of the Washita River Valley.
The buildings include a beautiful indoor event center for wedding and special events; an immense patio with a 180-degree view of Murray County's prettiest country; a fire pit and seating area for telling tall tales while warming by the campfire; three comfortable and fully equipped private cabins each with their own cowboy dÃ©cor; and the most recent addition--a full-blown Main Street of a real Western town with stores, sheriff's office, bank and, of course, a saloon and the local bank. The best part of this continuing work in progress is that, though it is a real Old West Town, there are modern conveniences.
An amphitheater is the focal point for outdoor music and entertainment, and traditional Indian dancers have their own spot up on the hill where their colorful, native attire lights up the entire town.
On Oct. 1 and 2 the Garrett family, owners of this remarkable vision, is holding the second annual Chuckwagon Cookoff & Western Swing Festival. Besides western swing bands, Indian dancers, general and other stores in the town, the venue promises to entertain the entire family; mechanical bull to mutton busting; archery experts, dummy roping, cowboys, wild women and Indians, too.
Plenty of sarsaparilla, root beer, and other beverages and food will be in the saloon; plus the Original Arbuckle Coffee Company will have take home bags of their unique blend as well as a fresh cup to relax with in their store.
Along with the sanctioned Chuckwagon Cookoff tastings, there will also be turkey legs, sausage on a stick and the ever-popular roasted ears of corn, plus other interesting food vendors.
The Dirt Road Diva Dress Shop will feature sassy girl stuff from corsets and cowboy boots to handcrafted jewelry from two local artists. The art gallery will showcase the photographic work of Black Swan Photography, the mosaic marvels of Robin Prater, and other area artists.
You never know how many Old West vendors and families you will run into. There is plenty of room and if you are a purveyor of an appropriate product, or better yet, an artisan such as a rope maker or blacksmith, you are invited at no cost to join the fun and bring your operation (and family) with you.
While the older folk are shopping and listening to storytellers and cowboy poets, there is plenty to keep the little guy busy. There will be open mutton bustin' and dummy roping competitions plus exciting mechanical bull riding.
Amish hickory rocking chairs line the boardwalk and patio, so there is always a place to rest your feet and watch the action, or just take in the scenery.
And dancing? Well, that's what Western Swing is all about and this year's headliners are well-known Johnny Bush and Fiddlin' Frenchie Burke, along with A Bar Bunkhouse Band, the sweetheart of the PBR Miss Leann Hart and the Arbuckle House Band.
Gates open at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1; parking is free. Oct. 2 starts with Cowboy Church at 9 a.m. followed by a cowboy breakfast. Check out www.arbuckleeventcenter.com and their Facebook page so you can keep up to date with all that's going on. Call 580-369-7811 for lodging information or if you are interested in participating as a historic re-enactor or vendor.
Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Pecan Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Pauls Valley, Okla. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at www.greatersuccess.com or call 580-622-5408.