Last year I finally got to Okemah, OK, home of Woody Guthrie in his youth and site of the annual Woody Guthrie Festival. Last year was his 100th birthday celebration. It’s going on right now, this weekend, for his 101st! Somehow, I know he would like the way they do it up in Okemah!

Okemah would probably be lost without their native son, whom they didn’t talk about for years because of his controversial ties to the Communist Party. Time heals and history becomes more clear and now they’re so proud of Woody and his roots. Rightfully so.

When you get out of your car on the Main Street, you can find someplace with a map…at least during the festival you can. You’ll want to see the park with the statue of Woody, probably life size. He wasn’t very big.


During the festival there are concerts throughout the day at the old Crystal Theatre that has been restored. Not very cool, so bring a fan…



Last year I listened to Ronny Cox, movie star, musician, and watched him visit with fans as he sold his CDs on the hot street after he played.


The old Main Street was open for the visitors who came from all over, many fans of folk festivals who travel from one to the other. You can see concerts in the theater and in the bar a couple of blocks down…


Last year, I saw Carolyn Hester, one of my favorites from my 60s love of folk singers. She is a little less now, but there were traces of her beautiful voice and I was able to get a CD of the album that had been my favorite back in college. Way back…


There were lectures from experts on Woody Guthrie and time to visit with his sister, who was a delight and had just written a book. Everything was pretty down home and friendly.


Then I toured Okemah. The Main Street and a bar that hasn’t changed, screen door still swinging…


A mural proclaiming the town’s claim to fame these days…


Old houses tucked into the neighborhoods, showing days past…


And the site where they are raising money to rebuild the Guthrie’s original home…


The unique water towers are also a source of pride and a move is on to restore them…or at least not let them be destroyed…who else has Hot, Cold and Woody Guthrie towers?



In the evening, there are concerts in the Pastures of Plenty and RVs, campers, tents hold the faithful and the fans who wait for the cool of the night to listen to those glorious sounds. It’s a bit, a big one, of Americana that will surely touch your heart with its simplicity and its love for the messages Woody left us.

I headed home, stopping to watch a typical Oklahoma cloud forming on a hot July day, rising into the sky. This Land is Our Land.


I recommend you visit the festival, if not this year then some year, and then drive over to Tulsa to tour the Woody Guthrie Center and walk through the Guthrie Green. You’re sure to run across a musician or two or three, some young, some old, that will make you tap your feet and smile. I think Woody would like it all…