From its earliest days as a rowdy, late 1800s Cherokee Outlet trading and cattle-shipping outpost, Woodward has grown to be a most busy place. Indeed, organizers are at work preparing to stage two major events – one, among the oldest of its kind in Oklahoma, and the other only in its second year.
The 92nd annual Woodward Elks Rodeo, a professional adult rodeo sponsored by the Woodward Elks Lodge 1355, will be held June 8-11. Rachael Van Horn, executive director of Woodward’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the rodeo is one of the state’s oldest and largest, and will be followed by several youth rodeos.
It’s one of several events throughout the year that highlight Woodward’s rich history in agriculture, energy and tourism, she says. Among them, in August, will be the city’s second Thunderbird Drone Festival.
The growing popularity of drones as a tool of industry and recreation-seekers prompted city leaders to stage the first drone festival last year, says Van Horn. Like 2021, the commercially-sponsored festival will feature a drone film fest, photography contest, a drone technology expo, a speaker and other events surrounding the use of drones for business and recreation.
“We knew this was an area to be highlighted, and we wanted to be the first city in Oklahoma to stage a drone festival,” says Van Horn. The 2021 event drew about 250 people, which she said was good for a first-time event.
Those events are part of a full slate of activities in Woodward. A city of just over 12,000, Woodward began as an 1880s shipping post, with military supplies going to Fort Supply to the north, and cattle headed for eastern markets.
According to the City of Woodward’s website, it was known as one of the wildest and woolliest towns in the Cherokee Outlet, with 23 saloons and 15 brothers in operation at one time. It was described once as a place “that combined eastern aggressiveness with western hospitality.”
Today’s Woodward offers a robust economy, plenty of outdoor recreation, a dive into the area’s history – plus that full calendar of events.
But even with all that going for it, Van Horn cites another draw. The Woodward area, with its wide-open spaces and attractive scenery, is just a good place to unwind, she says. Her organization is touting Woodward as “a place to breathe.”
A short way northeast of Woodward lies the 820-acre Boiling Springs State Park, one of Oklahoma’s original state parks, and the Hal and Fern Cooper Wildlife Management Area.
Boiling Springs State Park Manager Tucker Heglin says the park draws about 120,000 visitors a year, offering five miles of hiking trails, two seasonal group camps, a seasonal swimming pool and even an artesian spring that bubbles from the ground, giving the illusion of boiling water.
“We don’t advise drinking it,” Heglin says. “It’s hard water; lots of calcium.”
Just west of the park is the independently-owned Boiling Springs Golf Course.
An interesting stop for a Woodward visitor is the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum. Its executive director, Robin Hohweiler, says the museum houses numerous items depicting Northwest Oklahoma’s rich and colorful historical and colorful heritage.
Among items housed in the museum, he says, are a hatchet reportedly used by Carrie Nation in her raids on saloons in Territorial Oklahoma days, and several items once owned by Temple Houston, the colorful attorney who was also renowned for his gunmanship.
Temple Houston was the youngest child of Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, and made Woodward his home late in life.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
City of Woodward
Woodward Chamber of Commerce
Woodward Convention and Visitors Bureau/Woodward Conference Center
Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum
Boiling Springs State Park
Hal and Fern Cooper Wildlife Management Area