In one sense, Vinita embodies enchantment and make-believe, especially with get-away destinations nearby at Grand Lake. However, the Craig County seat is also a common-sense, down-home place.
Vinita embraces both – illustrated by a Depression-era cafe with an international following and two Renaissance festivals that take visitors back to 1540s Scotland.
Grant “Sweet Tator” Clanton opened the first Clanton’s Cafe in 1930. The diner has stayed in the family ever since; Melissa Clanton-Patrick and her husband, Dennis Patrick, have run it since 1997.
The couple were happily settled in Colorado, where he ran a restaurant group and she was a software engineer. But they couldn’t resist the opportunity to take over Clanton’s.
“We said we’d give it five years and see what happens,” Dennis Patrick says, “but that’s turned into more than 20.”
The eatery has gained fame by appearing on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and operating on Route 66.
“The locals are proud of what we’re doing,” Patrick says. “When they go on vacation and people find out they’re from Vinita, they know the town because of Clanton’s.”
Business is always steady and he says “we sold over 55,000 chicken-fried steaks last year. That’s a large herd of cattle.”
Clanton’s also serves as a community hub.
“Table 19 is for the old-timers who drink coffee and solve the world’s problems,” Patrick says. “People who live here are genuine and I appreciate the intimacy of the town. I know them by their first names.
“People come in and want to know what’s happening and we tell them.”
Two such happenings occur back-to-back this month. The Queensferry Renaissance Festival runs March 21-22 at the Parkhill Motel and RV Park; the Grand Lake Renaissance Festival is March 28-29 at Vinita Lake Park.
Kameron Torix says the Queensferry Festival is in its second year. The Parkhill site has a 3-acre pond, which symbolizes the body of water that separated Edinburgh from an area to the north, so Scottish Queen Margaret paid to have a ferry (hence the name) run between the two.
Torix says her group, working closely with the Scottish Club of Tulsa, features the Tulsa Pipe and Drum Corps, a blacksmith, wool spinners, a Viking encampment and a pirate group discussing naval surgeries.
The Grand Lake Renaissance Festival, which used to be at Parkhill, took last year off and reincarnated itself as a women-owned-and-operated nonprofit, creator Kittye Williams says. This sixth iteration is its first at Vinita Lake Park, once part of Eastern State Hospital.
This festival, also set in Queensferry, features singers, fae folk and Queen Marie de Guise, the regent during the infancy of Mary, Queen of Scots.
“Our main focus is fun, education and history. There’s not enough true, clean fun in the world,” Williams says.
Not His First Rodeo
Phillip Calvin McGraw, commonly known by his television persona Dr. Phil, was born in Vinita in 1950 before his family moved to Texas.
Holster That Weapon
The common image of an old-style western holster exposing the pistol hammer and trigger guard wasn’t invented until 1925 … by Vinita native Tom Threepersons, a Cherokee who worked for many police agencies and got into gunfights in the still wild areas of Arizona and New Mexico.
PSO, a primary utility in Northeast Oklahoma, began as the Vinita Electric, Light, Ice and Power Co. in 1889 and made the town the first to have electricity in what would become Oklahoma.