Of the 150,000 visitors to Muskogee during April, some just drive through Honor Heights Park to take in the view of millions of blooming flowers. However, the annual Azalea Festival offers more than just its namesake blossom – it’s a monthlong, communitywide celebration with events, music, food and vendors.
“It’s a great time to be here in Muskogee,” says assistant parks director Rick Ewing, entering his 29th year of helping with the 52-year-old festival. “There’s a lot to choose from.”
Some of the events are the Azalea Festival Parade, the Exchange Club Chili Cook-Off and Barbecue, car shows, craft shows and concerts around town.
“A big favorite are the food trucks, tours, and events with the local winery and regional distillery and Party In The Park, when wineries and other breweries from around the country show up for the last Saturday,” Ewing says. “There are master gardeners, plant sales and … the stunning display of 15,000 tulips.”
The question of how many azalea plants are in the park makes Ewing chuckle.
“Older promotions loved to say 30,000, but I’ve been here 30 years and never found corroboration of that, especially over the past 10 years,” he says. “We just keep adding plants. The historic genesis of ‘Why azaleas?’ is interesting. Years ago, it was said azaleas couldn’t grow this far west, so my predecessors presented something that had people coming from everywhere to look at them. As with anything in nature, side activities spring up. The festival month is always a great time to be here in Muskogee.”
Ewing points visitors to the City of Muskogee and the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce websites and community calendars for details. Events run through April 30.