Travel- Exploring an Eclectic Downtown in Tahlequah, Oklahoma

I was still unexpectedly awake when October 15th turned into the 16th and continued to stay awake until 3am. That’s what happens when you hang out with friends in a band, but I forgot this fact since I haven’t done that in so many years. The next evening I was still recuperating, but it was well worthwhile.

The show was at the Dream theater in a small unassuming college town at the edge of the Ozarks in beautiful Tahlequah, Oklahoma. So why was I, the person who loves to be asleep early and wake up for sunrises, able to stay conscious for such a long stretch?  Because the concert included two of my dearest friends, who I’ve known since birth and stayed in touch with despite my family’s gypsy ways. Annie and Bonnie Paine are talented musicians who can sing and play a variety of instruments. Despite Bonnie’s busy schedule touring with another great band, Elephant Revival, I was lucky to catch up with both at once.

The music was a montage of talented rock, folk, alternative, americana and blues. Each band had their own signature style and there were many crossover performances creating a feeling of being at a private jam on a back porch. Together they put on a beautiful show. Featuring more than the guitar and drums of most pop music I was enamored with the washboard, bass, clarinet and fiddle. I haven’t had this much fun at a concert in years.

If I had to pick a favorite it would be “Cottonwood Snow” with Annie and Bonnie Paine, Allison Olassa and featuring Patti Richardson on clarinet. Patti is also a talented photographer.

Possibly the world’s greatest rock and roll fiddler, a talented lyricist and a fun person to boot is”Randy Crouch and the Flying Horse

A band to fall in love with and listen to as your falling in love is “The Deer” from Austin Texas.

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If you want delicious food for any meal stop by the Iguana Cafe at 500 N. Muskogee Ave. in downtown Tahlequah. They have a variety of food for vegetarians and carnivores, plus some superb smoothies. I recommend the Garden Snake sandwich and Four Berry smoothie. They also have wi-fi which allowed me to get a lot of work done while I ate and saw people from the previous night’s fun.

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I arrived just in time for the Third Thursday event celebrating local shops, musicians, and artists.  I met Rodslen Brown who runs the Project A Association, a non-profit designed as a prevention program for youth in the surrounding area. Their objective is to “provide hands on involvement, learning, basic work ethics and effective decision-making through education and training.” For more information send an email to ProjectAMuskogee@yahoo.com or call 918-683-2753. Rodslen is featured with the hand-woven baskets in the photo collage below.

I felt at home in this artistic town with a bustling theater, music and art scene. Artist Linda Callaway caught my eye with her clever looking blank dolls covered in beautiful hand drawn tattoos. You can order from her by calling 918-351-8918. Musicians performed a variety of music on every block, but my favorite was a man wearing zombie makeup on the guitar who encouraged us to join him in singing “Monster Mash”.  I don’t care for singing in public, but I will admit that it was fun. There were even actors from the Tahlequah Community Playhouse walking around in full costume advertising the upcoming play, “The Trial of Ebenzer Scrooge”.

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Ready for breakfast or dessert? Morgans Bakery has been a local favorite for over 50 years, and you can walk over to Kawi cafe for a cup of Cherokee blend coffee. Kawi means coffee in Cherokee and on top of tasty food, this delightful stop is a project of the Cherokee Department of Commerce offering free training for enterprising entrepreneurs.

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One of my favorite perks of a small rural town is the beautiful scenery in place of the endless concrete and freeways found in larger cities. October seems to be the best time of year for a visit. The summer heat is over, most of the bugs are gone, the low humidity is not turning my hair into a ball of curly frizz, temps are hovering in the 70’s and the vivid green foliage slowly changes as bursts of red and orange hint at the approaching autumn.

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These last two collages are a spattering of the eclectic treasures to be found by off the path explorers like me. You will find murals, parks, stone bridges,  art, culture and a copper horse. Oklahoma used to be Indian country and there is still much Native American influence, as noted by the street signs printed in both English and Cherokee. So what’s with the cell on the wall? This humorous write-up for the bathroom graffiti was too funny not to share and is a good indication of the local laid back vibe.

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