I love spending time in Guthrie. The first time I visited Oklahoma’s original capital city, I came down with several friends to camp out at Cottonwood Flats to experience the Gentlemen of the Road outdoor music festival. About 35,000 people descended on a town of 10,000 for Alabama Shakes, Mumford and Sons, and a ton of other bands. I camped out for that event, spending a hot September weekend under the stars. In addition to the amazing musical experience, I was able to wander the historic town and capture the unique Victorian architecture with my camera. I remember being truly amazed at this gem in the middle of the state; how did I never visit before? That was two years ago.
On May 1st, I headed to Guthrie for music once more, this time for the Queen of the Prairie festival. The circumstances were similar on the surface, but it ended up being quite a different experience. I was not going to be camping in a field; I had reserved a room at a bed & breakfast downtown. Although I’d purchased my tickets six months ago, ongoing discounts seemed to indicate that tickets weren’t selling as heavily as expected. The lineup was strong from a personal standpoint, but there weren’t any names at the level of Mumford. I didn’t know of anybody else that had even HEARD of the festival, let alone would be going themselves. When we drove into town, I expected to encounter some significant traffic but it looked like a normal Friday afternoon.
After we got settled, Samantha and I walked down to Cottonwood Flats and found ourselves among about 30 others. As the day progressed, those numbers improved…but not by much. I’d say the max amount of people I saw at any given time was just over 100, and that was near the end of Saturday. The positive thing about the turnout was that it was a much more personal experience. The people that ran the festival and manned the various booths were eager to chat, and I ran into the performers constantly.
Over that Friday and Saturday, I saw over a dozen acts from all across North America, all passionate musicians sharing their flavor of alt-country and bluegrass. I got to have conversations with many of them, bought a few albums (yes, on vinyl), and took a lot of great photos. Some I’d shared on Instagram were even re-shared by the bands! The best part, of course, was sitting under a tree with Samantha as the guitars echoed across the fields. We grabbed food from the handful of trucks that were at the festival, talked about whatever was on our minds, and just RELAXED. I can’t remember the last time I had so much nothing on my schedule. I think my favorite acts were JD McPherson, Humming House, and a hilarious guy from the Nashville area named Jonny Fritz. To take nothing away from everyone else; I didn’t see a bad band the entire weekend. Many of them stayed all weekend and enjoyed the festivities along with the attendees, too. It felt almost like a family gathering.
At the end of each long day, we slept at the Jaded Getaway Bed & Breakfast. It’s a quaint couple of rooms above the Guthrie Pet Hospital, one block away from the old Capital Building. Sunday morning, as we were slowly getting up and around, I sat with my coffee in the front room, looking out the window and thinking about my father. May 3rd would have been his 61st birthday. I’ve been on so many adventures since he passed; there’s not a one that goes by that I don’t wish I could call and tell him about it. I wonder what he would say or if he would like any of the photos I’d taken. Of course he would; they were mine. Still, hearing it is something else entirely. The weather had been beautiful all weekend (even a tad chilly in the evenings) and the drive home continued that trend; I drove down the highway with the windows down and the music up. We stopped in Stillwater to eat at the original Hideaway Pizza (a long-time desire for Samantha) and drove through a few small towns as we winded our way home, including the town of Pawnee.
I love learning little things about Oklahoma; I learn a lot by reading and talking to other people, but my FAVORITE way to learn is organically as I’m traveling. Such an event occurred when I drove into Pawnee; I didn’t realize it had a famous resident in Chester Gould. My mouth hung open when I saw the giant Dick Tracy mural downtown; how in the world did I never hear that the creator of the famous comic strip was from Oklahoma? It was Sunday, so the little town museum was closed…but it was easy to see through the window that they had a treasure trove of Tracy memorabilia. I made a note to return so I could delve into this discovery. In addition to a few old neon signs, Pawnee’s downtown had a lot of great old brick buildings and the sense that it was hanging in there. I was also told I need to go back and visit the Pawnee Bill Ranch & Museum.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and an excellent way to welcome the warmth of summer. This past weekend, I worked both days due to a change in my work schedule. I am not sure what my travel looks like for the next few weeks, as my hours will be a bit tumultuous, but my next BIG trip happens in June. I’m flying out to Los Angeles to take Route 66 all the way to Albuquerque, thus completing that side of the Mother Road. I’m really excited to see some of the desert landscape, visit with friends at the Holbrook Days festival, and get to experience a tour through the Painted Desert.