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Conjuring Charm

Locust Grove is married to a vibrant communal attitude that is so appealing. It's easy to feel welcomed and part of this community when you visit because its people are so friendly.

Article
Michele Chiappetta
Photos
Rob Harmon
Posted
August 28, 2019

Just 45 minutes east of Tulsa, the small town of Locust Grove has undergone many changes since a community first formed there in the 1800s when Oklahoma was still known as Indian Territory. Its unique name hearkens back to the grove of locust trees that grew in the area.

Entering Locust Grove along either Highway 412 (the Cherokee Turnpike) or the alternate, old route 412, you’ll enjoy the beautiful green landscape in spring and summer. You’ll cross over the Neosho River, and roll into a town, that at first glance, may look unassuming. Dig deeper, and you’ll see why it’s worth a visit.

What’s especially compelling about Locust Grove is its rich connection to the arts — unusual perhaps for a town of just several hundred residents. But as it turns out, Locust Grove is, and has been, home to several artists. Its small-town feel is married to a vibrant communal attitude that is so appealing. It’s easy to feel welcomed and part of this community when you visit because its people are so friendly.

Next time you’re in the mood for a day trip beyond Tulsa, give Locust Grove a little of your time. We’ve pulled together some not-to-miss spots to help you make the most of your visit.

Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry
6603 S. 438 Road | Locust Grove
A museum dedicated to poetry? The answer is much more than a simple yes. Run by local poet Shaun Perkins (The Book with the Beacon Lights), ROMP is an interactive, joyful celebration of creativity. The small building may seem unassuming, but step inside, and you’ll get a feast for the eyes. Wall paintings, photos, mixed media collages, and pop art are everywhere. Of course, there are poems, but there are also poetry prompts and invitations to write. Kids and adults alike love the experience because it’s so unapologetically happy about embracing creative expression.

ROMP Rummage Store
112 E. Main St. | Locust Grove
One way that Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry funds itself is with donations and sales through the ROMP Rummage Store. Locals give items that are then sold for next-to-nothing prices. The proceeds help with the nonprofit museum’s artworks, exhibits, and upkeep. You’ll find a variety of bargain items to choose from — clothes, shoes, bags, mugs, dishes, pottery, books, DVDs, and more. While you’re there, take a look at the shelf of old dolls. If you like one, Perkins will do a little magic, restoring the doll and writing a short poem to go with it to create a one-of-a-kind souvenir for your support of the museum’s work.

Wonder City Coffee
118 E. Main St. | Locust Grove
This is the coffee shop Tulsa wishes it had — but doesn’t. The reason it exists in Locust Grove is the owner, longtime resident Kelly Perkins Palmer (sister to poet Shaun Perkins). The coffee is delicious, served French press style, blended, or cold brew with a swish of pomegranate juice to make it fresh and light. If you’re lucky enough to be there when they have their homemade chicken salad, it’s a must eat. But what makes the shop stand out are its large back room filled with old books and games to enjoy and the friendly customers who make it clear that this is Locust Grove’s favorite hot spot. Oh, and don’t miss the annual Word Fest, held in April, that celebrates poetry, writing, food, and art.

Magic Showplace Theater and Rabbit-in-Hat Magic Shop
211 E. Main St. | Locust Grove
Just down the road from Wonder City Coffee is a surprisingly charming magic shop. Owner Clark May is a magician, having fallen in love with the art of sleight of hand early in life. May will entertain you with a few tricks while you’re in the shop, which features some beautiful magic tools for those who practice the art. You may be surprised by the photos of Bill Bixby (actor best for roles on My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and as Dr. David Banner on The Incredible Hulk) and Johnny Carson on the wall. It turns out a lot of celebrities started as magicians. May is renovating space behind and next to the shop, with plans to open a theater and restaurant, likely in spring 2020, to draw in more visitors.

Gourds, Etc.
9002 S. 4392 Road | Locust Grove
The owner of Gourds, Etc., Verna Bates, is a well-known local Cherokee Native American artist. Call to make sure she’s available when you plan to visit, but once you’re there, Bates will regale you with delightful insights into how her Cherokee heritage informs everything she does as an artist. Bates creates colorful artworks, jewelry, paintings, and gift items from materials such as copper, shells, clay, and gourds she grows on her property. During the first weekend of December, she holds a highly successful holiday sale. Each item she makes is one-of-a-kind, and you can purchase items already made or commission a piece. But even if you don’t buy anything, your time spent with Bates will have you itching to create art; she’s just so full of life.

Country Cottage Restaurant
6570 OK-82 | Locust Grove
Locals say that if you’re going to eat out, a visit to Country Cottage is in order. The restaurant serves family-style comfort food, either buffet-style or off the menu, whichever you prefer. Fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, burgers, cornbread, mashed potatoes and gravy, pot roast — it’s all there to enjoy. In addition to food, you’ll enjoy browsing through their gift shop, which features cute T-shirts, lotions, decorative handbags, and lots of other fun gift items.

Sycamore Springs Ranch Arena
12754 S. 442 Road | Locust Grove
A little south from the center of Locust Grove, you’ll find this charming arena, which hosts a variety of events during the year — rodeos, horse sales, barrel clinics, and more. The space is ideal if you’re looking for a rural location for your events, such as an outdoor wedding or corporate training. There are a variety of facilities at the ranch, serving anywhere from 100 people to as many as 2,000 (if you use the main rodeo area). The on-site restaurant, Los Ranchos, serves authentic Mexican dishes Tuesday through Sunday.