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It’s a Spring Thing

At Muskogee’s Azalea Festival, learn the fine art of flower power during this yearly extravaganza complete with food vendors, cultural performances and exotic demonstrations.

Article
Gina Conroy
Posted
March 28, 2018

Oklahoma in April. Where the wind comes sweeping through a breathtaking arboretum and botanical sanctuary carrying the sweet, spicy, and sometimes intoxicating fragrance of blossoming azaleas, tulips, dogwoods, redbuds, and wisteria. Where waving blooms of over 30,000 colorful azaleas from 625 varieties lure nearly 600,000 people to Muskogee from around the world for one of the area’s most popular events: the annual Azalea Festival. 

“Azaleas are beautiful but difficult flowers to grow, especially in Oklahoma,” says Ashley Wilbourn, tourism director of the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce. “The fact that Muskogee has such a thriving abundance is unique.” 

Whether visitors come to escape concrete or cubicle worlds, or just want to enjoy more of nature, there is plenty to keep you coming back all month.
‍Whether visitors come to escape concrete or cubicle worlds, or just want to enjoy more of nature, there is plenty to keep you coming back all month.

And Muskogee has been celebrating this unique bloom for the last 50 years. It all began when local nurseries were growing azaleas as a floral plant.

“The parks director at the time [Art Johnson] decided to try growing them as a landscape plant in the city’s Honor Heights Park,” says Wilbourn. “He collected pecan hulls from local nut factories and composted them, and began growing the azaleas in the composted hulls, with much success.” 

Muskogee's Honor Heights Park, with its winding roads leading to gardens, fields, ponds, lakes and flowers, is home to the Azalea Festival. (Photo: Marc Rains)
Muskogee's Honor Heights Park, with its winding roads leading to gardens, fields, ponds, lakes and flowers, is home to the Azalea Festival. (Photo: Marc Rains)

Honor Heights Park, the gem of the city, with its winding roads leading to gardens and fields, ponds and lakes, and flowers, is now home to the Azalea Festival. Whether visitors come to escape concrete or cubicle worlds, or just want to enjoy more of nature, there is plenty to keep you coming back all month.

You can stroll the walkways or get lost in one of three trails. You may want to meander through the butterfly sanctuary and tree arboretum, or peruse the half-mile Stem Beach trail popular with local walkers and runners. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of a purple martin, ruby-throated hummingbird or the Oklahoma state bird, the scissortail flycatcher, on the Audubon Trail. Or perhaps you’ll explore tranquil ponds from shore or venture out for a closer look on the fishing docks. Even the children will enjoy an afternoon at the playground while you celebrate the end of a long winter and welcome in the beauty of spring. 

“Many people think that the Azalea Festival consists of one main event, but it’s really a series of events all month,” says Wilburn.

This celebration is not just contained to Honor Heights Park. With a variety of events to accommodate eclectic interests, held not only in the park but throughout the downtown area, there is something new and fun for everyone.

“This year we have more events planned than ever,” says Wilburn. “We’ve also had a mild winter, so we expect to have full bloom by early April.”

Though you can visit Honor Heights Park any day, you may want to mark your calendars for additional festival favorites including the Party in the Park (April 7), Exchange Club Chili & BBQ Cook-off and Parade (April 14), Cruizaders Car Show (April 14), Art Crawl (April 14), and Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open (April 19-21).

LOCATOR
Azalea Festival
Honor Heights Park
1400 Honor Heights Drive | Muskogee
918-682-2401
April 1-30