Pioneers on Parade
Oklahoma ’89er festivities celebrate history in Guthrie, Okla.
Sign painters Walker and McCoy kept busy in the days following their opening. Courtesy photo
Since 1929, the event has occurred annually.
The 2016 festival includes a vehicle auction, dance, carnival and shopping at vendors’ booths.
The lasting fixtures are the banquet, the coronation and the parade, which is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest.
The story is familiar for us Okies—pioneers seeking land and opportunity lined up on horses and wagons, ready to make their run at the sounds of gunfire and trumpets. A celebration of the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run that some folks might be unfamiliar with is the Oklahoma ’89er festivities in Guthrie, Okla.
On the first anniversary of the land run, Guthrie, a young town with a meager population of 5,333, hosted a flamboyant parade to celebrate its newly acquired territory. In years to come, the celebration would continue, though sporadically. When it was held, events included banquets, square dancing, rodeos, horse races, coronation of a queen and even more lavish parades.
Since 1929, the event has occurred annually. Though much has changed, the celebration maintains the same spirit. The 2016 festival includes a vehicle auction, dance, carnival and shopping at vendors’ booths. But the lasting fixtures are the banquet, the coronation and the parade, which is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest.
Stepping off at noon April 23, this year’s parade is expected to last about two hours, beginning at the Masonic Temple, looping around town and ending where it started. John Vance, the grand marshal and a local business owner, will lead the parade, followed by Keely Coldiron, the 2016 queen, and hundreds more. Highlights of the parade will include Fort Sill’s 77th Army Band and its “Costello’s Own” bagpipers, high-stepping horses and a six-hitch team of Express Clydesdales.
Some wagons surviving from the original land run will also make an appearance, and homemade floats, built to showcase this year’s theme, “The Entrepreneurial Spirit,” will compete for prizes. The theme honors hard-working Oklahoma entrepreneurs of past and present.
The glorification of Oklahoma’s rich history and tradition is undoubtedly one charm of the ’89er Celebration. “I believe in tradition,” said Deborah Wolek, the event coordinator, “If you don’t know your history, how can you go forward and grow in the community? You should know where you come from and how it all got started.”
Since its inception, the ’89er Celebration has been highlighting Oklahoma’s past for subsequent generations by maintaining a focus on children and family. Wolek said she hopes children will feel a connection to the history of their land and state. The parade and carnival help to make this a lesson that won’t bore youngsters. As Wolek pointed out, “What kid doesn’t love a carnival?”
Modern-day Okies may have traded in roughing it on the frontier for Wi-Fi and myriad other comforts. But the Oklahoma spirit lives on and is proudly manifested in the ’89er Celebration. So bring the family to Guthrie, whose population has nearly doubled. Celebrate longstanding tradition, learn about your state’s history and have good, old-fashioned fun.