After the blizzards of 2011, we could all use a little spring, and nothing shouts “spring” like an emergence of colorful blossoms. One of my most enjoyable, memorable birthdays was spent with my family on a sunny, spring day at Honor Heights Park at the Muskogee Azalea Festival.
Perhaps best known for being immortalized in song, Muskogee is a special place. “Muskogee was thrust onto the world stage by Merle Haggard’s country song, and to this day, Muskogee is known for its small town hospitality and good old fashioned values,” said Treasure McKenzie, Vice President of Tourism and Marketing in Muskogee. “Muskogee hosts visitors from all over the nation for the Annual Azalea Festival and we invite anyone who would like to see the world from Merle’s point of view to come see us.”
For over 40 years, the City of Muskogee in Eastern Oklahoma has hosted this colorful festival throughout the month of April. Nearly 40 acres of this 122-acre park explode with color, highlighted by nearly 30,000 Azalea bushes of 625 varieties and augmented by dogwood trees, tulips and other plants which turn this park into a natural crayon box. Like nature’s own oil painting, shades of pink, purple, white and yellow blanket the grounds as if painted from God’s own color palette.
“Muskogee blossoms in the month of April and it’s not just the flowers that are popping,” said McKenzie. “The Azalea Festival includes a full month of fun events all over town that make Muskogee the best place to visit for a quick getaway.”
For our trip to Muskogee to celebrate my birthday, we set out early from Oklahoma City for the two-and-a-half hour trip to Muskogee, packing a picnic lunch. While you can take a driving tour through the park, we elected to park and walk the trails among the blossoms, picnic basket in hand. The manicured gardens were the perfect setting for our family picnic and an amazing backdrop for a few family photos. Most of all, just enjoying a relaxing, quiet day with family was such a gift and nature provided the perfect, peaceful setting.
The Five Civilized Tribes Museum located outside the park provides another venue worth visiting. This museum highlights the art, history and culture of the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminole Native American tribes.
Many events are peppered throughout the month of April to commemorate this popular festival that hosts nearly 300,000 visitors a year. So, take the time to stop and smell the roses (or Azaleas) and load the family up for a day or weekend trip that is sure to give the gift of colorful memories.
Karen Mitchell, a lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, lives in Edmond with her husband, Mark, teenage son, Ryan, and one spoiled Welsh Corgi. Daughter, Megan, attends OSU in Stillwater.