MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 19, 2013

Party is ‘Turning Wine into Water’

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— “Turning Wine into Water” — that’s the theme of Muskogee Rotary Club’s Party in the Park from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, said Melinda Murphy, co-chair of the event. Tickets are $20 at the gate.

The party features wine, beer and food tasting from Oklahoma businesses all set in the beauty of The Papilion and Butterfly Garden at Honor Heights Park. It’s the first activity to be held at the new facility, Murphy said.

The open area is a large block of new green grass surrounded by raised flower beds full of tulips in shades of purple, red, yellow, pink, white and orange. It is framed with a black iron fence.

Matthew Weatherbee, president of Friends of Honor Heights Park Association and an avid gardener, said there are two or three dozen different varieties of tulips in the garden.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said.

Mark Wilkerson, Muskogee Parks and Recreation director, said the new area looks just like the plan. That plan started with an idea about six or seven years ago, he said. It was to align with the city’s tourism plan for “Birds, Blooms and Butterflies.” There is a large butterfly exhibit and educational teaching garden. Wilkerson is acquiring butterflies now for the butterfly exhibit, which will open Mother’s Day weekend.

Friends of Honor Heights Park started about four years ago to help with the project.

“We’re very proud,” Weatherbee said. “It exceeded my expectations.”

As a member of the Rotary Club, he’s excited to see the event at the new venue. The club pays a fee to the park to have the party there.

Murphy said the theme, “Turning Wine into Water,” is used because proceeds from the wine and food tasting event will be used to help Third World countries receive water.

“Last year, proceeds went to drilling water wells in Tanzania,” she said. “We worked to eradicate polio, and now the next big crisis is access to clean drinking water.”

About $13,000 was raised last year with a goal of $15,000 this year, Murphy said. While you sip on wine in a souvenir wine glass, sample beer and taste the food, music will be played by Northeastern State University Jazz Band.

“It is a lovely event for socializing and experience of tasting Oklahoma wines,” she said. “It will be a lovely afternoon.”

Tables will be set up for vendors with the planters and park benches providing seating. Last year, about 700 to 750 people attended, which was the most in the six-year history of the event. Muskogee Art Guild will display and sell original art, prints and jewelry.

Tom Turner, Rotary president, expects great weather for an even larger crowd this year. He said the new facility will enhance the event and make it more enticing to the public.

“It’s a great opportunity to enjoy wines made in Oklahoma, two breweries and local restaurants,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to sample what they’ve got.”

If you go

WHAT: Party in the Park presented by the Muskogee Rotary Club.

WHEN: 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: The Papilion at Honor Heights Park.

ENTERTAINMENT: Northeastern State University Jazz Band.

PROCEEDS: Funds from the wine and food tasting event will be used to help Third World countries receive water.

WINE VENDORS: Black Sheep Winery, DiamondHead Wine, Native Spirits Winery, Nuyaka Creek Winery, Plain View Winery, Stable Ridge Vineyards, Summerside Vineyards & Winery, Whispering Meadows Winery and Whispering Vines Vineyards & Winery.

FOOD VENDORS: The Canebrake, Catering by Jasper’s, Golden Corral, Kilharen’s Lodge, Max’s Garage, Maxwell’s Restaurant, Toasted Wine Fruit Spreads.

BREWERY VENDORS: Choc Beer Co. and Mustang Brewing Co.

TICKETS: $15 in advance from club members or $20 at the venue which includes a souvenir glass.

INFORMATION: (918) 680-1239 or www.rotarypartyinthepark.org.