By Travis Sloat
Saturday’s heat couldn’t keep Fort Gibson residents away from the conclusion of the 4th annual Corn Festival and the opening of the new skate park and splash pad.
Athena Perry said that this was her first time at the festival — and she loved it.
“This town has a certain aura about it,” Perry said. “Everyone has been talking about it all week. I’m from Sallisaw, and you don’t see this spirit of community there. This is just a good, old-fashioned town.”
There were booths advertising goods and services, water inflatables for the kids, live music.
And there was the traditional corn-eating contest too.
Olivia Coombes, 5, won the 6-and-under division. Jessica White, 11, won the 6-13 division for the second year in a row. Brady Liles, a visitor from Kingfisher and age 14, won the 13-19 division. Gina Pruitt won the adult division.
Monica Shildt had a booth set up advertising cooking aids.
“The Corn Festival is a good thing,” Shildt said. “We feel like we’re helping the event, and the event is helping us. Being from Fort Gibson, I think it’s good to help out the community.”
Not lost among all the fun was the corn, which was served up any way you could ask for, from straight off the cob to mixed with succotash. It even attracted the attention of some out of town folks.
Ron and Ben Schalk are from Texas, and they both agreed the corn was great.
“We’re here working on the Fort Gibson dam,” Ron said. “A local guy that is working with us introduced us to the festival. I grew up in Illinois, and I still think this corn is really good.”
Fort Gibson officials timed the opening of the new splash pad and skate park with the final day of the Corn Festival, which attracted numerous locals to both the event and the parks.
Stephanie West of Fort Gibson said she got a flier in the mail advertising the grand openings and the festival, and she couldn’t wait to bring her husband Mark and her daughter Madeline down to check it all out.
“We love water,” West said. “I’m really happy we have this park. We’ll be down here all summer.”
Mayor Steven Hill was on hand for the opening ceremonies, and he said they had to push a little to make sure the park was opened on Saturday.
“We had two goals,” he said. “First, we wanted to make sure the parks were done by the festival, and the second was to make sure the splash pad was ready to use during the summer. The park has definitely added to the excitement about the festival.”
The park was filled with children and youth of all ages, each enjoying either the cooling water, or the rush of the wind provided by skating or biking across the obstacles in the skate park.
Justin Parker, a junior at Fort Gibson High School, said he’s excited about the park.
“Now we don’t have to go so far to skate,” Parker said. “It’s a great thing because it gets kids up and out of the house, and gives us a chance to catch up while we’re on summer break.”