Grove Area is a Great Getaway from Spring to Fall


NEVER TOO YOUNG: They start them young and they never grow old in Grove, Okla. Pictured here is a young contestant at the American Heritage Music Festival, featuring the Grand Lake National Fiddle Contest held annually in and around Grove on the banks of Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees. The festival is one of three held in the town along with many other great attractions to make this town by the lake a premier and affordable destination for Tulsans of all ages.

Photos courtesy of Grand Lake Festivals, Inc.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles focusing on great Oklahoma attractions close by for GTR readers to consider when planning a weekend trip or a summer vacation. Rising gas prices make nearby attractions more enticing from a financial point of view, but some readers may not know or have forgotten the many wonderful destinations within one to three hours drive from Tulsa. The places highlighted in this series are chosen for their interesting appeal and entertainment value. The fact that they are close at hand, inexpensive and supporting them supports local economies are just added bonuses.

Grove, Okla. sits on land surrounded on three sides by Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees. Wrapping around one of the fastest growing communities in Oklahoma is the main lake to the west and the large Honey Creek branch to the east. For the last eight years, beginning on Thursday of the first week in June, Grand Lake fishermen in search of large mouth bass hiding in Honey Creek can hear the distinct sound of string band music floating across the water from Snyder’s Camp. This marks the beginning of the American Heritage Music Festival featuring the nationally certified Grand Lake National Fiddle Contest and the America’s Clogging Hall of Fame sanctioned Grand Lake National Clogging Contest. To many it is the auspicious beginning of the Grove festival season.

Hundreds of accomplished musicians, cloggers and performers along with vintage American music and dance aficionados from nearly every state in the union and as far away as Mexico and Canada attend the festival. It’s a long weekend of vintage fiddle tunes and bluegrass music mixed with traditional Appalachian clogging performed by folks of all ages. There are dance and music workshops, shows and performances by local area groups like the Zoograss Boys and the Monroe Sisters to regional and national groups like the Rockin’ Acoustic Circus and Thomas-DeLancey Trio.

The festival is a celebration of pure Americano as expressed in the music of a bygone era. Music that lives on because everyday people keep it alive handing it down from one generation to the next in the true folk tradition. Acoustic string bands made up of fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar and stand up bass players joined by an occasional specialist on the dulcimer or wooden spoons create the unique sounds of America’s working class genre of joyous up tempo, technically structured and highly entertaining music.

Grand Lake Festivals, Inc. puts on the AHMF and two more similar music genre events in and around Grove throughout the summer. The non-profit corporation is owned and managed by “the first lady of country fiddle,” staged named Jana Jae. The mission of Jana Jae’s enterprise is to preserve and promote the music and dance originally brought here by Dutch, Scotch, Irish, Germans, French and Italian immigrants. Over the years the old time music has evolved into a more purely American music genre like the bluegrass style of Bill Monroe or the country swing sounds of Hank Williams and Bob Wills of Cain’s Ballroom fame. Although Tulsans may have missed this year’s AHMF, they can put it on the calendar for next year. It’s inexpensive and too much fun.

As July 4 rolls around and we celebrate our country’s founding, musicians from across the country gather at the Grove Civic Center to celebrate another truly American music sound. Grand Lake Festivals hosts the Cajun Festival featuring all the great things one finds deep in the heart of the Louisiana Bayou, good food, good times and of course good music, only it’s close by and air conditioned. This year’s performers will include, among others, the winners of the 2006 CFMA “Band of the Year,” “Recording of the Year” and “People’s Choice” awards, Chris Miller and Bayou Roots along with Rick Sprague and the New Cajun Band and of course Jana Jae’s own band, Hot Wire. Add to this an American and Native American arts and craft show, plenty of Cajun and American cuisine and get this, free admission, trust me you’re in for a great, inexpensive time in Grove.

Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29-31, is time for Jana Jae’s Fiddle Camp and everyone is invited to come see, learn and enjoy all genre of vintage music played by folks of all ages from around the region. Like all the events put on by Grand Lake Festivals, this annual happening includes good music, good food and great fun for the whole family.

As summer gives way to Oklahoma autumn, the Grove festival season turns its attention to the surrounding Grand Lake waters for the arrival of the migratory Great White Pelicans. The annual Pelican Festival attracts bird watchers from around the region to witness great flocks of these graceful fowl during their stop over at Grand Lake to feed on the abundant shad before completing their migration to the south.

The town of Grove has many attractions throughout the season. Har-Ber Village, named after founders Harold and Bernice Jones, is easily one of the largest antique museums in the U.S., displaying countless antique and collectables in a village complex of more than 100 reconstructed turn-of-the-century buildings. Be sure to block out a good chunk of time for Har-Ber Village.

And think of taking a little time when enjoying the tranquil setting of Lendonwood Gardens just off the main street in Grove. Don’t be fooled by its three-acre size; this lush botanical garden offers a collection of well over 1,500 species arranged in five distinct gardens and guarded by century old oaks towering over the carefully manicure foliage, koi pond, tea house and colorful, talking parrots. Take your time, enjoy, but do make a small donation on the way out.

These are but a few of the things to see and do in Oklahoma’s town by the lake. From spring to fall Grove has it all: affordable events, accommodations and attractions to please just about everyone. Jana Jae’s music festivals alone could easily qualify Grove as the American heritage music capital of the Midwest. Discover Grove and Grand Lake and all they have to offer.

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The next installment in the series will feature Bartlesville, another close by and exciting place to experience.

Updated 06-30-2008

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