Take a step back in time with a visit to one of Oklahoma's top living history events and see the state's unique story unfold right before your eyes.
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Do stories of soldiers marching across sun-bitten battlefields stir your imagination? Do visions of the rollicking Wild West and Indian Territory excite your inner adventurer? Oklahoma extends an open invitation to visitors captivated by tales of military battles, native powwows and the frontier spirit. From Civil War battle sites to historic military forts, re-enactors are waiting to whisk visitors away on an enchanting journey into the state’s rich and varied past. Take part in one of the Sooner State’s popular living history events that breathe new life into eras of Oklahoma history long gone, but never forgotten.
Held in the Oklahoma town of Yale, the Battle of Round Mountain Re-enactment entices annual visitors with cannon fire, replica encampments and costumed performers. Known as the first battle fought in Indian Territory during the Civil War, the Battle of Round Mountain was a clash between Unionist civilians and Confederate soldiers. Tour opposing winter encampments, browse through vendor tents staffed by merchants in period dress and witness as the battle is waged on Saturday afternoon. Don’t forget to attend the Civil War era ball that evening and dance to the sounds of traditional fiddle music.
Located near Rentiesville, the Battle of Honey Springs Re-enactment attracts over 1,500 participants and recreates the largest military clash on Oklahoma soil. An authentic treat for Civil War enthusiasts that features the Battle of Honey Springs on Saturday and the Battle of Greenleaf Prairie on Sunday, this re-enactment is held every other year on odd-numbered years (the next re-enactment will take place in 2023).
Modern chautauquas, reminiscent of the traveling shows and assemblies of the late 19th century and early 20th century, are lively presentations of lectures, concerts and historical performances. Join other history buffs under a big-top tent for Tulsa Oklahoma Chautauqua, Lawton Oklahoma Chautauqua and Chautauqua in the Park in Enid, for various seminars and portrayals of historical characters by area scholars. Sit back and enjoy vivid presentations by professionals in character, followed immediately by stimulating Q&A sessions, presented first in character, then as scholars in their respective fields of study. Eras and historical figures change from year to year, guaranteeing each annual event is fresh and relevant to audiences both old and new.
Immerse yourself in the world of Indian Territory trappers and fur-traders of the wild frontier at multiple Fur Trade era events held across the state. Attend the Fall Traders Encampment or the Spring Traders Encampment at Woolaroc Ranch, Museum & Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville and spend the day strolling through areas filled with tents and teepees that recreate the rugged Western experience of the 1820s-40s. With encampments held twice a year, there is plenty of opportunity to witness the event’s popular craft demonstrations, snack on delicious food cooked over an open campfire, or shop for authentic pioneer wares.
For demonstrations of blacksmithing, leather-crafting and knife throwing, head to the Okmulgee & Dripping Springs Lake & Recreation Area in Okmulgee for the annual Dripping Springs Rendezvous in November. Watch mountain men, traders, trappers and Fur Trade era Native Americans, then enjoy period music, food and even a black powder shoot. For storytelling, educational stations and Western lifestyle exhibitions, make plans to attend the Fort Washita Fur Trade Era Rendezvous, held each spring on the grounds of the Fort Washita Historic Site in Durant.
Join the knowledgeable staff at Historic Fort Reno, located in El Reno, for a variety of top-notch living history events held throughout the year. Troops stationed at Fort Reno were charged with protecting the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes starting in 1874 and were instrumental in supervising the Land Run of 1889. Hear their stories with re-enactments by lantern and candlelight at the fort’s annual Candlelight Tour in September.
During the month of April, take a walking tour of the Fort Reno Cemetery during the Fort Reno Tombstone Tales event and listen to tales that highlight the lives of past residents from frontier cavalrymen to German POWs. Take a lively ghost tour on the third Saturday from March through December, or attend the Christmas Guns event during the winter holidays and celebrate the season with the discharging of firearms and cannons, a tradition brought to Oklahoma by German immigrants.
Set amidst towering trees at the height of southeastern Oklahoma’s spectacular fall foliage season, the Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show, held in Beavers Bend State Park, features folk musicians on banjos and fiddles, rich storytelling and a wealth of old-fashioned craft demonstrations. Surround yourself with the delightful turn-of-the-century atmosphere created by candlemaking, lye soap-making, broom-making and blacksmithing. Always held in mid-November, the Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show features costumed exhibitors displaying the art of herbalism, instrument-making, quilting and much more. Grab a glass of fresh apple cider, enjoy folk music on the festival’s main stage and let your mind wander to times past in the gentle mountains of southern Oklahoma.
Attend the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society Ceremonial in Anadarko and step into a world that hearkens back to a time when warriors roamed the open plains, victory led to displays of ceremonial dancing and the beating of war drums filled the air. This traditional event, held in October each year, dates back to over 200 years ago and features society members in authentic regalia, ceremonial dance festivities and a symbolic re-enactment of an early 1800s battle complete with war cries, decorated lances and rifle fire. Due to the meaningful nature of this event, video cameras are not allowed. Permission for photography must be obtained from the tribe.
Many other tribal nations in Oklahoma host ceremonial events and powwows across the state. By keeping their traditions alive across generations, Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes guarantee that their heritage remains vibrant and strong for ages to come. Don’t miss the Standing Bear Powwow in Ponca City, held each year in September, and enjoy inter-tribal dancing, exhibition dancing, the traditional Grand Entry by participants in full regalia, and other activities reminiscent of eras past. For more information regarding how Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes are carrying on their historic traditions through the art of the powwow, check out Understanding the Powwow.
For one of the longest-running, historically accurate Wild West shows in the country, head to Pawnee for the annual Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. This sensational recreation of Pawnee Bill’s traveling Western entertainment extravaganza begins in downtown Pawnee with a parade and march to the famous Pawnee Bill Ranch. Originally held in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show featured everything from trick roping and riding, to live cowboy ballads and frontier chariot races. Expect all of this and much more during the last three Saturdays in June, and experience the drama and spectacle of performing cowboys, American Indians and skilled horseback riders firsthand.