By: Haylie Smart | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: September 2023
Pictured with the mural depicting Will Roger’s iconic life are Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club officers and members (left to right) Mikela Campos, Debra West, Linda Coleman, Celeste Tillery, and Monte Ewing. Photo by TG Photography
Traditions are what keep memories alive and that is what the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club does on the first Saturday every November to remember Will Rogers. Some people may not know this, but Rogers was an early member of the club, and because he was the most revered member in the history of the club, IWPC made a proclamation after he died that they would keep his memory alive through an annual celebration around the time of his birthday. Coincidently, this year’s celebration falls on his actual birthday, which is November 4.
“No matter how famous he got, when he came to Claremore, he always had a party with the Pocahontas Club,” Ollie Starr, Director of the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club, said. “And his favorite food was white beans, cornbread, and pie.”
The club honors his favorite food by serving it at their Hats Off to Will event. Unfortunately, cornbread is difficult to keep warm, so fry bread is served in its place. The name of the event comes from Roger’s wife, Betty, who was always seen wearing a hat. “Women individually decorate their hats and then we have a contest for the most unusual hat,” Starr said. “The hat contest is in honor of Betty.” The winner of the contest receives a $50 gift certificate.
Another tradition the club keeps alive is one that Betty started, and that is pacing a basket of fall foliage at the base of Rogers’ statue in the rotunda of the museum. “When she passed away, we picked up that tradition and carried it on,” Debra West, Administrator for IWPC, said. “A lot of what we do is honoring and carrying out traditions.”
The event is always held at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and will begin at 9 a.m. with coffee and pastries. The wreath-laying ceremony will be at 10 a.m. and is then followed by fiddle playing in the auditorium and lunch at noon. A parade in his honor will be held on Will Rogers Blvd. at 3 p.m. Every year the parade has a theme and this year’s theme is movies. Line up at the EXPO is at 1:30 p.m.
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