By: Tom Fink | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: November 2019
Will Rogers Museum Executive Director Tad Jones.
This December, the ghost of Christmas past will be paying a visit to Oologah for the annual Will’s Country Christmas celebration.
Named in honor of Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will’s Country Christmas is an annual holiday celebration which harkens back to simpler times, giving the young and the young at heart alike the chance to see how the Rogers family might have celebrated the festive Christmas season.
“We’re now in our fifth year, and this (event) has really grown since we first started in 2014,” said Tad Jones, executive director, Will Rogers Memorial Museum. “The first couple of years were a little slow but okay, and after word-of-mouth started getting out, it began to grow, and last year, attendance reached about 1,500 -- we’re hoping for a good turnout again this year. We’re keeping a lot of the things that the crowds have enjoyed so much in the past, so it will give people the chance to come out and enjoy the season ‘Will Rogers’-style.”
The impetus for the event came years ago, when Jones learned of the sale of Dry Gulch, and with it, the possible end of the Christmas train. Jones and staff decided to do their own variation of a Dry Gulch Christmas celebration in Oologah, and thus, Will’s Country Christmas was born.
Christmas decorations done Western style will be the theme of the evenings in Oologah at Will’s Country Christmas.
“We’re going to be bringing back the Wild West Hayride, which will be $5 for people 15 and older – that’s the only fee people will have to pay, other than for food, as there will be food trucks and vendors on-site in case people want to get something to eat,” Jones said. “Admission is free, and we’ll have a train ride for the kids, carriage rides, camel and pony rides, 19th century games, crafts for the kids inside the barn, storytelling on the back porch, and pictures with Santa Claus in the Birthplace Ranch, also free.”
Making their comeback to the Birthplace Ranch will be the Wild West reenactors, the Tri-State Gunfighters, who will be staging a “Christmas-themed” shootout.
“This is definitely a family-friendly event – even the ‘shootout’ is appropriate for children of all ages,” he said. “When we created this, we wanted it to be centered around kids – to give them the chance to get out for a couple of hours with their siblings and parents or guardians, and have a fun, safe time before and to celebrate the Christmas season in a simple, 19th century type of atmosphere.”
Although the event now has a strong following, such wasn’t the case at the beginning.
“When we first started, we weren’t sure what people might want to do – we knew we couldn’t recreate everything that Dry Gulch had – obviously, whatever we did would have to be a much smaller version, but we started small, and it’s slowly grown over the years, found its niche, and become a favorite of people from around the area and the state,” he said. “This year, we’re hoping for good weather, and that all the families who have come out in the past will come back to see us again this year and bring their friends and other members of the family to make new, lasting Christmas memories.”
Will’s Country Christmas will be held Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Birthplace Ranch in Oologah, 9501 E. 380 Road. Festivities will be 5-9 p.m. each evening.
For more information, contact the Will Rogers Memorial Museum at 918-341-0719 or visit online at www.willrogers.com.
Making his return trip from the North Pole, Santa Claus will be on-hand this December at the Birthplace Ranch in Oologah for free photos during Will’s Country Christmas.
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