National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Chuck Wagon Festival offers a trip back in time 

click to enlarge Chuck Wagon festival features food, re-enactments, exhibits and children’s activities. (National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum / provided)
  • National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum / provided
  • Chuck Wagon festival features food, re-enactments, exhibits and children’s activities.

Over the past few decades, Oklahoma City has built up its reputation as a thriving metropolis with all the amenities any other big city has to offer. This Memorial Day weekend, however, visitors to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63rd St., will step back to the Old West via the 27th annual Chuck Wagon Festival. Held 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 27-28 on museum grounds and in its galleries, the festival allows visitors to experience what life was like in the Sooner State over a century ago, complete with historical re-enactors and authentic chuckwagon-style food.

“They can expect a lot of fun, a lot of food and a lot of excitement,” said Gretchen Jeane, museum director of education.

The festival began as a way to educate the public about and help carry on the centuries-old Western lifestyle and is now a fun-filled event for kids and adults alike. The event has steadily grown over the years; last year, it welcomed about 5,500 guests, some of whom already live the Western lifestyle and others who knew very little about it.

“There are folks who are accustomed to the Western lifestyle — it’s what they live and breathe — but there are a lot of families that we’re their first taste of it,” Jeane said.

One year, museum staff taught a group of schoolchildren what s’mores were because they’d never had them.

“If you weren’t raised on a farm or a ranch and you were born in the city, it’s not something that you know,” Jeane said. “You may get your ideas from TV.”

Visitors can sample the types of food, including rice pudding and biscuits and gravy, that would have been served from a chuckwagon a century ago. The museum grill will also be open and offer foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs for anyone who prefers something other than chuckwagon fare.

The family-friendly festival gives guests an immersive experience into the Western lifestyle, where they can listen to music from musical acts from the Rodeo Opry before taking in an old-time “medicine show” act from traveling salesman Dr. H.P Hedgethicket III, Esq., “Miracle Worker Extraordinaire” or watching a presentation from one of several artisans. They can also try their hand at rope-making with the Ward Family Trick Ropers, leather stamping with the Chisholm Trail Leather Guild, archery and making butter. There’s also a petting zoo and a presentation by sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her husband Frank Butler, by way of expert re-enactors. The event is made even more interactive with dress-up areas, giant puzzles, children’s craft areas and even photo ops with a longhorn steer.

While the museum wants to preserve and promote the Western lifestyle, the festival is also a way to attract new guests and encourage them to check out what the museum has to offer, including its many galleries and collections.

“It’s a way to draw them in,” Jeane said. “If they’re coming to taste the food and do the children’s activities, then hopefully they will wander down and check out the gallery space, the fine art that we have, the Indian cultural items that we have.”

Admission is $15 per person at the door and free for museum members and children age 12 and under. Admission is $10 per person for families of Last Frontier Council Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.

Visit nationalcowboymuseum.org.

print headline: Wagons West, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Chuck Wagon Festival offers a trip back in time.

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