For Gov. Mary Fallin, Septemberfest is a time to celebrate “everything that makes Oklahoma a great place to live.”
“I look forward every year to, first of all, just having Septemberfest. It's a great family activity for Oklahomans to come to, and it's free. It allows our state to be able to showcase its past, its present, and talk about its future. It's a celebration of our culture and our history,” Fallin said in a phone interview last week. “We think it's a great way to celebrate after school starts and also to move on into the fall season and just have a great time with our Oklahoma families.”
On Saturday, Fallin and first gentleman Wade Christensen will host the 17th annual Septemberfest, a free fall festival that features a wide range of activities at the Governor's Mansion, at the Oklahoma History Center and along NE 23, which will be closed for the event.
An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people from around the state attend the family-friendly event each year.
Farming and fun
Friends of the Mansion Inc., a nonprofit organization working to restore and preserve the Governor's Mansion, started Septemberfest in 1997, and Fallin said she has been to most every one.
“I think the best thing that I get to do, besides seeing all the wonderful people that come, is I love reading books to the children because they're just funny. They'll ask different questions ... and they'll help me read. It's just always fun to see the excitement in the children's eyes when we read books,” she said.
During Septemberfest 2012, her husband read books to youngsters, helped teach cow milking and spearheaded the display of a new combine, which will be back this year.
“Growing up on a farm, Wade loves to get into the agriculture section of Septemberfest and talk to the people that come and certainly the young students that are there about agriculture and farming and ranching and animals,” Fallin said.
The Governor's Mansion will be open for tours, and the grounds will be packed with an array of hands-on activities, including giant inflatable toys, face painting, carriage rides, live music and dance performances, a petting zoo, rock-climbing wall and photo opportunities with the Thunder Girls. In the health and safety zone along NE 23, the Oklahoma City police and fire departments and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will showcase their trucks, command centers and special equipment.
All the attractions are offered free of charge, said longtime Septemberfest co-chairman Jim Hasenbeck.
“A lot of times, it's single moms and dads that can't afford to do a whole lot with their kids, but this is something that they can come and do and it's safe,” he said. “The day of the event, you just start seeing what a family thing it is ... and it's pretty cool.”
The wheat, peanut and dairy commissions typically entice visitors to sample tasty treats like cinnamon rolls. Families are invited to bring picnic lunches or to purchase food from an expanded selection of vendors on Phillips Avenue.