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Former President Bush to speak in Woodward

The Associated Press Modified: May 6, 2009 at 10:05 pm •  Published: May 6, 2009
Former President George W. Bush will celebrate his first Fourth of July since leaving office with a speech at a northwestern Oklahoma festival.

The Woodward Tourism and Convention Bureau announced Wednesday that Bush would speak at the dedication of Crystal Beach Park during the "Let Freedom Ring 2009" celebration. The park has undergone major renovations for its 80th anniversary.

"He's going to be here on the Fourth and going to give a speech to the crowd," Landon Laubhan, the concert promoter who arranged for Bush's appearance, told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday night.

Laubhan wants it to be a nonpolitical event where Bush can enjoy the holiday and "nothing more."

The two-day celebration beginning July 3 is also to include concerts from country artists including Asleep at the Wheel, Sawyer Brown, Marty Stuart and Tanya Tucker.

The Woodward News first reported Bush's planned visit Wednesday, and the tourism bureau's executive director, Jim Curtiss, confirmed it later in the day. An official announcement is planned Monday.

Laubhan, who is from Freedom in northwestern Oklahoma, said he noticed a void in Fourth of July celebrations in Woodward in recent years and decided to try to put something together.

"It's just been one of those things that nobody has really stuck their neck out there and taken a chance," Laubhan said.

Laubhan started out by contacting country artists he'd already worked with and "it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger." He said he felt a little bit stupid when he asked if the former president, who now lives in Dallas, was already booked on Independence Day, but he ended up pleasantly surprised.

He was taken aback when the Washington Speakers' Bureau called to let him know Bush had agreed to attend.

"I was just, 'You're kidding me.' ...

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