From the mellowing of the temperatures to the greening of the land, Oklahomans love spring.
I'm talking total adoration, as proven by the unusually cranky attitudes about last week's unseasonably cold weather surrounding the springtime equinox.
Here in the Sooner State, spring means many, many festivals, grand outdoor celebrations that have become as much a part of the season as longer days and budding trees.
In the Oklahoma City metro area, the downtown Festival of the Arts has become a veritable rite of spring, the Norman Music Festival has grown into a seasonal powerhouse, and Norman's Medieval Fair has annually revived jousting tournaments, human chess and minstrels.
Throughout the state, festivals centered on themes ranging from area wildlife and regional cuisine to native plant life and local heritage are planned for the coming weeks. Even better, many events offer free admission.
Here is a sampling of the festivities, and to learn more about Oklahoma's spring festivals, go to www.wimgo.com or www.travelok.com.
Festival of the Arts: For many Oklahomans, it just isn't springtime until the Arts Council of Oklahoma City and its legion of volunteers convert downtown into a sprawling community celebration of the visual, performing and culinary arts. Complete with Strawberries Newport, naturally. Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com. (April 23-28)
Norman Music Festival 6: Retro rock singer-songwriter JD McPherson, who hails from Broken Arrow, and alt-pop/rock band The Joy Formidable, which started in North Wales and is now based in London, are headlining the growing festival, which annually transforms the downtown Arts District into a massive celebration of original music of many genres and the local, regional and national performers creating it. Information: www.normanmusicfestival.com, www.Facebook.com/NormanMusicFestival or Twitter.com/NormanMusicFest. (April 25-27)
Medieval Fair, Norman: Get your chain mail and other period finery ready for the 37th annual fete, which brings arts and crafts, food, games, jousting tournaments, human chess games, costume contests, minstrels, mermaids and more to Reaves Park, 2501 Jenkins. Information: www.medievalfair.org. (April 5-7)
89er Days Celebration, Guthrie: Oklahoma's first capital commemorates the 1889 Land Run that birthed it with a carnival, rodeo, chuck wagon dinner, parade, old-time baseball game, the Stake Your Claim 5k run and more around town. Information: www.89erdays.com. (April 16-21)
Montmartre Chalk Art Festival, Chickasha: Hundreds of imaginative minds of all ages get down at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma every April to create original but temporary works of art on 6-foot-by-6-foot squares of pavement. Information: 574-1303 or http://projects.usao.edu/usao-art/montmartre.html. (Thursday)
El Reno Fried Onion Burger Day Festival: Live music, children's entertainment, a car and motorcycle show and more are annually featured at the event in downtown El Reno. But the primary draw is the 850-pound version of El Reno's famous delicacy that local firefighters cook up every year. Information: www.elrenoburgerday.com. (May 4)
Prague Kolache Festival: If you prefer your festival-focused local fare on the sugary side, it's hard to beat the flaky, fruity tastiness of these Czech pastries. But this festival isn't just about snacking on little sweet breads filled with cherry, apricots and my personal favorite, poppy seeds, it's also a fun salute of the town's Czech heritage. Other activities happening on Main Street and around town include polka music, dancing, a parade, carnival and fireworks. Information: www.praguekolachefestival.com. (May 4)
Tulsa International Mayfest: Downtown Tulsa takes its celebration of arts and music outside with an array of fine arts and crafts, four stages of performing artists and a KidZone. Plus, five indoor galleries will be showcasing a variety of artwork. Information: (918) 582-6435 or www.tulsamayfest.org. (May 16-19)
Italian Festival, McAlester: Southeastern Oklahoma honors its Italian immigrant heritage with two days of arts, crafts, live entertainment, games and, of course, scrumptious food at the Pittsburg County Expo Center. Information: www.themcalesteritalianfestival.org. (May 18-19)
Downtown Edmond Arts Festival: More than 100 artists from around the country will exhibit their wares, ranging from pottery and paintings to jewelry and sculptures, and the 34th annual event will offer a children's area, live music and a cornucopia of festive food. Information: www.downtownedmondok.com. (May 3-5)
May Fair Arts Festival, Norman: The two-day fest features many fine artists and quality craftsmen, plus artist demonstrations, live entertainment, children's art activities, a student art show and Art & Sole 5K in Andrews Park, 201 W Daws St. Information: www.norman.assistanceleague.org. (May 4-5)
Bare Bones International Independent Film and Music Festival, Muskogee: Founded in 1999, Bare Bones has been named one of the top 25 indie film festivals in the country by MovieMaker magazine. Taking place at various venues in Muskogee, the fest annually screens more than 150 entries, including features, short films, documentaries, music videos, comedies, dramas, sci-fi/horror films and thrillers. The grassroots event also includes live screenplay readings, filmmaker panels and an awards ceremony. Information: www.barebonesfilmfestivals.org. (Thursday-April 14)
Bixby BBQ 'n Music Festival: Billed as the largest barbecue competition in the state, the two-day event is part of the Kansas City Barbeque Society's Great American BBQ Tour. Live music and children's activities are on the menu, but naturally, the food is the main attraction at Washington Irving Park, 137th and S Memorial. On the second day, festivalgoers can buy a People's Choice Award taster kit that will let them sample a select number of the teams' offerings and help pick a winner. Information: www.bixbyrotarybbq.com. (May 3-4)
Azalea Festival, Muskogee: Thousands of people flock to Honor Heights Park each year to enjoy the 30,000 blooming azaleas, as well as dogwoods, redbuds and other blooming plants. The festival also features paddleboats, carriage rides and more. Information: (918) 684-6302 or www.muskogeechamber.org. (Monday-April 30)
Brickfest, Pauls Valley: The festivities include the Field's Pie Eating Contest, Valley Rally Bike Tour, Toy & Action Figure Museum's Star Wars Weekend and, of course, the famous brick toss competition in downtown and at the Santa Fe Depot. Information: (405) 238-2555 or www.mainstreetpaulsvalley.com. (May 3-4)
Rose Rock Music Festival, Noble: Commemorating the town's designation as the “Rose Rock Capital of the World,” the annual downtown event will feature live music, car show, poker run, disc golf tournament and more. Information: www.nobleok.org. (May 3-5)
Cimarron Territorial Celebration and World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest, Beaver: Remembering the pioneers of the Oklahoma Panhandle, the festival includes a carnival, craft show, chili cook-off, car races, golf bash, old-fashioned church services, horseshoe throwing, a parade, children's events and the cow chip throwing competition at and around the Beaver County Fairgrounds, 1133 Douglas. Information: www.beavercountychamberofcommerce.com. (April 13-21)
Yukon's Festival of the Child: Yukon celebrates youth with an array of activities, including storytelling, pony rides, kayaking, crafts and more at Yukon City Park and Yukon Community Center, 2200 S Holly Ave. The activities are aimed at children ages 12 and younger. Information: www.cityofyukonok.gov. (May 4)
Claremore's Lilac Festival: Festivalgoers can buy and plant a lilac bush in honor of Claremore-born writer Lynn Riggs, who penned the play “Green Grow the Lilacs,” which was adapted into the musical “Oklahoma!” Children's activities, live entertainment, a wiener dog race and a car show also are on the lineup for the downtown event. Information: http://visitclaremore.com. (May 4)
Waynoka Rattlesnake Round-Up: Sponsored by the Waynoka Saddle Club, the downtown event, which dates back to the 1940s, features a carnival, ham and bean supper and, of course, the main attraction: the Snake Pit. Information: www.waynokasnakehunt.com. (April 5-7)