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Oklahoma Memorial Day weekend festivals feature music, art, cowboys and more

The statewide festivities include the move of the Charlie Christian International Music Festival from Oklahoma City to Lawton.
by Brandy McDonnell Published: May 23, 2014

Oklahoma’s celebration of homegrown electric guitar pioneer Charlie Christian is moving south on the map and ahead on the calendar.

The 29th annual Charlie Christian International Music Festival is moving from Oklahoma City to Lawton, where it started Thursday and continues through Monday during the Memorial Day weekend. The festival formerly was centered around the first weekend of June.

“One of (our goals is) to expose broader audiences to the festival ... and Lawton is the third-largest city in the state. They invited us to come down,” said Anita Arnold, executive director of Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC) Inc., which produces the event. “We have just been overwhelmed with the warmth and the welcome that people have given us in Lawton.”

Dubbed “the first important electric guitarist” by www., Christian was born July 29, 1916, in Bonham, Texas, but grew up in Oklahoma City and became immersed in the Deep Deuce neighborhood’s thriving jazz scene. With his remarkable licks and solos, Christian helped establish the guitar as a lead instrument instead of just part of the rhythm section. He also became one of the pioneers of the bebop style of jazz before his death of tuberculosis on March 2, 1942, at age 25.

In conjunction with the festival, the Battle of the Bands between Oklahoma’s Eldredge Jackson Band and Texas’ Landon Torbett Band is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Lawton City Hall Auditorium, 212 SW 9.

Outdoor concerts are planned for 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday, 3 to 11 p.m. Sunday and 2 to 9:30 p.m. Monday at Fairmont Creamery, 411 SE Larrance Street. The lineup includes Chester Thompson, Lao Tizer, Grady Nichols, Matt Stansberry & The Romance, Brothers Dupree and more.

For more information about the Charlie Christian International Music Fedstival, go to

Also in the state

As usual, venues across Oklahoma are offering a variety of Memorial Day weekend events that will honor the troops, showcase live music, spotlight the arts and generally make the unofficial start of summer a festive affair.

•45th Infantry Division Museum’s Memorial Day Ceremony: The ceremony honoring U.S. service members will include a helicopter flyover, massing of the colors and a distinguished guest speaker. It begins at 10 a.m. Monday at the museum, 2145 NE 36. Admission is free. Information:

•Celebration of Freedom, Hobart: Many festivities are planned Friday through Monday throughout Hobart. The event will include a fly-in, parade, a book signing by retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, free concerts, Kiowa County Quilt Show and more. Information:

•Discover Aviation and Airshow Spectacular, Yukon: Meet career pilots, watch them in action and learn about aviation at this free, family-friendly event Saturday at Sundance Airport, 13000 N Sara Road. Gates open at 9 a.m.; the airshow begins at noon. Information:

•Chuck Wagon Gathering and Children’s Cowboy Festival: The 24th annual event includes outdoor cooking, children’s activities, live western music and more. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63. Information:

•Tulsa Music Festival: Check out the free event presented by to benefit Project Reach of Tulsa, a nonprofit organization providing relief to children, single moms, widows and families in need. The festival starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Guthrie Green, 111 E Brady in the Brady Arts District. The lineup includes the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, We The Ghost, Steve Liddell and more. Information:

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