From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Septemberfest offers free fall fun Saturday at Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion, History Center
For the second year, Gov. Mary Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen will host the family-friendly celebration of Sooner State heritage, history and culture.
While she’s never missed an installment, last year’s event was particularly special since Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen were hosting the free festivities for the first time.
“My husband and I and my children really enjoyed being at Septemberfest last year,” Fallin said. “It was so fun to see Oklahomans from all across the state; many of them had never been to the Governor’s Mansion or on the grounds of the mansion. It was really a great experience to see the young children running through the yard and going from exhibit to exhibit and excited and laughing and just having a great time.”
On Saturday, Fallin and her husband again will host Septemberfest, which 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.
“Of course, the best part about Septemberfest is that it’s free to the public (and) a wonderful way to spend time with your whole family for the young and old alike,” Fallin said in a phone interview this week from the mansion, where preparations for the event have been going on for months.
Farming and cultural traditions
Friends of the Mansion Inc., a nonprofit organization working to restore and preserve the Governor’s Mansion, started Septemberfest in 1997, but Christensen attended the festival for the first time last year.
“We spent the whole day out talking to people, and he read some books to some of the children,” Fallin said. “He grew up on a farm as a young boy and worked on the farm himself, so he was out showing some of the children and adults how to milk a cow, talking to them about some of the displays we had of various tractors and agriculture equipment … so he had a great time.”
The agriculture venue also features hands-on attractions like a rope-making station, barrel-train and carriage rides, and this year, a Fun Tent packed with multi-sensory activities that will replace the hay bale maze, said Septemberfest co-chairman Jim Hasenbeck. The wheat, peanut and dairy commissions typically set up shop and invite visitors to sample tasty treats like cinnamon rolls.
“I just remember as a kid going to my uncle’s farm every year and then as I got older, I started staying there for a week and then two weeks and then during high school, staying the whole summer with them,” Hasenbeck said. “The family farm unfortunately is disappearing … but I think a lot of that feeling is brought to the grounds during the festival.”
“This is like a kids’ bonanza,” he added. “I mean, you’re talking fire trucks and police and you’re talking tractors and we’re gonna have a big combine there.”
Besides the farm exhibits, the 16th annual Septemberfest will offer a sports venue featuring large inflatable play areas and a climbing wall along with a healthy and safety zone along NE 23, where the Oklahoma City police and fire departments and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will showcase their trucks, command centers and special equipment like the bomb squad robot.
For the artistically minded, all three floors of the Governor’s Mansion will be open for tours, chalk artist Bobby Marsee will work all day to create a large-scale masterpiece, and performing artists including the St. Andrew Dung Lac Lion Dance Association, Latin folkloric duo Alegria Real and OKC Improv will entertain the crowds on the cultural stage.
Across the street at the Oklahoma History Center, spinners, weavers and woodcarvers will create folk art before visitors’ eyes, living history interpreters from museum sites across Oklahoma will educate festival-goers, and Ft. Sill will haul in artillery for firing demonstrations.
“This year they’ve got a … new artillery piece, so they’re bringing multiple pieces of artillery. So it should be good,” said Oklahoma History Center education director Jason Harris.
The center will celebrate Saturday the opening of its new exhibit “Enriched,” which showcases artwork created by Oklahoma City Zoo animals, with a special scavenger hunt and themed art activities for children. Plus, film fans can see the sprawling special exhibit “Oklahoma @ the Movies,” which spotlights the Sooner State’s contribution to onscreen entertainment from 1905 to present day.
An estimated 25,000 people attended Septemberfest last year.
“We do offer other free days throughout the year, but this is our biggest event. So this is the chance to see the interpreters and do all the activities and see all the new exhibits,” Harris said. “There is something at Septemberfest for everyone.”
16th Annual Septemberfest
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Governor’s Mansion, 820 NE 23, and Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.
Admission: Free, including free admission to Oklahoma History Center.
Road closing: NE 23 will be closed between the mansion and history center during the event.
Parking: Free and available at the state Capitol and at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department just east of the Mansion. Visitors can enter through the west gate on Phillips Avenue.
Information: 557-0198 or www.okhistorycenter.org.