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Woody Guthrie's family fans gather in Okemah

Crystal Theatre in Okemah, OK, plays host to 13th annual festival honoring singer Woody Guthrie
By Nathan Poppe and Dusty Somers Modified: July 16, 2010 at 7:31 pm •  Published: July 15, 2010

Woody Guthrie told us this land is our land.

Okemah is Woody's territory, from the building-side murals sporting his larger-than-life face to his name etched in sidewalk cement near the 100-year-old Crystal Theatre, where the 13th annual Woody Guthrie Festival kicked off Wednesday.

At the Crystal Theatre, everybody's a Woody fan. On the 98th anniversary of his birthday, his son, Arlo Guthrie, was the festival headliner, playing folk tunes with his son, Abe Guthrie, and his grandsons Krishna Guthrie and Mo Guthrie.

Ramsay Midwood opened for Arlo and said WoodyFest reminds musicians that their profession isn't about the fame or the money.

"It kind of brings everyone back to the reason they started making music," Midwood said.

Arlo Guthrie carries on the legacy of his father by continuing to make music that has a message, Midwood said. Those messages become more important than even the artist.

"It wasn't always about Woody," Midwood said. "He was more shining the spotlight. You looked at him because of where he was looking."

During Midwood's soundcheck, Okemah native Randy Thompson made his rounds throughout the theater, making sure everything was in order before the festival began. Thompson was at the first WoodyFest and he's been a volunteer the past three years. Almost everyone who works at the festival is.

He took a break outside the ticket office, ran his hands through his hair and said he didn't have much to talk about, but like everyone here, he is a fan of Woody Guthrie.

"Everybody comes in and does what they can do," Thompson said.

"That's kind of the idea with Woody Guthrie. The music and everything about him brings everyone together," he said.

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If you go

Woody Guthrie Folk Festival

When: Continues today through


Where: Various venues in Okemah.

What: Musical performances, children's activities, open mike, poetry reading, documentary screening, songwriter workshops and fundraisers.

Admission: Free except for the opening show at 8 p.m. Wednesday, featuring Arlo Guthrie, $30 for general admission, $50 for Gold Circle seating.

Parking: Free for daytime events; $10 per car evenings at the Pastures of Plenty Stage.



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