Spring Blooms Come Early At Muskogee Azalea Festival

Sunday, April 1st 2012, 5:11 pm
By: Tess Maune

Spring is in full bloom, and so are the azaleas. Because we had such a mild winter, the blossoms are opening up a few weeks early - just in time for Muskogee's Azalea festival.

Shades of pink, red, white and yellow have taken over Honor Heights Park in Muskogee.

"They're beautiful," said Kylee Patterson of the azaleas – the flower the town is known for.

"It's a big deal for Muskogee, it sure is," said Ray Wright. "It put Muskogee on the map, in fact, a few years ago

Ray Wright would know that better than just about anyone around here. He's what some might call an Okie from Muskogee. He's has been growing and selling azaleas in his hometown for 43 years now.

"We've got thousands and thousands of these things," he said.

Each year the Azalea Festival brings thousands of people to Muskogee. April 1 kicks off the month-long festival.

Visitors are already flocking to the park, and they're getting a special treat. 

"They said they were in full bloom early, and we didn't want to miss out this year," Wright said.

The bloom is about two weeks early thanks to the unusually warm weather in March.

"Extremely early bloom, yes," he said. "Normally on the first of April maybe we'll have about 10 percent bloom in the park here."

And while the park looks lush, it has taken a hard hit. About 4,000 azaleas were lost in the heat of summer last year.

"They were going to be replaced before long," said Ray Wright of Muskogee. "We'd hoped to have it done before the festival, but it wasn't possible."

That's not stopping the visitors from snapping some pictures and enjoying this gift from nature.

"It's pretty special, the landscaping along with the flowers are just really gorgeous," one visitor said.

The early bloom will shorten the azalea season, but not before the festival ends at the end of this month.

The festival parade and chili cook-off will be held in two weeks.

Find out more about the Muskogee Azalea Festival.