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Muskogee Azalea Festival gets underway

Updated:
Flower power hit Muskogee Saturday for the 40th annual Azalea Festival. They throw in a little food too with a barbecue and chili cookoff.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg takes a look at the beautiful blooms.

The hills are alive with azaleas at Honor Heights Park in Muskogee.

"We were afraid that the winter with its dryness and its heat that we were going to have a really unusual bloom this year, but surprisingly, they're coming through beautifully."
Parks Superintendent Rick Ewing says they did have a few casualties, about 500 of the plants died during the winter but they still have a "few" left.

"Probably the best guesstimate at this point would be about 400,000."

So there's obviously a lot to enjoy as you take a stroll through the park. Some people might even like to try their hand at growing their own.

Bill Knight: "They're hardy plants, and a lot of people are afraid of 'em... and it's simply... those pamphlets I've been handing out, it tells you exactly step-by-step location, soil condtion, fertilizing, weed-control."

Hard to believe this all started in the 1950's with just a dozen or so plants. In fact Ewing says there are still a few of them here and there that if they aren't the originals they are close to it. "Originally they were told you can't grow azaleas this far west, but lo and behold we could, we could, you just have to treat them right."

The colors of the azaleas are phenomenal but fleeting.

Rick Ewing: "They don't bloom for very long, if the weather cooperates and it stays in the 60's and maybe low 70's, you're gonna get a couple of weeks out of them."

There are 600 different species of azaleas here, big and small but Ewing says it's hard to pick a favorite. Take some time to enjoy them all.
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