By Craig Day, News On 6
MUSKOGEE, OK -- The Muskogee Azalea Festival is underway all month long with the parade and chili cook-off this weekend.
The azaleas are already putting on their show at Honor Heights Park. Despite the recent cold snap, this year should be one of the best in several years.
Muskogee's Honor Heights Park is one of the prettiest places in Oklahoma. Now is the perfect time to see it.
"I think the plants are really pretty," said Frenchell Wilson, Okmulgee resident.
"Usually you have to go to places like Alabama or Georgia to see this type of color here at this time of year, you know," said David Wayman, Muskogee resident.
The park is full of azaleas. Parks Superintendent Rick Ewing says this year is turning out to be a great year.
"You come and you experience it this week, you come back next week, and it's as though it is a different place," said Rick Ewing, Parks Superintendent.
Ewing admits he was worried about the recent cold snap that brought near record low temperatures, but he says the azaleas fared well and didn't lose any of their color.
"One degree I believe. One degree colder and we would have had another huge loss," said Ewing.
There was a big loss in 2007. An ice storm destroyed more than 200 trees and took out thousands of azalea plants.
Then last year, a late freeze damaged 80% of the blooms, but this year is different.
Altogether, there are 20,000 azalea plants in Honor Heights Park. Many are blooming right now, along with the dogwoods and redbuds. Others will bloom over the next couple of weeks.
Muskogee has planted 2,000 new azalea bushes since the ice storm and they aren't disappointing the more than 200,000 people who will visit Honor Heights Park during the month of April to take in the sights, the sounds and the beauty.
"They are so beautiful," said Wilson.
The Muskogee Azalea Festival parade and chili cook-off are set for Saturday in Muskogee.