Azalea Festival Blooms Despite Hazardous Weather

Tuesday, April 3rd 2007, 10:23 am
By: News On 6

After the devastating ice storm in eastern Oklahoma, many people wondered if it would be "bloom or bust" for Muskogee's famous Azalea Festival. Honor Heights Park took a major hit from the ice, but hard work has paid off, and News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports the park and plants are ready for the visitors.

This time of year, there may not be a prettier place in Oklahoma than Honor Heights Park in Muskogee. Twenty thousand azaleas, complimented by dogwoods in bloom, are quite a sight to see. Carolyn Hall brought her daughters and granddaughters.

"It's just beautiful, the flowers, the dogwoods,” said Hall. “You just can't stay away. It's just beautiful."

It's even more impressive knowing what the park looked like a little more than a month ago. It was pummeled by the January ice storm. Ninety percent of the trees had some sort of damage. The park lost 300 of those trees and 2,000 azalea plants.

"It looks a lot better than I thought it would,” said Rodney Faith of Muskogee Parks Department. “When we came in, I thought it was going to be a disaster and a flop. Now that it is cleaned up, they've come out good and it's really a nice deal."

City crews and disaster relief contractors have spent many hours cleaning up debris. Hundreds of new azaleas were planted, and the park is ready for the annual Azalea Festival. Two hundred and fifty thousand people will visit the park during the festival that runs through April.

"Most of the plants are surviving and doing well and are very pretty," said Tulsa resident Wanda Downen.

"They've done a wonderful job of cleaning up, and I can't see any major damage,” said Hall. “It's just beautiful as always."

With debris now cleared away, crews are working on last minute touches for all the visitors. Just one look and it's clear the azaleas are doing their part too.

The Muskogee Azalea parade and chili cookoff takes place April 14th. Our warm weather has led to an early bloom, but park workers hope cooler temperatures in the forecast this week will enable the blooms to last longer.

For the sights and sounds of the Azalea Festival click here

Related story:

2/12/2007 - Climbing Cost Of Ice Storm Cleanup