Just after Thanksgiving, I received a text message from the Pawhuska (OK) Chamber of Commerce that said, “Kind of kidding, but if you Steve want to be in Pawhuska the first weekend in December, I have two judging spots left for the parade. We just miss you all!”
It had been several weeks since we’d taken our moms there for a visit and truth be told, we missed Pawhuska, too. I quickly answered the text with, “Sign us up!.”
Each Christmas, we usually plan a short family getaway to see something new and celebrate the season. We’ve gone to Christian music concerts, sought out Christmas light displays, and last year saw Mannheim Steamroller live for the first time. So, it was very exciting to add something new to our list of Christmas adventures and we’d heard so many good things about Pawhuska’s annual holiday lights parade.
All ready to judge the parade!
Our daughter, Meghan, was able to come with us and we enjoyed the time to reconnect on the 6-hour car ride from our home in Nebraska to the Oklahoma border. We got to town Saturday afternoon with just enough time to check into our room at the Historic Whiting Bed & Bath in downtown Pawhuska and stop by a few of the shops there, including the Tallgrass Art Gallery, Osage Outfitters, and LOREC Ranch Home Furnishings.
It was Ladies’ Night at Osage Outfitters.
The Holiday Lights Parade began just after sundown and it was AMAZING! Cody and Lauren Garnett (owners of the World Famous Buckin’ Flamingo) were the parade emcees and they did a fantastic job introducing each entry and entertaining the crowd with what Steve likes to call “hilarious dad jokes.”
Lauren Garnett, Reba Bueno, and Cody Garnett prepare to host the parade. We knew Reba was multi-talented, but we didn’t know she was a “gansta wrapper.”
I took pictures and shot video of the parade while Steve and Meg judged the more than 30 entries, each covered in lights and exemplifying the theme of this year’s parade, The Nutcracker.
Christmas Parade of Lights.
It was fun to share our parade experience “Live” on Facebook.
There were parade entries from businesses, non-profits, and even families who all just love celebrating the season and having a good time.
Christmas Parade of Lights.
We had a late supper at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and enjoyed doing a little Christmas shopping during the extended holiday hours that evening.
One of many trees at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska.
This pair of cowboy boots was another of the cute ornaments at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
The Mercantile was beautifully decorated for Christmas, with several well-adorned Christmas trees, each with a different theme. There was one with food and cooking-related ornaments. The mini cinnamon rolls and KitchenAid mixer were a favs of mine.
These cinnamon roll ornaments at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile look good enough to eat.
Another tree had a cowboy/ranch theme and had ornaments with things like cowboy boots, horses, dogs, barns, and John Deere tractors.
This cowboy Santa looked great on the ranch-themed Christmas tree at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile
These cute pups at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile are a perfect Christmas gift for any dog lover.
When we left The Mercantile, there were still a few shoppers in the streets and looking back at the strings of lights draping from building to building and hearing Christmas music played over a loud speaker downtown, we all felt like we were in the middle of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. I just love Christmas. I love my family. Pass the Kleenex, please.
Meghan stands on Kihekah Ave. after the parade.
The next day, we ventured outside and found a few local store owners working in their shops. We had a nice visit with the owner of Hair Razors and then spent quite a bit of time talking to the owners of the Book Burrow. The (mostly) used book store is a great addition to downtown Pawhuska and they had so many interesting books on the shelves, along with some antiques and other household items.
The Book Burrow in Pawhuska has a huge selection of used books including these children’s books.
Of course, when in Pawhuska, you MUST stop at Handy’s, so we made our way over to our favorite convenience store to grab a cup of the best soda fountain pop in all of Oklahoma. We loved catching up with one of the owners, Martha, who was excited to tell us that our blog post about Handy’s a few months ago has helped business. She said several groups of people have even come in for a pop, saying they came to Pawhuska just to try the pop!
It was nice to have a chance to catch up with Martha at Handy’s.
We spent the afternoon touring the area, as there was still so much we had not seen on previous trips. We drove out to Grayhorse Cemetery and paid our respects to those buried there, many of whom we’d recently read about in the book, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. It is an eye-opening and riveting book, if you haven’t read it. I highly recommend.
We also visited the Shrine of Kateri, the Veteran’s Memorial, and had lunch at Buffalo Joe’s. Later in the day, we attended a worship service with a new church in town and then drove about 20 miles to Woolaroc for the Wonderland of Lights display.
The Woolaroc Museum was beautifully decorated for Christmas.
The grounds and buildings there were covered in 750,000 lights and it was an absolutely spectacular sight. We enjoyed time in the museum and seeing Frank Phillips’ lodge all decorated for Christmas.
Woolaroc has many incredible pieces of art.
The next morning, we indulged in breakfast back at The Mercantile. It’s my favorite meal of the day and The Mercantile is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to eat it. Steve got the pancake breakfast this time. He says he thinks they are served with three big scoops of flavored butter to hold them down, as they are so light and fluffy, they might just float away without it.
The pancake breakfast at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
I love the farmer’s breakfast which includes eggs, tomatoes, breakfast potatoes, ham, bacon, freshly made sage sausage, and the most amazing, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuit … my mouth is watering just typing this … that I’ve ever had. Oh, and it comes with blackberry jam. Needless to say, I can’t eat the whole thing, but it is nice to try a little bit of everything and there is no need for lunch.
After breakfast, we walked upstairs to the bakery and checked out the cutest gingerbread Mercantile made by the bakers there. It was adorable! It was all edible, with the exception of a tiny string of lights and even included mini Ree and Ladd Drummond characters on a balcony. (We’re told The Mercantile will be adding a similar balcony to the building early next year.)
This gingerbread model of the Mercantile is full of beautiful detail, including a preview of the soon-to-be constructed balcony that will overlook Main St.
We took one more quick stroll through The Mercantile and picked up just a couple more gifts (who can resist the World’s Best Plastic Wrap & Dispenser) and headed down the street to visit a few more businesses.
This plastic wrap dispenser at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile really is the world’s best.
We were so delighted to finally meet, in person, the Trumbly family who own and operate Clifton’s Gift Shop just around the corner from The Mercantile.
We were honored to be given this blanket by Mr. and Mrs. Trumbly of Clifton’s.
We’d spoken with Teresa on the phone and were just honored to spend time with her and her family, hearing about the history of Pawhuska and learning about the Osage Nation. We spent more than an hour visiting and then, Mr. and Mrs. Trumbly presented us a with a generous gift – a beautiful Pendleton blanket. We were so touched by the gift and are honored to display it in our home.
They were also so kind to set up an impromptu meeting for us with Osage Nation Chief Jeffrey M. Standing Bear. After one last stop at the Waterbird Art Gallery, we filled up our drinks at Handy’s and headed home.
Until next time, Pawhuska, thanks for your genuine hospitality.
Have you been to Pawhuska’s Holiday Lights Parade? Tell us about it. We’d love to hear from you.
The first time we visited Pawhuska, Oklahoma, we went directly to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile to taste Ree Drummond’s frontier cooking for ourselves. We spent a day and a half in Pawhuska sipping coffee and eating cinnamon rolls upstairs in the bakery, shopping for kitchen supplies in the general store, and savoring every last bite of the most delicious chicken fried steak we’ve ever had.Since then, we’ve returned to Pawhuska several times and quickly learned for ourselves there is so much more to see and do there. Pawhuska has rich history, incredible art, unique shopping, and some of the most genuine hospitality we’ve come across in all our travels. Bottom line — if you come to Pawhuska and leave without dust on your car, you’ve missed out! Admittedly, this does not include everything, but here is our growing list of 70+ things to do in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, after you’ve eaten at The Mercantile. (Along with pictures of Steve doing many of them.)
1. Pour a pop at Handy’s
Handy’s is a convenience store that doesn’t sell gas or have a public restroom. Stop there anyway! What they do have is the best fountain pop in Pawhuska (that’s what the sign out front says) thanks to three choices of ice — cubed, pellet, or shaved and another little secret you can read about HERE. While you’re there, be sure to pick up an “I got a pop at Handy’s in Pawhuska, OK” postcard.
This dark and bubbly pop with that good pellet ice is just waiting to provide cool refreshment to any customer who comes through the door.
2. Take a tour with Roaming the Osage
Every first visit to Pawhuska should begin with a guided tour byRoaming the Osage Historic/Scenic Tours. Casey and his crew deliver a fantastic 90-minute overview of the community and its history while you sit back and relax in a comfortable Mercedes sprinter van with a retractable roof.
The Roaming the Osage tour is a great way to see the area.
You’ll tour the town, learn the history of the Osage, visit the Tallgrass Prairie preserve and drive by the now-familiar entrance to the Drummond Ranch. They also offer a tour to the Lodge on the days it’s open to the public. Call Casey at (918) 440-5312 to book a tour before you come or just stop by 429 E. Main to see if they have open seats.
3. Follow the mooing yellow truck to the Buckin’ Flamingo
Trust us on this one, if you see a yellow truck with a conestoga wagon cover pulling a trailer with a saddled pink flamingo in the back, follow it to the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo — it is a must-see! What started out as a pawn shop/bail bonds business has grown into a retail store just down Main Street from the Merc that specializes in metal yard art, decor, unique items, as well as vintage and retro pieces. The store has lots of cool stuff to take home or give as gifts.
Meghan and friends Kelsea and Kennedy stand with the well-known truck and trailer the Garnetts use to advertise their business.
We loved walking around the store, looking at all of the different pieces and seeing how they were displayed (yard ornaments stuck in sand in a canoe, for instance). Everyone who works there is super nice and interesting. If nothing else, just making their acquaintances is worth the stop.
4. Get your bling on at Salt Creek
Located in the heart of downtown on Kihekah Avenue, Salt Creek (look for the “SC” in the window) offers the latest in high fashion including Kendra Scott jewelry like what Ree wore on her People magazine cover.
Salt Creek offers Kendra Scott jewelry, women’s clothing, and gift items.
You can also shop their selection of women’s clothing as well as cute gift items like locally hand-embroidered tea towels and bath bombs.
5. Buy the best plastic wrap dispenser on earth
Have you ever tried to tear off plastic wrap only to have it stick to itself and not behave making you want to cuss a blue streak? At thePioneer Woman Mercantile, you can get the best plastic wrap dispenser ever made.
Love this plastic wrap dispenser from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
We’ve bought the plastic wrap dispenser as well as the parchment paper dispenser and love them both. They also make a great gift idea for that difficult-to-shop-for person and are reasonably priced at $12.
6. Swing on the bridge
Be adventurous and try the swinging bridge! A favorite attraction of locals for years, the swinging bridge crosses Bird Creek just four blocks south of the Mercantile. Once the only way to get from one side of town to the other, the swinging bridge has been a favorite of visitors, and crossing it is a rite of passage, so to speak.
Steve walks across the swinging bridge. Don’t worry, it’s only a little more terrifying than it looks.
The signs at the ends of the bridge tell you not to jump up and down, though locals will later ask you if you did.
7. Stand in awe of stained glass at Immaculate Conception Church
We have been to Europe and have toured some of the most famous and impressive cathedrals in the world. None have stained glass windows quite like those at theImmaculate Conception Church in Pawhuska. The most famous window shows Father Shoenmaker bringing Catholicism to the Osage people.
The Osage Window at the Immaculate Conception church is not to be missed.
To even be created, the window required special dispensation from the Pope because it depicts people who were alive at the time it was made. More impressive than that, though, is the 3D effect you see when you look at the windows up close. You can make your visit Tuesday-Friday from 10am to 3pm. The door on the north side at the top of the ramp is typically open and a volunteer guide can show you around and answer questions.
8. Indulge in Indian Tacos
Every year on the first Saturday in October, dozens of home and professional cooks compete for fry bread bragging rights at theNational Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska.
One of the many homemade Indian Tacos we sampled at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Throughout the day, downtown is chock-full of Indian Taco stands, craft and retail vendors, as well as games for kids, and entertainment. They also have Powwow dance competitions for all ages. If you go, be sure to pace yourself and wear stretchy pants. You can read about our experience judging the competition in 2017 HERE.
9. Learn about the Osage Nation
Start your study of the Osage Nation with a visit to theOsage Nation Museum. The oldest tribally owned museum in the country, it offers free admission (but free will donations are accepted). Wah-zha-zhi Spirit: A Celebration of Osage History and Culture is a permanent exhibit there. It showcases themes including but not limited to pre-history, government, warfare and traditional arts. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.
The Osage Nation Museum shares a great deal of history of the Osage Nation.
10. Try something on at Osage Outfitters
If you are looking for a unique pair of custom made cowboy boots or a cowboy hat that fits just right (yes, they steam and shape the hats right in the store at the hat bar), look no further than Osage Outfitters. Owners Joey and Callie have created an amazing store just a stone’s throw away from the Mercantile on Kihekah. Osage Outfitters carries dozens of quality boots for men, women and children, all made from the finest ethically sourced animal skins, including ostrich, hippo, and alligator. They also have some of the highest end western fashion in the area. If you see saddles on the sidewalk, you’re at the right place. Joey told us this was his first “inside” job, so he has a good understanding of what type of clothing real cowboys and ranch hands need and want. He said his wife Callie has great style and by browsing through the racks of modern and fashionable women’s apparel, we think he’s right. We loved this store, the owners’ hospitality, and the boots … oh, those boots.
The boots at Osage Outfitters are some of the best you can find.
11. Salute the start of Boy Scouts
Outside theOsage County Historical Society Museum sits a bronze statue of a few boy scouts with their scout master. Pawhuska claims it was the place where the first Boy Scout troop in the United States was organized in 1909. The museum also has displays and information on the history of Osage County.
The Osage County Historical Society museum is a great place to learn some of the history of the area.
12. Savor a skillet at El Vallarta’s
If you like Mexican food, you’ll loveEl Vallarta’s. Their lunch specials are delicious and are delivered to the table quickly. We especially enjoyed the grilled chicken and rice skillet (splurge and get it topped with queso) and the fried beef burrito. You can’t beat the prices. Our lunch for two, which included chips and drinks, was under $20.
Ann loved the chicken skillet from El Vallarta’s.
13. Search for bronze sculptures
Pawhuska is a city where the arts are important, and a quick look around town proves it. Throughout the town you’ll find number of bronze statues and sculptures, including several by famed sculptor John D. Free and his son John. See if you can find at least five of them.
One of the public bronzes by John D. Free in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
14. See a show at Constantine Theater
The historic (and allegedly haunted)Constantine Theater in downtown Pawhuska is the second oldest performing arts center in Oklahoma. Originally a hotel, the building was converted into an opera house in 1911 and remained a theater until it closed in 1970. In 1987, a group of concerned citizens got together and restored the building, reopening it as a performing arts venue. Check the schedule and catch a show!
15. Furnish your home at Lorec Ranch
LOREC Ranch Home Furnishings is a home decorating store just down the sidewalk from the PW Mercantile on Kihekah Avenue. Inside, you’ll find creative decor with a western bent, much like what you’ll see inside the Merc. This makes sense, because the LOREC Ranch provided many of the furnishings found there, including the couch and tables upstairs near the bakery. We loved the dyed cowhide placemats and huge dining room table and chairs. There are also lots of other small treasures hidden around the store like branding irons for your steak. Friendly staff, like manager Gay Kincaid, also make every visit a special one.
A great selection of western furniture and accessories is available at the LOREC Ranch.
16. Hunt for rocks
Pawhuska is home to an ongoing game among locals that includes the hiding and finding of painted rocks. When you’re in town, keep your eyes peeled for brightly painted rocks.
This is the rock we left in Pawhuska. Can you find it?
According to the rules listed in the Pawhuska Rocks Facebook Group, if you find a rock you like, you may keep it, but you have to replace it with another rock of your creation. Alternatively, you may just re-hide the rock. Either way, though, you’re asked to take a picture and post it to the group so the rock’s creator gets to see where it is. When we were in town, we hid a Postcard Jar rock … so keep your eyes open!
17. Throw a disc at Taylor Ranch
With two of the top ten disc golf courses in the United States and three overall, Pawhuska is quite the destination for disc golf enthusiasts as well as those new to the game. The city maintains a public disc golf course in Williams park, but the real action takes place a few miles south of town atThe Lodge at Taylor Ranch.
This hole at the Taylor Ranch requires players to clear a water hazard.
There they have two championship courses (a round costs $5) including one hole on which players must clear a water hazard. Taylor Ranch also offers everything from Zumba classes to homemade apple butter and they even have a cabin for rental on Airbnb that is down by the water.
In addition to a disc golf course, Williams Park in Pawhuska has playground equipment for the kids to enjoy.
18. Take a picture by a mural
As we’ve said before, Pawhuska is home to lots of public art including several murals. Take a moment to search them out and snap a photo like this one by the Osage Language building near Matthews and Main.
This mural is on the side of the Osage Language Building.
19. View the vista from Lookout Mountain
Head out of Pawhuska a few miles on Okesa Road and when you come to a fork in the road, keep to the right. You’ll immediately see a gravel road heading up a loooong hill. Drive up that road and you’ll be on the top of Lookout Mountain. There, you’ll find the memorial and gravesite for Chief Fred Lookout and his wife, Julia. Take a moment and pay your respects. You’ll also find an incredible, 360-degree panoramic view of Pawhuska, Bird Creek Valley, and Osage County. This view is definitely worth the trip.
The view from Lookout Mountain is incredible. In this photo, you can see Pawhuska in the distance.
20. Caffeinate with a Cowboy Coffee
There’s no better way to start to the day than with a Cowboy Coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. While The Merc may be best known for its food, don’t overlook the coffee. The Mercantile offers two world-class coffee bars with beans sourced and roasted exclusively for the store through a partnership with Topeca Roastery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ann loves the Cowboy Coffee at the Merc.
Ann loves starting the day with the Cowboy Coffee, served “shot in the dark” style, infused with Sarsaparilla and topped with frothed milk. The Spicy Cowgirl has a hint of cayenne and is also a treat. The best part is that both the coffee beans and the flavorings are for sale at The Mercantile so you can also try your barista skills at home.
21. Launch a rocket
Every September, Pawhuska plays host to the theHigh Frontier Amateur Rocket Launch. Hundreds of hobby rocket enthusiasts gather at the Pawhuska airport to launch more than 300 rockets over two days’ time. Some are small rockets built by kids. Others are large rockets made of fiberglass that can reach altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet! Sounds to us like a high-flying event that shouldn’t be missed.
22. Scale the stairs to the Osage County Courthouse
Need to burn off a few extra calories from that indulgence in queso dip at The Mercantile? Run some steps. There are two long sets of steps in downtown Pawhuska. If you start near the China Cafe, 129 steps will take you to the top of the hill where the courthouse sits. While you’re up there, take in the commanding view of downtown Pawhuska and surrounding area, catch your breath, and remember the 129 steps are much easier heading down. You’ll burn about a calorie and a half for every 10 steps you climb.
Steps to the courthouse in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
23. Compliment your cottage
The Prairie Cottage is a fun decor boutique located on Main St. just a block or so from the Merc. The folks there have traveled far and wide to bring unique items back to town, but they also have a selection of Pawhuska items in case you’re hunting for a souvenir to take home with you.
Home decor items at the Prairie Cottage.
24. Appreciate the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
At 39,650 acres, theTallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of native tallgrass prairie on earth. With about 2,500 free-ranging bison, any visitor to the preserve has a good chance of spotting one or more of these majestic creatures. If you do, please remember the three rules for bison viewing the prairie’s conservancy has: 1. Stay in your car. 2. Stay in your car. 3. Stay in your car. In addition to being incredibly beautiful animals, bison are speedy, large, powerful and a little unpredictable. No human on earth can outrun them. Follow the rules.
Steve enjoys the fresh air and scenery at the Tallgrass Prairie.
25. Relax at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House
There’s no doubt in our minds The Pioneer Woman Boarding House is going to be a destination in and of itself for people visiting Pawhuska to escape, relax, and unwind. Not only are the rooms and amenities some of the best we’ve seen in all our travels, the people who work there are committed to one thing – making people happy. Read about our tour of the Boarding House HERE.
Each room at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House has luxurious bedding, an accent blanket, and a stuffed animal from The Mercantile.
26. Pamper yourself at a local salon
Take time out to get pampered at a local salon/spa. Pawhuska has a number of places to go includingAmbition Salon & Country Road Boutique, Hair Razors, and Thairapy. Whether you just need your hair styled or want to go home with a brand new cut and color, these salons offer it all. Some even offer mani/pedi services that can make your day of pampering complete.
Everyone needs a spa day. Thanks, Ambition Salon, for making Steve look so good!
27. Notice the architecture
Pawhuska’s unique history and its ties to oil and the money it brings mean that there are many beautiful, stately homes in town. Take a drive and admire the historic mansions that line the streets. Then, head downtown to see the triangle building and other historic structures, noting the decorative brickwork near the tops of the buildings. Built in 1914, the courthouse at the top of the hill is also worth a visit.
The newly-renovated Triangle building with its lights on for the first time in decades. This picture was taken in July 2018, right before the grand opening of the Frontier Hotel.
28. Sidle up to the Pig Stand
T-Bone’s Pig Stand is really just a food trailer on the west side of town with an awning over it. Apparently, the original building burned down years ago and they brought the trailer in as a temporary fix. After working in it, the owner liked it so decided to make it permanent and put the awning up.
The chopped pork sandwich made for a great lunch one day.
Don’t let the facade fool you, the food is great. Steve had the chopped pork sandwich with fresh cut fries and Ann loved her burger that was greasy in all the right ways. Locals also tell us you need to get there early if you want to enjoy the fish fry on Fridays.
29. Get your dawgs up
Pawhuska has quite a lively sports scene for a town its size and there is a great deal of local pride in their teams. While in town you should check out theschool’s activities calendar and head to an event. With football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and more, there has to be something to pique your interest. While there cheering for the Huskies, don’t forget to get your dawgs up! A local will be glad to explain how.
Check out a high school game while you’re in Pawhuska. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself witness to the pageantry and tradition of a small town’s homecoming.
30. Book a room at The Grandview Bed & Breakfast
Back in 1923, TheGrandview Inn Bed & Breakfast was a private residence owned by Drummond family. We learned that Ladd and Ree Drummond also lived here when their girls were young and in 2004, the home was purchased by historical home preserver, Charlotte Rhineheart. She replaced windows, updated central heating and air, refinished the beautiful wood floors and gave the interior a new design.
The stately Grandview Inn was home to the Drummond family for years.
In 2012, the property was purchased by Steven and Tiffany Poe, who have made their home in Pawhuska and become innkeepers of this gorgeous and stately bed and breakfast. Simple and wholesome breakfasts are served daily in the dining room and are complimentary with each night’s stay.
31. Play the piano
We noticed several upright pianos near business fronts in Pawhuska and asked about their significance. One local business owner told us it was just a way to bring something arts and craftsy to downtown and business owners were encouraged to create their own unique piano display for passersby. See how many you can spot (and play) in Pawhuska.
32. Visit the Drummond Lodge
As you may or may not be aware, the Drummonds have opened up for tours the Lodge where The Pioneer Woman shows are often filmed. Check the Pioneer Woman Mercantile website for open dates and details. Visitors can explore the Lodge on self-guided tours where you’ll get an inside look at the pantry, cozy guest rooms, and the two-sided fireplace with a boot-lined mantle.
It’s so fun to pretend that you’re helping Ree cook!
Be sure to take your camera or camera phone, as pictures are not only allowed, but encouraged. You’ll want to be sure to snap a shot of the women and girls (and a few brave men) playing kitchen in Ree’s beautifully designed space. You can read all about our first visit to the LodgeHERE.
33. Check out a book at the Pawhuska City Library
Pawhuska has a wonderful public library that is open every day but Sunday. Check outtheir website for their exact hours. Anyone is welcome to come in out of the heat (or cold), use the restroom, and settle down in a comfy chair with a book, magazine, or newspaper. Several copies of the New York Times Bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann are available there if you’re interested in this newly released true crime novel about the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.
Steve pauses with a book in the Pawhuska Library.
34. Visit the Blessed Kateri Shrine of the West
Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American to be canonized as a saint, and there is a shrine in her honor outside the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 1314 Lynn Ave. She was canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI and is the patroness of ecology and environment, people in exile, and Native Americans.
St. Kateri was the first Native American canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
35. See where movies were made
Believe it or not, Pawhuska has played host to Hollywood more than once. August: Osage County was filmed there as was To the Wonder. Because of this, you should know that George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams were all in and around the town during filming. Even more special, if you visit the original Mudpies as you head west from downtown, you can sit on the wicker couch used as a prop in the filming of August: Osage County.
On the porch of Mudipies, Steve relaxes on the same couch used during the filming of “August: Osage County.”
CLICK HERE for even more things to do in Pawhuska. (Part 2)
Have you been to Pawhuska? If so, what did you enjoy most and what have we missed? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you. Also, we’d like to thank Reba Bueno, Joni Nash, and all of Pawhuska’s residents and business owners we’ve met for your incredible hospitality and assistance. Until next time …
As always, thanks for sharing (and Pinning).
70+ things to do in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, after you’ve eaten at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile
As you may have heard, earlier this month we were invited to be celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. We’d been invited by the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce to join six others (who had much greater celebrity status than we do) in sampling the eight Indian Tacos selected as finalists by a group of anonymous judges.
One of the many homemade Indian Tacos we sampled at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
We had no idea what to expect, as this was the first time we’d been invited to judge a national food competition and only the second time we’d ever had Indian Tacos. So, we drove to Pawhuska a few days early, explored the town and talked with locals about what we should expect. Then on Saturday, we saw for ourselves just what a special weekend this was, not only to local residents, but to the more than 5,000 people who came. Here are five things we learned as judges for the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
1. It’s all about the fry bread
In the days leading up to the National Indian Taco Championships, we spent some time exploring Pawhuska and visiting with lots of locals. Often, we’d share that we were going to be celebrity judges and asked their advice about what to look for in an award-winning Indian Taco. The answer was always the same. “It’s all about the fry bread.”
Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Amanda Bickford at Wild Fusion Leather told us making fry bread is an art. She said we should look for a hot golden crust on the outside of the fry bread and a middle that is warm and moist (I know, I hate that word, too), but not gooey. Several others told us the same. As we strolled Kihekah Avenue the morning of the championships, we were impressed by the artistry of the fry bread makers who lined the streets, cooking fry bread in enormous cast iron skillets on portable stoves fueled by propane tanks.
Making fry bread at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
From what we saw, most of the contestants made their fry bread dough at home and carried it to the street festival in plastic containers, some as large as the Rubbermaid tubs I use to store Christmas decorations. They typically grabbed a small ball of the dough, rolled it in flour, and shaped it in their hands or on a table with a tiny rolling pin. Just before dropping it in the hot oil, most of them made a small hole in the middle that helped create a sort of bowl shape to more easily contain the taco’s meat filling.
Rolling fry bread out at the National Indian Taco Championship in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Monie Horsechief was last year’s National Indian Taco Champion and with a total of five national championships to her name, we thought we should learn more about making Indian Tacos from one of the best. Check out the video and see how quickly Monie can shape and fry the bread.
As you can see, her fry bread comes out golden brown, with a warm, moist (I know, I did it again but it really is the best word to describe it) center that was absolutely to die for! We estimated she and her team made and sold about 500 Indian Tacos that day.
Monie’s sugar covered fry bread at the National Indian Taco Championship.
2. Powwows are amazing
In addition to the Indian Taco contest, there was also a dance competition at the event. Despite living most of our lives on the plains of North America, this was the very first time that either of us had the opportunity see a Powwow or American Indian dance. It was nothing short of amazing!
One of the beautiful outfits worn by a dancer at the competition.
We were impressed by the variety of styles of outfits worn by dancers, many hand made by the people wearing them. Prizes were awarded in eight categories such as cloth/buckskin, jingle/fancy, and straight.
Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships
We spent much of the afternoon listening to the drummers and singers and watching the dancers perform on the streets of downtown. Many tribes were represented including Osage, Quapaw, Ponca, Seneca, Pawnee, Kiowa, and Tonkawa. Our first experience with Powwows will not be our last, we are now even more interested in learning more about North American Indian culture and can’t wait to attend another Powwow someday.
One of the junior division winners
Winners in the men’s competition.
3. I’m just a small town girl
We live in a small town in Nebraska — pop. 6,700 to be exact. Pawhuska is even smaller with about 3,500 residents, and we just loved it. We loved the way business owners greeted us at their store fronts and waved across the street at their friends and neighbors. We loved joining the locals who lined Kihekah Avenue to watch the homecoming parade come down the street the day before the festival.
We met the nicest people at the high school football game the night before the NITC, including the Perriers and it was great to run into them the next day at the event.
To be honest, we loved meeting new people everywhere we went — at the high school football game, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, the art gallery, and even in the local convenience store. Residents of Pawhuska are some of the sweetest people we’ve met in all our travels. They treat everyone with respect, make it a point to remember names and faces, and go out of their ways to make newcomers feel right at home.
We had a great week in Pawhuska, thanks in large part to Pawhuska Chamber staff Reba Bueno and Joni Nash.
The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce staff welcomed us with open arms (literally) and we were so impressed with the business owners and festival volunteers who pulled off another successful event, their 14th in as many years. Everyone seemed to rally together and demonstrate the type of small-town hospitality we’ve grown to know and love. It’s the type of place we will never forget and we can’t wait to go back.
4. Pace yourself and wear stretchy pants
Some of the best advice we got coming into our first (and we hope not our last) National Indian Taco Championship, was from Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joni Nash, who said, “Pace. Pace. Pace. And wear stretchy pants.” Her advice was appreciated and after tasting the top eight Indian Tacos, we were glad we listened to her.
Ann and Steve in the judging room at the 2017 National Indian Taco Championships.
The day of the event, we spent the morning walking around the stores and booths, constantly tempted by the smell of frying bread and taco-flavored meats.
A booth at the National Indian Taco Championship in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Other than a small piece of sugar-covered fry bread we shared in the morning, we resisted the Indian Tacos until it was time to judge. We also got some good advice from Kurtess Mortensen, a professional chef and general manager of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. He had judged food competitions before and advised us to take the same amount from each entry and not to eat too much. He said if we eat too much, we’d be doing a disservice to the contestants whose tacos we tasted last, because we’re too full. We trusted Kurtess and heeded his advice.
National Taco Championship celebrity judges included several authors, a local politician, a state highway patrolman, an NITC champion, the general manager of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, and us.
After receiving instructions about the judging process, I took one good-sized bite of each of the eight Indian Tacos (tearing the fry bread with my hands) while Steve decided to take two bites of each one. Those were just the right amounts for judging, and at the end we took a few extra bites of the ones we liked most. Trust me, they were all good, and I still have no idea who made my favorite. Each entry was passed to us under a curtain at the judging table where we blindly tasted each one, giving them one score for appearance and another score for overall taste.
As celebrity judges, we sampled eight individual Indian Tacos and scored them on appearance and taste.
I gave the highest marks to Indian Tacos in which I could see the fry bread, easily tear it with my hands and to those that had a more complex flavor with a little kick.
5. The secret to good Indian Tacos
We tasted so many delicious Indian Tacos the day of the championships but more importantly, we met amazing people who each had a little secret to their success.
This year’s National Indian Taco Championship was chaired by community volunteer Patricia Counts.
The 24 home and professional cooks who entered the National Indian Taco Championship were some of the nicest (and funniest) people we’ve ever met. They each had a story behind their Indian Tacos, who taught them their recipe, why they shape the dough a certain way, or what the “correct” toppings should be.
One of the 24 contestants in the National Indian Taco Championship.
One of our favorites was Pawhuska resident and Osage Margie Williams, who let us watch her roll out her dough as she told us what makes her Indian fry bread so special.
We believe her. Margie’s Strike Axe team was the third place finisher in the National Indian Taco Championship this year and even more noteworthy, they also took home the People’s Choice Award. Perhaps it was the prayers of her grateful heart.
Below is a complete list of winners from the 2017 National Indian Taco Championship as provided to us by the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.
Between the two of us, we’ve got some interesting titles on our resumes. Sports writer, lifeguard, vice president of public relations, athletic director, lobbyist, middle school principal, travel writers, and bloggers. And now, we get to add … wait for it … celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma!
The only time we’ve had Indian Tacos was a few summers ago at the High Plains Homestead near Crawford, Nebraska.
That’s right, we are headed back to Pawhuska next week to serve as celebrity judges for this annual award-winning contest, Saturday, Oct. 7 and it’s going to be a blast! Let me guess — about now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “So, how did these two get a gig taste-testing Indian Tacos in Oklahoma?”
Glad you asked.
A couple of weeks ago, we were in our home office working on plans for the fall when Steve saw an email from the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce. He turned to me and said, “Or, how about we go to judge the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska?” I glanced over the top of my glasses and gave him one of those, please-be-serious looks. He just gave me a smug smile that indicated he might actually be serious. And he was.
Apparently, the good folks at the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce really enjoyed some stories and photos we posted from there earlier this summer and were excited to invite us back to town.
Chicken fried steak at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
“We have judges coming from near and far each year and you’re celebrities in our eyes and we’re so glad you’re coming,” said Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joni Nash. “The event itself is very unique and has gained a lot of attention and involvement the past few years, so you’re going to have a good time.”
The Pioneer Woman Mercantile building in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
So, we’re headed back to Pawhuska, home of the frontier’s most famous blogger, author, and 16-minute meal maker, Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman. As you may recall, this summer, we spent a couple of days in Pawhuska visiting The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and sampling everything from homemade sticky buns and cinnamon rolls to queso dip and chicken fried steak.
This time around, we’re planning to visit some of the many other attractions in and around Pawhuska and we’re super excited to see more of Osage County as we ride with Casey from Roaming the Osage Historic/Scenic Tour.
And we can’t wait take part in this one-of-a-kind food festival, which last year drew more than 4,000 people to the town of 3,500. The National Indian Taco Championship in Pawhuska was awarded the 2015 Red Dirt Report’s Best Food Festival and 2016 Merit Award for Outstanding Event at the Red Bud State Tourism Awards.
Photo courtesy of Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.
The day is jam-packed with food vendors offering samples or full plates of Indian tacos, each serving up their own rendition of the popular fry bread-based meal and many with a secret ingredient or two.
Nash said the event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, and people are encouraged to roam up and down the street tasting varieties of Indian tacos at each booth. There will also be a Powwow dance competition with several divisions and lots of other things to see and do.
Photo courtesy of Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.
As for the National Indian Taco Championship, there will be preliminary judging beginning at 10 a.m. before we join other celebrity judges for the final round in the afternoon. Nash said judges will given samples of the Indian Tacos but she advised because there are so many to taste, it is best to not try to eat the whole thing.
Having never judged an Indian Taco contest (or any kind of food contest for that matter) I asked the chamber director if she had any advice for us.
Have you been to the National Indian Taco Championships? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.