Oklahoma’s Best Cultural Festivals

by Molly Evans


Fortunately for its residents and visitors, Oklahoma is made up of a diverse people, representing cultures far and wide. What’s more, our rich multicultural fabric is celebrated with food—lots and lots of food. With cultural festivals in almost every nook and cranny in the state, you can get Grade-A falafel, Indian tacos, sauerkraut, and Amish sandwiches in the most unsuspecting places.

A textbook defines culture as a way of life, so the dozen of festivals and powwows cater not only to an exotic appetite but also to unique tastes in music, art, and entertainment. Broaden your cultural horizons starting this summer at several of these in-state events. At least try the hamentashen or the schweinshaxen.

Jim Thorpe Native American Games

June 8-14, Shawnee

No, the Olympics aren’t headed to your television this summer. But there’s something similar happening in Shawnee.  The Jim Thorpe Native American Games have been a summer staple since 2012, which was the centennial celebration of Thorpe’s medal winning and record-setting performances at the 1912 Olympic games.

This summer the games will comprise 11 different sports with the participating athletes representing 70 different Native American tribes. The competitions will take place in various venues in the Shawnee area and spread across several days, so be sure to check out lodging options.

Azuma: A Celebration of Africa

Guymon, Aug. 10
The second annual African cultural celebration, Azuma, takes place from 2-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10 in Guymon. The free festival will present African dancing, food, and storytelling to Main Street Guymon. Read more on the inaugural event to see what’s in store for this year.

McAlester CultureFest

Aug. 16, McAlester
Who knew McAlester was the melting pot of Oklahoma? The third Saturday in August, Latinos, Italians, Asians, African Americans, Greeks, Europeans, and Hispanics will share their unique cultural identities through native art, music, and cuisine at CultureFest. Admission is free to the one-day festival, held on historic downtown Choctaw Avenue.

Choctaw Oktoberfest

Aug. 29-Sept. 6, Choctaw
Two words: German beer. You have nine days to try 30 different draught beers on tap at Choctaw’s Oktoberfest celebration. And while sobering up, you can watch German dancing, peruse the German craft tables, and check out a car show, also German.

The festival’s not totally established for drinking. Try classic German foods like schweinshaxen (ham hocks), grilled chicken, rippchen (smoked pork chops), apple strudel, a variety of bratwurst and schnitzel sandwiches, red cabbage, sauerkraut and German potato salad. Visit the festival’s website for a band schedule, volunteer form, map of the park, and wine list.

More Oktoberfests:

Amish School Auction, Crafts & Antique Show

Sept. 13, Clarita
When fall is on the horizon in the southwest corner of Coal County, there’s a special day where you can purchase baked goods, farm equipment, and livestock all in one place. We’re talking about the Amish School Auction, Crafts & Antique Show on Sept. 13.

Think of it as a three-course festival. As early as 7 a.m., you can score a hot and homemade breakfast, and then after a few hours buying up the variety of items to benefit the local Amish School in Clarita, you can go back for seconds with Amish women selling sandwiches and noodles. Then for dessert, take home homemade ice cream, pies, cakes, and pastries. Admission is free, but parking is not. Visit the community’s website for more information.

A similar event will happen a week later for Black Buggy Day at Guy Williams Park in Chouteau.


Sept. 14, Tulsa
Most of the time the best way to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach. Members of Tulsa’s Temple Israel want to show you some love with pastrami on rye, kosher pickles, falafel, all beef hot dogs, hummus, walnut rugelah, challah loaf, and a big ole cabbage roll. If you can move after all that, try your feet at Israeli folk dancing, your voice at a community sing along, or your stamina at an obstacle course. There will also be shopping and music if you’d rather let your food settle.

September will mark SHALOMFEST’s 21st year. In preparation for the big day, visit the festival’s menu on Temple Israel’s website to whet your appetite.


Sept. 19-21, Tulsa
It’s not just another occasion to drink beer. It certainly could be, but SCOTFEST invites Tulsans and visitors alike to imbibe on the culture of Celtic music, history, and heritage for three days at River West Festival Park.

Adults, you can enjoy whisky tastings, live music, and the competitive Highland Games, which are dramatic feats of strength. But there’s enough to keep kids occupied, too. The Kids Glen includes several Scottish sports like the Caber Toss, the Stone Throw and the Haggis Hurl. There are also sack races, three-legged races, egg and spoon races and a ring fling for the lads and lasses as well.

Whether it’s, indeed, another occasion to drink beer, an event to celebrate being Scottish, or an opportunity to watch the Celtic dog parade, SCOTFEST hasn’t been around for 34 years for nothing.

Fiesta Oklahoma

Sept. 20, Ardmore
Fiesta Oklahoma lives up to its name with all the ingredients for a good party: music, art, and food. But, more specifically, the festival will bring several Hispanic musical acts, like Edgar Cruz, Mariachi Imperial de Fort Worth, and “A Taste of Herb,” the topnotch tribute band for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Food options range from Indian tacos to Singaporean cuisine, according to Fiesta’s website. And the selection of artisans is just as diverse with handmade pens, Native American flutes, and Paleolithic wall hangings available to purchase. If that’s not enticing enough, the festival will also hold a 5K run, activities for kids, and a parade all around Main Street Ardmore.

Another free fiesta kicks off in Guymon the next day. See details here.

International Festival

Sept. 26-28, Lawton
Last September’s International Festival organizers and attendees celebrated “Unity Through Sports” in Lawton’s Elmer Thomas Park. Local cultural groups set up among the lakeside stage, food vendors and children’s area.

At this festival, cultural diversity is best displayed in the myriad stage performances. Past volunteer performers include the Filipino American Association of Lawton and Fort Sill, Kealii’s Polynesian Spectacular, Mexican Folkloric Dancers, and Tiger Claw Karate Arcade. Although many details of the 2014 festival are still in the works, admission and parking is definitely free.

Here’s an international festival for kids in November at Tulsa’s Expo Square.

Dia De Los Muertos Arts Festival

Nov. 1, Tulsa’s Brady Arts District
Many know it as All Saints Day, All Souls Day, or Day of the Dead. In the Mexican and Hispanic culture, Dia de Los Muertos celebrates the lives of those passed on with food, music, and special tributes. Living Arts of Tulsa will put on lectures, and workshops and will host Mexican dancing and an arts marketplace all for free for the holiday.

In addition to face painting, sidewalk art, and fire dancers, the festival will also include a skeleton parade, making it an event for you and the kids. View photos of past festivals on Living Arts’ site.


Powwows display the vitality of Native American culture, typically through tribal dancing in full regalia. Most of Oklahoma’s powwows also include traditional food, arts and crafts, and other events unique to the particular tribe. Here’s a list of the ones happening this year:

Do you know of an event we missed? If so, email us at mail@thislandpress.com.