Indian Summer, Woolaroc and Other Highlights from the 1997 Centennial Celebration

Welcome back.   I’m continuing last week’s story about the celebration of Bartlesville 100th birthday, hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far. Throughout the year Dee Ketchum, who was another friend of Tom Sears and Bill Creel, played a big role in highlighting the American Indians’ influence on the development of the city.

A chief of the Delaware tribe, Dee was also famous as a standout college basketball player at KU and later had a successful business career. During the Centennial the annual Indian Summer Festival had expanded its activities and attracted many new participants and attendees. Envisioned as an inter-tribal event to introduce people to Indian culture, Indian Summer included workshops for students, a fine art show and sale, craft vendors, food trucks and a two-day dance competition with some of the largest cash prizes in the region.

Dee had served as the Chairman of the festival and he saw the potential to build on its new found popularity but he needed money to promote the event and continue to attract vendors and participants as well as the general public. The festival was held at the Bartlesville Community Center and it was coordinated by Janet Odden who was an employee but who also donated hundreds of hours of her own time to the cause. Janet became an important part of Dee’s plan to grow the festival.

The need for additional income was solved by the redesign of the Indian Summer Festival program and the development of sponsorship opportunities for various activities which she oversaw. First Janet and Dee turned the existing program into a full color glossy magazine designed to both appeal to advertisers and inform festival goers. Sponsors would also be featured in the program. With the support of Phillps Petroleum Company which donated the printing for thousands of copies, the program would be free to anyone who came to Indian Summer and was also distributed to dozens of outlets in the surrounding area.

Next, they drew on the list of advertisers and sponsors from the Centennial for potential supporters of the festival. Owing to their many years of friendship with Dee and the value they saw in the festival, Tom and Bill got involved with the planning committee giving Dee and Janet access to their many contacts in the business community, many of whom became sponsors.

During the fifteen years that Dee served as Chairman Indian Summer attracted thousands of attendees each year as well as hundreds of pow wow participants, artists and vendors all of which resulted in millions of dollars in sales tax revenue for Bartlesville. The impetus for this growth came from the new energy injected into the festival during the Centennial and from Dee Ketchum’s leadership.

The local YMCA was another not for profit which was inspired by the success of the Centennial events to create its own fundraising event. As the Y did not have a professional development staff, the Board of Directors agreed to organize the event with a group of volunteers. Billed as the “YMCA Rocks Woolaroc” the fundraiser featured the popular Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band out of Tulsa along with a great dinner and drinks, all giving the Y an opportunity to showcase its programs and accomplishments to the community. Drawing from Tom and Bill’s magical contact list, over twelve years this event raised several hundred thousand dollars for the Y and generated much needed publicity about its programs. Once again it all began with that 1997 celebration and its influence wasn’t over yet.

During the Centennial a Wild West Show had been held at Prairie Song Village in Dewey as part of the Grand Finale Week. As I hope you know, Prairie Song was built by Marilyn and Ken Tate to recreate an 1800s era frontier town and inspired by its success in the years following the Centennial they have hosted a Wild West Show for the Western Heritage Days festival held every fall in Dewey. These events have brought new tourists and revenue to the area which thanks to the Tates continues to this day.

Woolaroc, the place Frank Phillips called home, also got a boost from Tom and Bill’s list but that story is big my friends so it will have to wait until next week.

Till then I’ll see ya down the road…….


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