Where the Buffalo Roam: The 2019 Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts

Many years ago, the mighty buffalo roamed the plains of Oklahoma. Hunted to near extinction by colonizers, it seems these days the closest place to find a herd anymore are the en masse paintings, woodwork and sculptures at the forever-lauded Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts.

As the sun shone down on the literal scores of artisanal Okies hanging out at Bicentennial Park across from the Civic Center on Saturday, this six-day celebration of art, music and food features plenty of artistic creations from a who’s who (and who’s that) of local artists, much of it with a Western aesthetic, mostly all of it for sale.

It was additionally the first Festival of the Arts I’ve attended in nearly two decades—since high school, at least—and while it’s definitely at a better location than I vaguely remember it being in, tables, both sponsored and make-shift alike, filled every spare space of concrete as the portable tents featuring artists and other creators lined the outskirts of the park.

While yes, there is plenty of Western art that would look fantastic in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum as well as any area restaurant’s walls, there were also astounding pieces of glass art, bulbous jewelry and steam-punk accessories that I was terrified my ogre-like frame would bump into and destroy, costing me money that I don’t have and never would have.

(However, as I was backing up to take a picture, I accidentally bumped into a woman in a clingy outfit, spilling a frosty cup of brew down the back of my shirt and top of my pants. While I offered my deepest condolences and a refill, she offered nothing but a scowling look and continued on as her boyfriend laughed, which is really better than what we could have hoped for, I guess.)

As the well-to-do art-buyers made deals at the purchase tents while the richer-than-they hung around the V.I.P. area in the middle of the park, singers with acoustic guitars and Curbside Chroniclers mingled with a low-rent public that mostly seemed to be there for what the Festival of the Arts dubbed, probably for the best, the “culinary arts” showcase.

Succumbing to the temptation that surrounded me, I stopped at the tent labeled “Indian Tacos & Fine Arts Institute of Edmond,” eager to see how these two disparate tastes would dare to combine. The staff behind the counter were wearing Tad’s Bodacious Burritos shirts—I assume that’s the company sponsoring this tent—as I ordered an Indian Taco, with the added bonus of sour cream and jalapenos, for a State Fair-esque grand total of $12.00.

Finding a seat at the Ozarka Couch Stage, I loaded up my Indian Taco while the Vibro Kings layered up their rolling prairie surf-guitar stylings about twenty feet away front of me, giving my event-eats a mid-90s Tarantino feel. With a nice crown of sour cream and jalapenos—as well as a splash of their homemade salsa—the meat and beans, as well as cheese and assorted flair, came together nicely on the admittedly thin frybread that was definitely a step up from the State Fair.

Finishing up my Indian Taco—as well as the rest of the day here—as I was walking to the parking area, one tent stopped me dead in my tracks as I noticed a painted picture of a dejected Native, his eyes peering downward in hopelessness. Looking deep into my own soul, I quietly examined every gray and brown brushstroke of this masterful work; a cascade of both pain and perseverance washed over me momentarily as a tear dropped from my right eye.

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