When junior high school history teacher Mike Nave, a native of Pryor, Oklahoma, taught in his hometown, he gave two entire weeks to Woody Guthrie. The grand finale was a surprise visit by Mary Jo Edgmon, Woody's sister. In the spring of '98, she connected him with Sharon Jones of Okemah, who wanted to start a festival in town for Woody. By July, the first festival was held.
"This year was one of the better ones," said Nave (pictured above with Wanda Jackson and husband Wendell Goodman, at a pre-festival concert in Tulsa). He said he didn't notice any decrease in turnout, despite the economy. It is a free festival after all. Volunteerism, however, was down. Nave, now based in Texas, had lined up a few students to help out but they bailed at the last minute.
Alex Elliott, in his sixth year of volunteering at the festival, picked up the slack. And the equipment when the house band or any other performer needed an extra pair of hands. A college senior from the same hometown as Nave, Elliott insists he's not a folk music fan, listing other reasons he keeps coming back: "Sam Baker, Ronny Elliott, and Rob McNurlin." He also likes the spirit of the festival, which is exactly what Mike Nave looks for in his volunteers.
Log onto the festival website for more info & to get involved at next year's festival.
2/3 of the Burns Sisters with Annie Guthrie. On left, Nancy Apple and Ronny Elliott give toothy grins.
Photos courtesy of Nancy Apple and her trusty iPhone.