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indicates the impact of tourism in Kiamichi Country increased a whopping 800 percent during the period between 1987 and 2007.


“McCurtain County played a big hand in that in- crease with all the lodging facilities they have in that area,” he says.


Grant says Kiamichi Country regularly attracts visi- tors from neighboring states, but also has its share of tourists from foreign countries. And an increasing number of bus tours are also bringing visitors to the area to learn more about the unique history of the state and its various Indian tribes.


“Northeast Texas is a big market for us,” he says. “A lot of our business has been through word-of-mouth. Texas people came up here for a vacation, liked what they saw and told others about it. As people began doing more vacationing, it all just kind of boomer- anged.”


Vera Nelson, director of the Talihina Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Kiamichi Country board, says her area of LeFlore County – best known for its breathtaking fall views on the 54-mile Talimena Scenic Drive – is attracting more and more visitors outside the autumn months.


“They realize how pretty it is here year-round,” says Nelson, adding that Talihina has responded to the in- creased tourism by opening more hotels, cottages and other lodging accommodations for guests. Two of the newest lodging facilities in the area include the Freck- led Frog, which offers rooms for rent in a renovated building in downtown Talihina, and Walnut Creek, a bed and breakfast in Albion.


“I had a gentleman from Norman who was here on business come in (to the chamber offi ce) and ask for the number of area realtors,” Nelson said. “He was so impressed with the beauty of the area that he wanted to buy property here. He fl ies his own plane so our airport is an asset. I have talked with him on the phone since he was here. He wants to bring his wife down and let her see the area.”


Nelson, a Kiamichi Electric Co-op member, says she’s also excited that Talihina will soon be home to a new tourist information center. Renovation of a his- toric rock home located in Talihina is scheduled to take place this year with the new center opening in mid-2012.


The chamber also helps promote the annual Bigfoot Festival, scheduled this year from Sept. 30 through Oct. 1 in Honobia. She said the festival includes fun for the whole family with arts and crafts, infl atables, live entertainment, a Bigfoot conference and a Bigfoot storytelling event.


Down south in Choctaw County, tour buses and recreational vehicle (RV) groups are also fl ocking to Hugo, billed as “Circus City, USA,” as well as to other nearby points of interest, says Judy Wilson, executive director of the Hugo Chamber of Commerce. “Our draw on tourism is a combination of the Fris- co Depot Museum, Showman’s Rest, Endangered Ark, the Fort Towson Historic Site, Hugo Lake and Choc- taw Resort Casino,” says Wilson.


Hugo serves as winter headquarters for three trav- eling circuses – Carson & Barnes, Kelly-Miller and Culpepper-Merryweather – and the city is also home to the Endangered Ark, an elephant breeding facility and retirement sanctuary for a herd of more than 30 elephants.


Another “must-see” destination is Mr. Olivet, the city’s largest cemetery. A section of the cemetery called “Showman’s Rest” is the fi nal resting place for numer-


ous circus performers. Also buried in the city cemetery are former champion rodeo cowboys Freckles Brown, Todd Whatley and Lane Frost. By county, a partial listing of the tourism attractions and highlights that take place in Oklahoma’s Kiamichi Country includes:


✓ATOKA County: McGee Creek Lake and State Park, Boggy Depot State Park, Confederate Memorial Museum, Cimar- ron Cellars winery and Boggy Bottom Car Show.


✓BRYAN County: Lake Texoma, Fort Washita, Magnolia Festival and Choctaw Nation headquarters.


✓CHOCTAW County: The Endangered Ark, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associa- tion (PRCA) Rodeo, Fort Towson/Doaks- ville site and museum, Freckles Brown Me- morial Bull Riding, Lake Raymond Gary, Hugo Lake, Early Bird Bluegrass Festival and Frisco Depot Museum.


✓HASKELL County: Lake Eufaula,


Robert S. Kerr Lake, Lake John Wells, Haskell County Museum, Overstreet-Kerr Historical Farm and the Fall Festival and Car Show.


✓LATIMER County: Carlton Lake,


Robbers Cave State Park, Sardis Lake, Green Frog Festival and Robbers Cave Fall Festival.


✓LEFLORE County: Cavanal Hill, Wild Things Farm, Maple Creek Berry Farm, Ta- lihina Frontier Days Rodeo, Choctaw Na- tion Labor Day Festival, Honobia Bigfoot Festival, Choctaw Nation Museum and Capitol Building, Clayton Lake, Sardis Lake and Poteau Balloon Fest.


✓MCCURTAIN County: Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow Lake, Museum of the Red River, Gene Autry Museum, Whee- lock Academy, Pine Creek Lake, Hocha- town State Park, Gardner Mansion and Museum, Beavers Bend Wildlife Museum, Beavers Bend Rod Run & Cool Cars, For- est Heritage Center Museum, Wright City Rodeo, Kiamichi Owa-Chito Festival of the Forest and Beavers Bend Folk Festival.


✓PITTSBURG County: Pioneer Coal Miner Memorial, 1867 Choate Museum, Oklahoma State Prison Historical Muse- um, Old Town Celebration, Italian Festival, Lake Eufaula and Junior Sunbelt Classic Baseball Tournament.


✓PUSHMATAHA County: Wildlife


Heritage Center Museum, Clayton Lake, Antlers Depot and Museum, Choctaw Na- tion Capitol Museum, annual Deer Festival and Outdoor Show.


Hugo has long been known as “Circus City, USA” and Santa always greets waiting chil- dren there by riding in the city’s annual Christ- mas parade on the back of an elephant. Photo Courtesy of Gloria McAfee Carver


SEPTEMBER 2011 29


The annual Poteau BalloonFest, scheduled for Oct. 21-22, is one of the larger events held in LeFlore County each year. Photo Courtesy of Poteau Chamber of Commerce


Michael Roberts is an award winning Choctaw dancer. The Choctaw Nation hosts their annual Labor Day Festival each year at Tuskahoma. Photo Courtesy of Gloria McAfee Carver


Those interested in obtaining a copy of the Kiamichi Country visitor’s guide can order a free copy through the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. The offi ce phone number is (toll-free) 800-652-6552 or 405-230-8400. The agency’s website address is: www.travelok.com.


Kiamichi Country’s website also contains informa- tion on the events listed here, as well as additional activities, lodging, attractions and contact numbers. The association’s website address is: www.kiamichi- country.com. OL


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