Just Peachy

(Photo by Tricia Wood)

The Stratford Peach Festival celebrates the summer season
By Laci Jones

Just like fall activities include picking apples and spring involves picking flowers, peaches are synonymous with summer. Oklahomans will have a chance to celebrate summer at the annual Stratford Peach Festival on the third weekend in July.

Stratford, Okla., the “Peach Capital of Oklahoma,” is the venue for the Stratford Peach Festival, sponsored for the second year by the Stratford Little League Foundation. The celebration begins on Thursday with a parade at 5:30 p.m. on Main Street in Stratford. The parade is followed by the annual rodeo hosted by the Stratford Round-Up Club. This year marks the 81st year for the rodeo.

“The festival and the rodeo have always been together,” said Stratford Peach Festival host, Tricia Wood. “They are kind of intertwined.”

The rodeo begins on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. The Stratford Peach Festival 5K Family Fun Run/Walk will be on Saturday, July 15 at 6:30 a.m. Registration will take place at 6 a.m., and costs $25 to enter.

The Peach Festival at the Stratford City Park is free to enter. The 41st year of the festival officially kicks off at 9 a.m. at the pavilion with the national anthem and recognizing veterans.

All-day entertainment will follow. Wood said the entertainment at this year’s festival varies including several local bands, a unicycle performance, a performance with dogs and a performance by the Guthrie Gunfighters. Many church groups will come to the festival to sing throughout the day.

“The Stratford Cheer Team will come and perform because they will have just gotten back from cheer camp,” she added. “The Chickasaw Nation Stomp Dance Troupe came the last three years and will dance this year, as well.”

The dance troupe will perform at 10 a.m., followed by the cook-off and auction at 10:30 a.m.  Participants each bring a dish containing at least one peach to be judged. The cost to enter a dish is $10 and must be submitted by 9:30 a.m. Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The dishes can vary between sweet and savory, she added.

Peach growers will also bring a basket of their finest peach crop to be judged. The peaches will be sold in an auction immediately after the cook-off.

With festival attendance reaching somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 visitors, the festival also features other games including turtle races and parent/child sack races beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Eight years ago, Stratford citizen Marissa Clark started the Peach Idol competition, according to Wood. At 1 p.m., participants compete in different age groups to become the top singer. Participants need to bring a device with the song they will perform unless performing acapella. The Peach Idol costs $30 to enter.

“Everyone can participate,” Wood added. “Everyone gets to sing one song and the judges decide on the winners of each age group and an overall winner.”

A car show at the festival features cars of all makes and models from muscle cars to street rods. The announcement of the car show winners will take place at 3 p.m.

“The car show at the festival has always been a really big deal,” she added.

Ladies of all ages compete in the Stratford Peach Royalty pageant starting at 3 p.m. Anyone who is Peach Royalty must be a resident of Stratford, Okla., and cost is $30 to enter. The age divisions for Peach Royalty are the following:

  • Peach Bud: Boys ages 2-5 years old
  • Peach Blossom: Girls ages 2-5 years old
  • Peach Princess: Girls ages 6-9 years old
  • Peach Junior Queen: Girls ages 10-13
  • Peach Queen: Girls ages 14-18
  • Stratford Sweetheart: Women 65+

“Our royalty has done a good job of representing our community,” Woods explained. “We were able to get our queen to help with the hosting of the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival. We got to hang out with their queen and spit [watermelon] seeds. It was a lot of fun. Most of our royalty also went to visit the Murray County Tractor Show during their parade.”

The festival will also have several vendors serving a variety of food for purchase. Visitors can enjoy the free homemade peach ice cream served all day at the festival. Visitors can also stop at one of the several peach orchards in the area to purchase peaches.

“A lot of the farmers will sell peaches at their farm, especially if they grow more than just peaches,” Woods explained. “Sometimes the farmers will bring peaches to the park, and they will come bright and early at 7 o’clock. It doesn’t take long, and they are all gone.”

The Stratford, Okla., community is involved throughout the process with the Stratford Fire Department directing parking and the Life Point Church hosting a pancake breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m.

“I love the fact that people come so far to see Stratford and see our festival and be a part of the whole extravaganza,” Wood explained. “It’s a real special time for a town.”

Directions to the Stratford Peach Festival from Highway 177/Highway 19 junction: Head east on Highway 19, turn south on Hyden Avenue, turn east on 8th Street to reach Stratford City Park.

The schedule of the Stratford Peach Festival is subject to change as the festival approaches. To stay up-to-date on the schedule, like the 2017 Peach Festival, Stratford, OK on Facebook.