Traffic moves along Muskogee path in downtown Tahlequah, which is the website of the annual Red Fern Festival. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World



“Where the Red Fern Grows” was shot in and around Tahlequah. Amongst locations to be Jincy’s Kitchen, a tiny diner in Qualls. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World


This advertisement appeared in the Tulsa human being in 1974 because that the may 21 Tulsa premiere the “Where the Red Fern Grows,” a movie the was filmed in and around Tahlequah.

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“Where the Red Fern Grows” writer Wilson Rawls and his wife, Sophie Rawls, pertained to Tulsa for an autograph conference on April 14, 1976. Tulsa human being file


The old Cherokee nation Capitol structure is among historic website in downtown Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Students walk previous a sculpture of Sequoyah on the campus of Northeastern State college in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Twin spires climb over a building on the Northeastern State university campus in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Morgan’s Bakery is among businesses in Tahlequah, which holds the Red Fern Festival every April. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Madison Carey (foreground) prepares one order through Kasey Kelly in ~ Morgan’s Bakery in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Dina Lippert (right), owner of Cook’s Companion and much more in Tahlequah, assists customer Jennifer Wright. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A equine sculpture overlooks Muskogee Avenue from a Western-wear save in downtown Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A sculpture of Sequoyah overlooks the Northeastern State university campus in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Cookie jars and photos of customers cover a ar of wall surface in Morgan’s Bakery in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A clock tower overlooks the Northeastern State college campus in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

The Northeastern State university football stadium and also indoor practice facility are among sports infrastructure in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A pavilion is part of the scenery in downtown Tahlequah, website of the annual Red Fern Festival. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Wilson Rawls had a hankering to be an author, but, unsatisfied v his works, he damaged his very first five book manuscripts.

“I burned ’em every the week before I to be married,” Rawls stated in 1974. “My spelling to be terrible, and also my punctuation was nearly zero. I didn’t want my mam to know I was the bad.”

Rawls later on ’fessed as much as his wife, Sophie, the he had actually torched his writer dream. She urged him to rewrite the manuscripts he had burned.

Rawls resurrected “Where the Red Fern Grows.” The story, first serialized in the Saturday night Post, came to be a publication in 1961, as soon as Rawls to be 48.

The book inspired a motion picture in 1974 (and a 1992 sequel and a 2003 remake). The original movie to be filmed in and around Tahlequah, which stays proud that its “Where the Red Fern Grows” roots.

Tahlequah is the website of the annual Red Fern Festival. The 2017 festival ( is scheduled for Friday and also Saturday and also will incorporate an outdoor screening of the movie on opening night.

This story is the third installment in the Tulsa world “17 communities in 2017” series. The collection introduces readers to Oklahoma towns by concentrating on one attraction or human there.

Rawls to be born a few miles from Tahlequah in the Cherokee County ar of Scraper. In a 1974 interview coinciding with the movie’s release, he said “Where the Red Fern Grows” was the very first book that rewrote “because it to be the story of mine boyhood life.”

The publication is about a boy that buys and trains two hunting dogs. Rawls created it (and another decorated novel, “Summer the the Monkeys”), regardless of minimal official education.

Rawls did not attend institution the an initial 10 years of his life because there no one near his home, follow to a 1976 Tulsa human being story. He and his sisters learned to read since his mother read books to them and also asked them come read ago to her.

Rawls disliked many of the books due to the fact that he considered them to be “girl books.” however “Call of the Wild” was a various animal. He cherished the book and also vowed the he would sooner or later write “the” boy and dog story.

A one-room schoolhouse, activate by area mothers, was eventually developed near Rawls’ home. The said throughout a 1974 interview that it was across the Illinois River, and also the only way to acquire there was to wade the river.

“Mother would load our lunch in a bucket and give my oldest sister, Gladys, a rope. She tied the rope approximately me and also my 4 sisters so that we were certain to get across the flow safely.”

According to the 1976 story, Rawls was presented to officially schooling because that the very first time as soon as he to be 15 and also his family moved come Tahlequah.

“At first, they put me in third grade,” that said. “But as fast as i would work through, climate they would move me up. I wound up in the seventh grade by the finish of the year.”

Rawls said his household moved come Muskogee the next year, and also he attended school there for fifty percent a year. That was the degree of his education.

Rawls followed in his father’s footsteps together a carpenter (“made great money, too”) before graduating come author. His wife assisted him through grammar, punctuation and also spelling.

The windy was sluggish to take on “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Rawls said that was because the book firm presented it as adult fiction. The intended it for young boys.

“For a long time, it simply laid there,” he said. “To phone call the truth, I’d given up on it. Then, favor a bolt out of the blue, the publication caught not only the public’s interest however that that a movie producer.”

A “spectactularly picturesque” bend in the Illinois flow was liked for a primary filming site, follow to a newspaper account.

Animal trainer Gerry Warshauer to be responsible for number of dogs and also 10 raccoons. Bill Greenway the Tahlequah detailed livestock for the film.

Rex Corley had no acting experience, yet he and also his brothers took part in an open up tryout at Tulsa tiny Theater.

“I’m certain there were more than likely 2,000 or 3,000 youngsters that proved up that weekend,” Corley said throughout a current phone interview. “There was no location to park. My mom had to simply dump united state off.”

Corley was amongst 10 youngsters invited back for a 2nd reading. He landed a duty as Rubin Pritchard, a rascally character who meets a grim fate.

“I was already familiar with the book since I had actually read that a pair of times prior to then,” Corley said, suggesting that could have helped throughout his tryout.

This helped, too: Corley to be from a town (Locust Grove) phibìc of Tahlequah, “and I type of lived that (“Where the Red Fern Grows”) lifestyle farming up. I lived close to grand River there with the slough and all the creeks and stuff around. I hunted and fished the whole time i was a kid.”

Being in a movie in ~ 14 did marvels for Corley’s popular (“It was kind of like living the dream”), but he claimed the ideal thing that taken place to him as a result of the gig was an chance for a 2nd movie.

Corley said Norman Tokar, the director of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” encourage him for “The secret of the Pond,” a made-for-TV movie that aired on NBC’s “The Wonderful civilization of Disney” in 1975.

“We grew up poor, man,” he said. “We didn’t have the money to carry out auditions and stuff, i beg your pardon is what you should do. Had I stayed in Los Angeles, it would have actually been a lot more convenient for the purpose.”

Corley said life happened the method it was an alleged to happen, and also he’s thrilled at just how things turn out. He said he owns three carriers — Masterpiece Roofing and also Painting, Masterpiece home windows & Siding and Decks that Denver — in Colorado.

“Where the Red Fern Grows” premiered in Salt Lake City, yet a special premiere likewise was scheduled at Southroads Cinema on may 21, 1974. It is surely the just movie premiere in Tulsa history to function both champagne and also coon dogs.

The two hounds that starred in the movie to be present along with Beverly Garland and other actors. The dogs were a huge hit. Your handler, George Kerr, said a reporter the dog “almost had the hair petted turn off them” during visits come Oklahoma schools prior to the premiere.

Oklahomans with roles in the flick were invited, too, including Corley, Jeanna Wilson, Jill Clark, john Lindsey, Robert Telford and his wife, Jodie Telford.

Corley, who also attended the Salt Lake premiere, recalled wearing white communication shoes, a blue jacket and also bell bottom pants. It was the ’70s, after ~ all. “I looked killer,” he said.

Rawls, that was living in Idaho, returned to Oklahoma because that the huge event. He as soon as said every he ever before wanted was the satisfaction of composing “Where the Red Fern Grows” and having it welcomed by readers. A movie was a pleasant next effect.

“I was never ever interested in call or in much more than sufficient money come buy a fishing pole now and also then,” that said.

At a press conference hosted in conjunction with the Tulsa premiere, producer Lyman Dayton dubbed the G-rated movie one “unabashedly sentimental” film. But he also said over there is a require for that kind of movie.

“We would prefer to give civilization an alternative — a an option — come the sex and violence in plenty of movies today. In act that, us don’t mind gift saccharine and maudlin,” Dayton said.

“Also, we think there space still a many of civilization in America who recognize with this values and also who uncover the sophistication of modern-day life discomforting. Those world are coming to check out the film whereby it has opened. In some small towns whereby it has played, much more people have actually seen the film 보다 the total populace of the town. We’re gaining the audience that has been left out all these years.”

Corley, who loves the movie, said he the town hall it about once a year. That a reminder the a time the his life as soon as he had actually a blast, and also it’s a reminder of a different era, period. It’s a duration piece that Tahlequah celebrates still.

Red Fern Festival

Now in the eleventh year, the Red Fern Festival is hosted in downtown Tahlequah top top the last weekend in April. The 2017 Red Fern Festival will take ar April 28-29.

The festival spans over seven blocks with activities taking location at Norris Park, Cherokee Capitol Square and also Sequoyah City Park.

The occasion features live music, arts & crafts, hound dog field trials, a automobile show, a barbeque/chili cook-off, a miss out on Red Fern pageant, old fashioned children’s games, fern sales, and also a screening the the movie “Where the Red Fern Grows."


Friday, April 29

Noon: Festival opens.

3-8 p.m.: Inflatables in ~ Norris Park.

Noon-8 p.m.: Music in ~ the pavilion.

5:30 p.m.: Cake walk in ~ Norris Park.

6 p.m.: Coon hunt.

8 p.m.: Movie screening the "Where the Red Fern Grows."

Saturday, April 29

9 a.m.: Festival opens.

9 a.m.-8 p.m.: Inflatables in ~ Norris Park,

9 a.m.-5 p.m.: 5 C"s automobile show ~ above Water Street.

10 a.m.: Old-fashioned games.

10 a.m.: Hound Dog ar Trials in ~ Sequoyah Park.

11 a.m.: Kiwanis BBQ and also chili cook-off in ~ Downing & Muskogee.

1 p.m.: Music begins at the pavilion.

4:30 p.m.: Duck gyeongju presented through Leadership course 20.


more about Tahlequah

• The annual Cherokee nationwide Holiday will certainly take ar Sept. 1-3 in Tahlequah. It has actually grown into one of the largest festivals in Oklahoma, attracting much more than 100,000 tourists from across the world. Information:

• The Illinois River near Tahlequah is a destination for those who love rafting. Countless rental alternatives are available. Lake Tenkiller additionally attracts visitors to the area.

• The Cherokee Heritage facility (21192 S. Keeler Dr. In Park Hill) was established in 1967 to preserve, promote and also teach Cherokee Culture. Information:

• Tahlequah, the home of Northeastern State University, additionally was as soon as the "home office" for David Letterman"s optimal 10 lists.

• TahleCon, a comic and pop society convention, will take place from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. July 8 at the NSU Ballroom. Join is $5. For details go to the TahleCon facebook page.

• actor Wes Studi was born in Tahlequah. Country Music room of Famer Merle Travis live there until his death in 1983.

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• Information about the city and significant events deserve to be found at the Tahlequah Area Convention and also Visitors office at 123 E. Delaware St. Or by visiting