Traffic moves follow me Muskogee path in downtown Tahlequah, i beg your pardon is the site of the annual Red Fern Festival. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World



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


This advertisement showed up in the Tulsa civilization in 1974 because that the might 21 Tulsa premiere of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” a movie the was filmed in and around Tahlequah.

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“Where the Red Fern Grows” author Wilson Rawls and also his wife, Sophie Rawls, concerned Tulsa because that an autograph conference on April 14, 1976. Tulsa human being file


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

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

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

Morgan’s Bakery is amongst businesses in Tahlequah, i m sorry holds the Red Fern Festival every April. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Madison Carey (foreground) prepares an order v Kasey Kelly at Morgan’s Bakery in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Dina Lippert (right), owner the Cook’s Companion and an ext in Tahlequah, assists client Jennifer Wright. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

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

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

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

A clock tower overlooks the Northeastern State university 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 see in downtown Tahlequah, site of the yearly Red Fern Festival. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Wilson Rawls had actually a hankering to it is in an author, but, unsatisfied with his works, he damaged his first five publication manuscripts.

“I melted ’em every the week before I was married,” Rawls stated in 1974. “My spelling was terrible, and also my punctuation was practically zero. Ns didn’t desire my wife to know I was the bad.”

Rawls later ’fessed approximately 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 evening Post, became a publication in 1961, as soon as Rawls was 48.

The publication inspired a motion snapshot in 1974 (and a 1992 sequel and a 2003 remake). The initial movie to be filmed in and also around Tahlequah, which continues to be proud that its “Where the Red Fern Grows” roots.

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

This story is the 3rd installment in the Tulsa world “17 communities in 2017” series. The collection introduces readers to Oklahoma communities by concentrating on one attraction or human there.

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

The book is about a boy who buys and trains two searching dogs. Rawls wrote it (and another decorated novel, “Summer the the Monkeys”), despite minimal formal education.

Rawls did no attend institution the very first 10 year of his life due to the fact that there no one close to his home, according to a 1976 Tulsa people story. He and his sisters learned to read because his mommy read books to them and asked them to read earlier to her.

Rawls disliked many of the books due to the fact that he taken into consideration them to it is in “girl books.” however “Call of the Wild” was a various animal. The cherished the book and vowed the he would one day write “the” boy and also dog story.

A one-room schoolhouse, operated by area mothers, to be eventually constructed near Rawls’ home. The said throughout a 1974 interview that it was throughout the Illinois River, and the only means to obtain there was to wade the river.

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

According come the 1976 story, Rawls was introduced to officially schooling because that the first time when he to be 15 and also his household moved to Tahlequah.

“At first, they put me in 3rd grade,” he said. “But as rapid as i would work-related through, then they would move me up. I wound up in the seventh grade through the finish of the year.”

Rawls said his family moved come Muskogee the next year, and also he attended school there for half a year. The was the extent of his education.

Rawls adhered to in his father’s footsteps together a carpenter (“made an excellent money, too”) before graduating to author. His wife aided him through grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The publicly was slow to take on “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Rawls claimed that was because the book agency presented it together adult fiction. The intended it for young boys.

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

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

Animal trainer Gerry Warshauer was responsible for numerous dogs and also 10 raccoons. Bill Greenway the Tahlequah detailed livestock for the film.

Rex Corley had no exhilaration experience, however he and also his brothers took component in an open tryout in ~ Tulsa small Theater.

“I’m certain there were more than likely 2,000 or 3,000 kids that showed up that weekend,” Corley said throughout a recent phone interview. “There was no location to park. My mom had actually to just dump us off.”

Corley was among 10 youngsters invited ago for a second reading. He landed a role as Rubin Pritchard, a rascally character who meets a grim fate.

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

This helped, too: Corley was from a city (Locust Grove) north of Tahlequah, “and I kind of lived that (“Where the Red Fern Grows”) lifestyle cultivation up. I lived close to cool River there with the slough and all the creeks and also stuff around. Ns hunted and fished the whole time i was a kid.”

Being in a movie at 14 did wonders for Corley’s popularity (“It was kind of favor living the dream”), however he claimed the best thing that taken place to him together a an outcome of the gig to be an chance for a second movie.

Corley stated Norman Tokar, the director of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” recommended him because that “The an enig of the Pond,” a made-for-TV movie that aired on NBC’s “The Wonderful world of Disney” in 1975.

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

Corley said life happened the way it was claimed to happen, and also he’s dazzling at exactly how things turn out. He stated he owns three companies — Masterpiece Roofing and also Painting, Masterpiece home windows & Siding and also Decks the Denver — in Colorado.

“Where the Red Fern Grows” premiered in Salt Lake City, but a distinct premiere also was scheduled at Southroads Cinema on might 21, 1974. That is surely the just movie premiere in Tulsa history to feature both champagne and also coon dogs.

The 2 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, called a reporter the dogs “almost had the hair petted turn off them” during visits to Oklahoma schools before the premiere.

Oklahomans with duties in the flick to be 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 put on white communication shoes, a blue jacket and also bell bottom pants. It was the ’70s, after ~ all. “I looked killer,” he said.

Rawls, who was life in Idaho, went back to Oklahoma for the big event. He once said every he ever wanted to be the satisfaction of composing “Where the Red Fern Grows” and also having it welcomed by readers. A movie to be a pleasant next effect.

“I was never interested in call or in an ext than sufficient money to buy a fishing pole now and also then,” he said.

At a push conference organized in conjunction with the Tulsa premiere, producer Lyman Dayton dubbed the G-rated movie one “unabashedly sentimental” film. However he likewise said there is a need for that kind of movie.

“We would prefer to give people an different — a choice — to the sex and also violence in many movies today. In doing that, us don’t mind gift saccharine and also maudlin,” Dayton said.

“Also, we think there are still a lot of world in America who identify with this values and who uncover the sophistication of modern-day life discomforting. Those people are coming to view the film where it has actually opened. In some little towns wherein it has actually played, an ext people have actually seen the film 보다 the total population of the town. We’re gaining the audience that has actually been left out all this years.”

Corley, who loves the movie, said he city hall it around once a year. That a reminder of a time the his life once he had actually a blast, and it’s a reminder of a various era, period. It’s a period piece that Tahlequah celebrate still.

Red Fern Festival

Now in that is eleventh year, the Red Fern Festival is organized in downtown Tahlequah ~ above the last weekend in April. The 2017 Red Fern Festival will certainly take ar April 28-29.

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

The event features live music, arts & crafts, hound dog ar trials, a car show, a barbeque/chili cook-off, a miss Red Fern pageant, old fashioned children games, fern sales, and also a screening that 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 that "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 vehicle show top top Water Street.

10 a.m.: Old-fashioned games.

10 a.m.: Hound Dog ar Trials at Sequoyah Park.

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

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

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


much more about Tahlequah

• The annual Cherokee nationwide Holiday will certainly take location Sept. 1-3 in Tahlequah. It has actually grown right into one of the largest festivals in Oklahoma, attracting an ext than 100,000 visitors from throughout the world. Information:

• The Illinois River near Tahlequah is a destination for those who love rafting. Many 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 house of Northeastern State University, additionally was once the "home office" because that David Letterman"s optimal 10 lists.

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

• gibbs Wes Studi was born in Tahlequah. Nation Music hall of Famer Merle Travis lived there till his death in 1983.

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• Information around the city and significant events can be uncovered at the Tahlequah Area Convention and Visitors bureau at 123 E. Delaware St. Or through visiting