It was nearly fifty years ago that the Seminole Nation Museum and the Wewoka Rotary Club conspired to make a little sorghum syrup on a fall day in 1976. The whole affair was undertaken, more than anything, to draw local attention to the newly opened museum and to show off a recently donated sorghum mill gifted to the museum by Wewokan Paul Dodd. No one involved thought the pressing, boiling, and bottling of a century-old sweetener would amount to anything more than a mild curiosity and, at best, a mention in the local newspapers.
Boy, were they wrong.
As every Wewokan now knows, the Wewoka Sorghum Festival is one of the premier fall festivals in Oklahoma, drawing crowds upwards of 20,000 to the community each October. It is the largest event in the Tri-Cities region and has an economic impact in the hundreds of thousands of dollars which ripples through the economy of east-central Oklahoma.
And while the crowds and enthusiasm have seen healthy growth over the past five decades, much of what gives the Sorghum Festival its flavor has borne the brunt of time and the Oklahoma weather.
“Most of the infrastructure we use to make and sell the sorghum syrup has been in place since day one,” said Seminole Nation Museum Executive Director Richard Ellwanger. “The brick fire pit, chimney, and sorghum booth have been around since the ‘70s. So have the wood timbers that secure the John Deer press, which itself is well over a century old,” said Ellwanger. “Even our most recent enhancements – public seating, concession booth, stage area, and traditional arbors – are nearing a quarter-century old and are in need of repair or replacement.”
The budget for the project, which includes tear-out of dilapidated buildings, construction of new structures, additional seating, and other grounds-related upgrades is $24,000.
To help address these needs, Wewoka’s Daisy Unit Garden Club is dedicating proceeds from their annual April Shower fundraiser to improving and enhancing the museum’s sorghum grounds.
The Club invites the public to come Wednesday, April 26 th to its twenty-seventh April Shower fundraiser for the Seminole Nation Museum. The come-and-go reception will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the museum, located at 524 S. Wewoka Ave. in Wewoka. Everyone is invited to attend and participate in supporting the museum and its efforts to enhance the Sorghum Festival and its services to the community.
Those individuals or organizations giving cash contributions through the April Shower can see their generosity doubled or tripled when the museum uses those contributions as matching money to acquire grants and other funds. As the Seminole Nation Museum is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, all April Shower gifts, both cash and non-cash, are tax-deductible as allowed by law.
Those wishing to make non-cash gifts are welcome to participate and “shower” the museum with many less costly, but much-needed items. Each year the museum staff and the Daisy Unit Garden Club emphasize the axiom, “Small gifts make a BIG difference.” In lieu of cash gifts the museum asks participants to donate office supplies and operational goods so membership dollars and endowment funds can go toward exhibits and capital improvements. Items on the museum’s non-cash “Wish List” include: postage stamps, paper towels, cleaning supplies, bathroom tissue, garbage bags, hand tools, weed killer, and copy paper. For a full copy of the 2023 “Wish List” or for additional information on the proposed infrastructure project, visit the museum on the web at www.seminolenationmuseum.org or follow them on Facebook and other social media.
Over the last five years, the April Shower has raised over $128,000 in cash contributions to help fund a number of important projects, including new security cameras, a kitchen remodel, new permanent exhibits, landscaping, and billboards promoting the Museum and Wewoka. Non-cash gifts have amounted to over $6,300. Last year’s project to purchase a new zero-turn lawn mower was a huge success and has helped keep the museum’s nearly four-acre property in immaculate condition.
The “April Shower” is always a fun, rewarding, delightful experience. Bring your friends to the Seminole Nation Museum on April 26th for fellowship and snacks with the Daisy Unit Garden Club and help support the museum and the Sorghum Festival. More information is available by contacting the museum at 405-257-5580 or via e-mail at [email protected].
It’s not a knot, it’s rot.
Wewoka’s sorghum grower extraordinaire, Dan Houser (left), and Seminole Nation Museum Executive Director Richard Ellwanger examine extensive long-term damage to one of the structures on the grounds of the Seminole Nation Museum used as part of the Wewoka Sorghum Festival. The building is one of several structures in use for nearly a half-century in need of replacement. The Daisy Unit Garden Club is hosting a fundraiser at the museum April 26 from 11 to 1 to aid in improvements to the museum’s grounds. The public is invited to participate.
The sky is falling!
Long-time Seminole Nation Museum board-member Dan Houser (left) and museum Executive Director Richard Ellwanger review an open area where fire burned through the roof of a structure on the museum’s sorghum grounds. The arbor covers the fire pit where, for nearly fifty years, the museum has cooked sorghum syrup as part of the community’s annual festival. The Daisy Unit Garden Club is hosting a fundraiser April 26 at the museum, 524 S. Wewoka Ave. in Wewoka, to help renovate and replace damaged structures.