By H. L. Schall
September 1893 was re-lived in the minds of hundreds of Pioneers and before the eyes of thousands of younger spectators when Ponca City celebrated the 48th anniversary of the Cherokee Strip on September 16. No celebration could possibly bring back the clouds of dust and the waves of heat that hovered over the barren prairie on that memorable day, nor the excitement, the tension and the sometimes bitter rivalry that accompanied the winning or the losing of a new home in a new land. But the Ponca City celebration, even though it was staged on the clean, paved streets and in the well kept parks and modern buildings of this newly built city, fittingly honored the hardy men and women of an earlier generation and their heroic deeds in a most commemorable manner. Although the affair, sponsored by the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce, was originally billed as a one day celebration, it was opened in a big way on the night of the 15th when an estimated 20,000 people came to the free street dance and stayed until long after Bob Wills' orchestra had packed up and gone home. On the official day of the celebration a pioneer parade passed down the length of Ponca City's main street from 10 o'clock until 11:30 presenting a panorama of historical floats, pioneer vehicles, walking units, appropriately decorated commercial floats, Indians in full regalia, cowboys and cowgirls, riding clubs, high school and college bands and other musical organizations.
Leading the parade was Wm. H. McFadden, now a resident of Fort Worth but still considered a leading citizen of Ponca City, riding one of his beautiful Palomino horses. Following him in old time vehicles or on horseback were Governor Leon C. Phillips, Lieutenant Governor James E. Berry, and a group of other dignitaries. The leading units in the parade were the thrilling and colorful spectacle of 100 massed flags under the command of the American Legion Post of Ponca City and a group of flags carried by Camp Fire Girls representing all of the Central American and South American countries. Practically every unit in the parade received the applause of the spectators.
Among the musical organizations in the parade were: Oklahoma Military Academy of Claremore, Kiltie Girls of Oklahoma City, American Legion Junior Drum and Bugle Corps of Seminole, Sons of the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps of Tulsa, Northern Oklahoma Junior College of Tonkawa, and most of the high school bands of Northern Oklahoma. Following the parade to the Pioneer Woman Statue, the large crowd saw a group of representatives of the several southwestern state historical societies, place wreaths on, and pay tribute to, the Pioneer Woman. Included in this group were: George W. Miller of Ponca City, representing the former Governor E. W. Marland, donor of the statue; Dallas T. Herndon of Little
Rock, Arkansas, Executive Secretary, Arkansas History Commission; Frank Phillips of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, representing the State Historical Society of Iowa; Grant Foreman of Muskogee, Oklahoma, representing the Historical Society of New Mexico; R. E. Spencer of Des Moines, representing the Iowa Department of History and Archives, Iowa State Department of History; C. E. Beck of Arkansas City, Kansas, representing the Kansas State Historical Society; James W. Moffitt of Oklahoma City, secretary, Oklahoma Historical Society. Governor Leon C. Phillips delivered a pioneer address and closed by dedicating the newly erected flag pole on the Pioneer Woman State Park Grounds. President L. R. Northcutt presided as master of ceremonies. The governor was introduced by Senator Charles B. Duffy. The invocation was conducted by the Reverend Gordon V. Smith and the Ponca City Kiwanis Glee Club sang.
Climaxing the day's activities was the Indian ceremonial held at night under the flood lights of Blaine Park Athletic Stadium. Making full use of the colorful regalia of the war dancers and the costumes of the historical figures, the green grass of the field, the white tepees in the background, and the artistic use of flood and spot lights, the ceremonial wove before the eyes of the, spectators a tapestry which showed in accurate detail the many phases of Cherokee Strip history. Of special interest was the parade of flags which have flown over the Cherokee Strip territory; the Red Cross flag of England, the Spanish flag of Coronado's time, the English flag with the white cross of St. Andrew, the French flag of La Salle's time, the United States flag of 1803 with its circle of white stars in the blue field, the Oklahoma state flag, and the United States flag with its 48 white stars of 1941. All of the famous dances of the Ponca tribe, sung and performed as from time immemorial were presented: war dances, scalp dances, shield dance, snake dance with special numbers, flute solos, Indian poems, and other traditional rites of this tribe.
Woodson Tyree, director of dramatics in the Ponca City High School, wrote the pageant and Joe Miller, grandson of Colonel George W. Miller founder of the 101 Ranch, was the commentator. A group of British cadets from the British Air School at Ponca City were special guests. Other events of the celebration included a rodeo and a street carnival of old-fashioned games and contests during the afternoon. In the opinion of many observers, a noticeable feature of the entire celebration was its commemorative spirit. With fun making and light-heartedness present in wholesome quantities, there still was the evident desire and purpose to honor the pioneers of a by-gone day.