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An annual spring art festival, the Tulsa International Mayfest was initiated in 1973 by the Tulsa Junior League as Jubilee '73. The organization financed the event to celebrate the league's fiftieth anniversary. Subsequent festivals, sponsored by the Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council and Downtown Tulsa Unlimited, were known as Festival '74 to Festival '77. In 1978 the name changed to the Tulsa International Mayfest. Nationally known musicians, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Three Dog Night, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears have performed at the event. In 1980 Jim Halsey held a music festival in conjunction with the spring event.

The focus of Mayfest has been an art festival, with juried art competitions and shows. Held in downtown Tulsa, except in 1991 and 1992 when it was moved north to Brady Village, the celebration allows visitors to view arts and crafts and enjoy a carnival atmosphere, with beer, ethnic cuisine, and the usual fair food, such as funnel cake and fry bread. In 1985 Tulsa International Mayfest Incorporated, formed, with Mary Collins serving as the first director. Despite dealing with Oklahoma's unpredictable May weather, the festival averaged an attendance of more than 300,000 by 2000. Economic conditions have also affected the event, but it has continued its free admission tradition, relying on corporate sponsorship. In the 1990s Mayfest had been expanded to ten days, but the extended length had proved to be a financial burden. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Mayfest lasted four days.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 18 January 1981, 4 March 1993, 14 May 1995, 11 May 1997, and 30 May 2003.

Larry O'Dell

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