“Why do we need all these hotels?” is a common refrain among citizens in our town, usually uttered – or typed in a facebook post – in a grumpy fashion. These folks need a calendar.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be at least aware of the Will Rogers Stampede Rodeo coming up this weekend. I don’t have to be the one to tell you how many people are involved in the rodeo circuit, not even taking into account the spectators. So obviously hotel rooms are required when the rodeo comes. And Claremore hosts a lot of rodeos! But Memorial Day weekend is also the Loudest Weekend in Oklahoma.
I speak, of course, of Rocklahoma.
Easy there, naysayers. Yes, Rocklahoma happens north of Pryor. But don’t underestimate the size of this event. This will be my fifth year attending, rocking out with 40,000 of my closest friends.
The Rocklahoma grounds are huge. Acres and acres of festival grounds, surrounded by acres of camping and parking. As you can imagine, an astronomical amount of people camp, but there are a lot of people who prefer actual beds and hot showers at the end of a long day of headbanging. Those people want a hotel. Pryor is a nice enough town, but they are lucky Rocklahoma is only once a year because they don’t have the infrastructure or accommodations to host such huge events more often than that. The few hotels in the Pryor area fill up quickly. Someone told me once that rooms for Rocklahoma are booked so far in advance that people will be making their reservations this year, for next.
But I digress. This is about Rocklahoma, and what a rockin’ good time it is. There’s food, there’s drink, obviously there’s music! And the people watching is absolutely top notch. Rocklahoma is where I first tasted a pulled pork parfait (incidentally, if you’ve never had one, your life is incomplete). Rocklahoma is where people from every walk of life come together for one thing: to enjoy music.
Every year I’m thankful that we live so close, and we’re not some of the unfortunate souls desperately searching for a hotel room. We go every year with a group of amazing friends; the sort that you can easily spend three tipsy days with and have a great time. One couple in our group brings their RV every year, and they invite the rest of us to flop at their site. It’s like having a home base where you can change clothes, have a sit, grab a water, and maybe even go #1 in relative comfort. At the end of the night we stay if we want, or go home if we’re sober. It’s a treat to slide between the sheets of my own bed after a hard rockin’ day.
Rocklahoma isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly not for kids, although there are far more out there every year than I’m personally comfortable with. I can’t stand taking my kids to the grocery store, so I can’t imagine wrangling them at Rocklahoma for three days. SO much nope. But hey, if other parents want to do that…okay. Yet another plus of Rocklahoma: nobody really cares what you do.
Someone always dies, though. Last year it was especially tragic with the loss of Cody Parrick and Ben Baber (#teamcodyandben), and I expect to see many tributes to them this weekend. The year before that someone got run over. The year before that, alcohol poisoning. It’s a stark truth of Rocklahoma: someone dies. Statistically it’s bound to happen. You can’t get forty thousand people together, mix in alcohol and vehicles, and expect a 100% survival rate. I just pray every year that this time will be the exception.
The people who attend are fantastic. There are people walking around in top hats and diapers. There are people walking around in full-on Captain Jack Sparrow getups. There are people with handmade signs advertising everything from free kisses to things I can’t repeat here. Last year I finally took a picture of a dude that wore a pair of pink denim cutoffs the entire weekend. There are people who are sober the entire weekend, and people who are falling down drunk on Friday morning and never get sober. The vast spectacle of humanity is there, arrayed on the Rocklahoma grounds for all to see. It’s fascinating, and very, very entertaining.
There’s one thing that is largely missing from Rocklahoma every year, and it might surprise you to hear that it’s fighting. Oh I have no doubt it happens, and I’ve witnessed some minor skirmishes. And I’m not talking about what goes on in a mosh pit because that is a whole other world unto itself. But huge brawls…no. For the most part, and especially considering the alcohol involved, people are pretty well behaved.
Not only that, but Rocklahomies (as we are called) will share nearly anything they have with you. Need a beer? Just ask a couple people and I guarantee someone will give you one. Need directions? Not only will they help you out, they just might walk you there. Waited too long to find a porta-potty? Someone will see your pee-pee dance and let you go ahead.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend for Claremore. We will have the rodeo and the headbangers in town, which is about as far on each end of the People Spectrum as you can get. We’re going to have some colorful characters in our stores and restaurants. Let’s show them what a great city we have here and welcome them with open arms, shall we?
I’m sure glad they have some nice, new hotel rooms to stay in.