Editor’s note: Read this story in print in the September 2019 edition of the Crimson Quarterly magazine.
In 1974, thousands of music lovers gathered at Lake Thunderbird for Oklahoma’s first and only version of Woodstock.
Normanite Mark Watkins was 21 when he attended the first annual Oklahoma Sound Rush and Watermelon Feed Festival on a plot of privately owned land next to the lake.
Around 5,000 people sat on blankets in a grassy field to listen to the bluegrass and country melodies as pot floated through the air. Among the five bands that played the festival was the then-up-and-coming beach folk artist Jimmy Buffett, who had recently released “Come Monday,” one of his earliest well-known hits.
“It was exciting,” Watkins said. “We all kind of felt that was our own little Woodstock — nothing like that ... really happened around here before. So it was fun to see the community of other like-minded people show up there.”
While the festival was intended to be the first of many, its premiere event in ‘74 was also the last, Watkins said. But the Norman music scene continued to grow, with additional festivals and nationally recognized artists filling up arenas — such as the Lloyd Noble Center, McCasland Field House and Owen Field stadium — and performing local shows in a plethora of clubs, concert halls, bars and house parties.
“We were all freaks — there were no hippies,” Watkins said. “Hippies were for a summer in San Francisco. The rest of us were all freaks.”
Read more about Norman's music scene here:
Correction: This story was updated 9:42 a.m. Oct. 13 to correct the spelling of Watkins' name.