By STEVE DYE
FAIRFAX — Going into Sunday, Oct. 7, plans were well in place for the annual Heritage Day celebration in Fairfax, which had been all set to go for the following Saturday on Oct. 13.
Then, that Sunday night, those plans were immediately swept to the side as the Fairfax downtown district was hit by one of six tornadoes from a single storm system that ravaged Texas and Oklahoma overnight.
Suddenly, instead of focusing on decorating that very downtown area for Heritage Day, attention immediately shifted to the large tree branches, sheets of metal and other debris strewn about the town of about 1,300 people
“We suffered just a whole lot of damage. We have roofs caved in, and several businesses were basically just ruined. We also had some large abandoned buildings in town that were just destroyed, and we don’t think they’ll be salvageable,” said Ann Martin, who is on the committee that had been planning the Heritage Day celebration as normal prior to the tornado. “It was just devastating to our little town. There wasn’t much here to begin with, and now there is even less. But we’ll go on.”
In the wake of still ongoing cleanup efforts, one of the first signs of the community’s determination to continue was to meet on last Tuesday night to decide that the show itself will go on with the rescheduling of Heritage Day to Saturday, Oct. 20, just a week past the originally scheduled date.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do to make it happen,” said Martin the Wednesday morning after the tornado struck. “But we intend to hold it in the same place, and to hold the same programs and activities. This is a celebration of our little corner of Oklahoma that we hold each year, and we hope that lots of people from all around will join us next week to see our strength — and our continued happiness — in Fairfax.”
On Monday, Oct. 8, Fairfax town council member Charlie Cartwright said the town will request a state disaster declaration from the governor so that up to $100,000 in financial assistance might be released.
The next day,Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to flooding, severe storms, tornadoes, and straight-line winds that have struck the state since Friday, Oct. 5. Fallin’s executive order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It is also the first step toward seeking federal aid.
That very night, the Chamber of Commerce met to discuss both the town’s current status, and to decide whether to reschedule Heritage Day. The latter conversation, at least, was affirmative.
So, even as the community still works to first clean up the downtown area, and then get it ready for the rescheduled Heritage Day, let’s reset what is now planned for this Saturday, Oct. 20 instead of Oct. 13.
Most Heritage Day activities are set to be held at the intersection of Main Street and Elm. A fun run will be held at 10 a.m., with registration opening at 9:30 a.m.
Following the run, vendors, games for kids, and food booths will open at 10 a.m., and continue to operate until 3 p.m. Author Amanda Shields will be on hand to sign copies of her book “Ghosts of Osage County.”
For the first time, Heritage Day will also include a car show, with registration opening at 10 a.m. and vehicles on display from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., with awards to follow.
The Fairfax Fire Department and Booster Club plan a fireman’s obstacle course along with a face painting booth for kids to be open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., followed by the 5th annual Duck Run to be held at Ben Parker Park at 2:30 p.m. “Lucky duck” numbers will be available at the Chamber booth.
Then, at 4 p.m. a street concert will begin with opening band Hayden and the Osage County Band, followed by another set by the Osage County Band and then Stage Right Productions closing the show.
The Chamber will serve an evening meal featuring pulled pork for $7 a plate beginning at 4:30 p.m.
For more information or to schedule a booth, call 918-906-8108, 918-640-7128, or 918-605-4519.
All are encouraged to attend the Heritage Day festival, and show our support to the recovering community of Fairfax.