We’re so pleased to kick off the week with author Erin McLellan and the Life on Pause blog tour. Erin’s topic today is unique and fun, and she’s also got a great giveaway to share, so be sure to check out the entry details below.
In Life on Pause, one of the main characters, Niles, works at a living history museum called Bushyhead Homestead. This homestead museum is fictional, as is the town in which it’s located, but I tried to pull authentic local flavor from small towns and museums in Oklahoma and the surrounding states that I’ve been lucky enough to live in or visit.
Through the course of the story, you’ll see Niles plan or reference multiple festivals that he’s responsible for coordinating at Bushyhead Homestead, including a festival called Cricket Plague Days.
It was a delight creating the fictional Cricket Plague Days and its origin story going back to 1909, which includes an end-of-world preacher, bootleggers, dance halls, an insect prophecy, and good old traditional trade days. In the story, Cricket Plague Days has evolved into a kitschy fall market with a lot of cricket memorabilia.
I’ve always enjoyed off-the-wall festivals, and Oklahoma has its fair share of strange. Here are a few of my favorites.
Mangum Rattlesnake Derby in Mangum, OK
This annual festival has taken place every year since 1966. It includes a carnival, flea market, craft show, and rattlesnake hunt. Yes, a real hunt where people go out into the middle of nowhere to catch some snakes. I’ve never been to this one, but my sister has. She didn’t hunt, but she did eat some rattlesnake. She’s the adventurous one.
OK Mozart Music Festival in Bartlesville, OK
This classical music festival was first held in 1985, and has been going strong ever since. It has pulled some of the biggest names in classical music, as well as contemporary. Most people probably don’t think of classical music when they think of Oklahoma, but this event is world class.
Old Time Threshing Bee & Two-Cylinder Show in Fairview, OK
The threshing bee has taken place in Fairview since the mid-1980s, and the two-cylinder show since about 1990. Now they are one festival that shows authentic pioneering farm life, including demonstrations of antique farm equipment. This festival was pretty influential for Cricket Plague Days.
Cimarron Territory Celebration & World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest in Beaver, OK
The Cimarron Territory Festival originated in 1937, but in 1970 they added the cow chip throw to attract more visitors to Beaver. In Life on Pause, Cricket Plague Days has a buffalo chip throwing competition, and Niles gives some attendees pointers on how to pick out the best chip to throw.
Sucker Day Festival in Wetumka, OK
This festival was also a huge influence for Cricket Plague Days. The story goes that in the early 1950s, a salesman sold citizens of Wetumka tickets to a circus. The town of Wetumka prepared for the circus by purchasing food, advertising, and souvenirs to sell, but on the morning of the circus, nothing happened. The salesman had swindled them and run off with their money. No circus came to town. Instead of being disappointed, the town of Wetumka used all the decorations and food they’d prepared and celebrated Sucker Day.
Honobia Bigfoot Festival and Conference in Honobia, OK
You might not know this, but there are a lot of Bigfoot sighting in eastern Oklahoma. This festival and conference brings people and scholars from all over the world to discuss their sighting, celebrate, and hope for their own encounter. The festival also raises money for scholarships for graduating seniors in the area, which is pretty awesome.
Okie Noodling Tournament and Festival in Pauls Valley, OK
Noodling, for the uninitiated, is fishing for catfish in catfish holes with only your bare hands. It is illegal in most states, but not Oklahoma! Noodling can be quite dangerous for your fingers, but this tournament has drawn thousands of participants since its inauguration in 2001. This year, the winner of the tournament pulled a 73-pound catfish. Pauls Valley is not that far from where I grew up, and I know a lot of people who noodle regularly and have participated in the tournament.
Fried Onion Burger Day Festival in El Reno, OK
Fried Onion Burger Day is a celebration and remembrance of the cooks and local grills that created onion burgers on Route 66 during the Great Depression because meat was expensive but onions weren’t. Since 1989, the Fried Onion Burger Day Festival has celebrated this history by grilling up an onion burger that weighs over 750-pounds, and feeds the festival attendees for free.
This is just a sample of the quirky festivals in Oklahoma, and researching these festivals helped me create the origin of Cricket Plague Days in Life on Pause. What are some of the weird festivals in your area? Let me know in the comments!
About the Book
Niles Longfellow is a nerd, and not the trendy type of nerd, either. He wears a historically accurate homesteader costume to work every day, has a total of one friend, and doesn’t know how to talk to guys. So when he gets a flat tire and the hottest hipster ever stops to help him, all Niles can think is that he’s wearing his stupid cowboy getup. Normally, Niles feels invisible to other men, but he’d take that invisibility any day over Rusty Adams seeing him in suede and fringe.
Rusty moved to Bison Hills to help his sister raise her daughter, and nothing is more important to him than that. He’s also fresh off a breakup, and isn’t prepared for anything complicated. But then he meets Niles. Rusty sees Niles as more than a clumsy, insecure guy in a costume. He sees a man who is funny, quirky, and unexpected.
Nothing about their connection is simple, though, especially the lies and insecurities between them. Niles doesn’t know if he can trust Rusty with his heart, and when Rusty’s sister decides to move away, Rusty doesn’t know if he can stay behind.
About the Author
Erin McLellan writes contemporary romance, often set in the South or Midwest—particularly Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas—with characters that are complex, good-hearted, and sometimes a little quirky. Erin likes her stories to have a sexy spark and a happily ever after.
Erin has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma. She has always enjoyed writing, but becoming a librarian and meeting enthusiastic romance readers helped her find her own writing passion. Now Erin cheerfully writes romance with characters across the LGBTQIA spectrum. A former public librarian, she still enjoys being surrounded by books and readers, but Erin hopes to find her stories on the shelves as well.
Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska with her husband, and spends her time dreaming up love stories set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.
To celebrate the release of Life on Pause, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 4, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!