Traffic moves follow me Muskogee path in downtown Tahlequah, i m sorry is the site of the annual Red Fern Festival. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World



“Where the Red Fern Grows” to be shot in and also around Tahlequah. Among locations was Jincy’s Kitchen, a tiny diner in Qualls. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World


This advertisement showed up in the Tulsa world in 1974 because that the may 21 Tulsa premiere the “Where the Red Fern Grows,” a movie the was filmed in and also around Tahlequah.

You are watching: Where did where the red fern grows take place

“Where the Red Fern Grows” author Wilson Rawls and also his wife, Sophie Rawls, concerned Tulsa for an autograph conference on April 14, 1976. Tulsa civilization file


The old Cherokee country Capitol structure is amongst historic website in downtown Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Students walk previous a sculpture the Sequoyah top top the campus of Northeastern State university in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Twin spires increase over a building on the Northeastern State college campus in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Morgan’s Bakery is among businesses in Tahlequah, i beg your pardon holds the Red Fern Festival every April. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Madison Carey (foreground) prepares one order through Kasey Kelly in ~ Morgan’s Bakery in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Dina Lippert (right), owner that Cook’s Companion and an ext in Tahlequah, assists client Jennifer Wright. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A equine sculpture overlooks Muskogee Avenue indigenous a Western-wear save in downtown Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A sculpture that Sequoyah overlooks the Northeastern State university campus in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Cookie jars and photos of client cover a section of wall in Morgan’s Bakery in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A clock tower overlooks the Northeastern State college campus in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

The Northeastern State college football stadium and also indoor exercise facility are among sports facilities in Tahlequah. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A pavilion is component of the see in downtown Tahlequah, website of the yearly Red Fern Festival. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Wilson Rawls had a hankering to it is in an author, but, unsatisfied v his works, he destroyed his first five book manuscripts.

“I melted ’em every the week prior to I was married,” Rawls claimed in 1974. “My spelling was terrible, and my point was almost zero. I didn’t want my wife to understand I was that bad.”

Rawls later ’fessed approximately his wife, Sophie, the he had actually torched his writer dream. She urged him come rewrite the manuscripts he had burned.

Rawls resurrected “Where the Red Fern Grows.” The story, first serialized in the Saturday night Post, ended up being a publication in 1961, once Rawls was 48.

The publication inspired a motion picture in 1974 (and a 1992 sequel and also a 2003 remake). The initial movie was filmed in and around Tahlequah, which remains proud of its “Where the Red Fern Grows” roots.

Tahlequah is the website of the annual Red Fern Festival. The 2017 festival ( is scheduled for Friday and Saturday and will include an outdoor screening the the movie on opening night.

This story is the 3rd installment in the Tulsa world “17 towns in 2017” series. The collection introduces reader to Oklahoma towns by concentrating on an attraction or person there.

Rawls was born a couple of miles native Tahlequah in the Cherokee County ar of Scraper. In a 1974 interview coinciding through the movie’s release, he said “Where the Red Fern Grows” was the first book he rewrote “because it to be the story of my boyhood life.”

The publication is about a boy who buys and trains two searching dogs. Rawls wrote it (and one more decorated novel, “Summer of the Monkeys”), regardless of minimal officially education.

Rawls did not attend college the very first 10 years of his life because there no one near his home, follow to a 1976 Tulsa people story. He and also his sister learned come read because his mom read publications to them and asked them come read earlier to her.

Rawls disliked numerous of the books since he thought about them to it is in “girl books.” however “Call that the Wild” was a different animal. The cherished the book and vowed that he would one day write “the” boy and also dog story.

A one-room schoolhouse, activate by area mothers, was eventually built near Rawls’ home. The said during a 1974 interview the it was throughout the Illinois River, and the only means to get there to be to wade the river.

“Mother would fill our lunch in a bucket and give my oldest sister, Gladys, a rope. She bound the rope roughly me and also my 4 sisters so that us were sure to get across the river safely.”

According come the 1976 story, Rawls was introduced to official schooling because that the first time as soon as he to be 15 and also his family members moved to Tahlequah.

“At first, they placed me in third grade,” the said. “But as rapid as ns would occupational through, climate they would relocate me up. I wound increase in the saturday grade through the finish of the year.”

Rawls claimed his household moved to Muskogee the next year, and he attended institution there for half a year. The was the level of his education.

Rawls complied with in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter (“made an excellent money, too”) before graduating come author. His wife assisted him with grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The public was slow to embrace “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Rawls claimed that was because the book agency presented it as adult fiction. The intended it because that young boys.

“For a long time, it just laid there,” that said. “To phone call the truth, I’d offered up on it. Then, like a bolt out of the blue, the publication caught not just the public’s interest yet that that a movie producer.”

A “spectactularly picturesque” bend in the Illinois river was chosen for a major filming site, follow to a newspaper account.

Animal trainer Gerry Warshauer was responsible for numerous dogs and 10 raccoons. Bill Greenway of Tahlequah noted livestock for the film.

Rex Corley had actually no exhilaration experience, but he and also his brothers took component in an open up tryout at Tulsa little Theater.

“I’m certain there were more than likely 2,000 or 3,000 children that showed up that weekend,” Corley said during a recent phone interview. “There was no location to park. My mom had actually to just dump united state off.”

Corley was amongst 10 youngsters invited earlier for a second reading. He landed a role as Rubin Pritchard, a rascally character who meets a grim fate.

“I was currently familiar with the book because I had read the a couple of times before then,” Corley said, arguing that can have helped during his tryout.

This helped, too: Corley was from a city (Locust Grove) north of Tahlequah, “and I kind of live that (“Where the Red Fern Grows”) lifestyle growing up. I lived close to cool River there through the slough and also all the creeks and stuff around. Ns hunted and also fished the totality time i was a kid.”

Being in a movie at 14 did marvels for Corley’s popularity (“It was kind of like living the dream”), yet he claimed the best thing that taken place to him together a result of the gig was an chance for a second movie.

Corley stated Norman Tokar, the manager of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” recommended him because that “The an enig of the Pond,” a made-for-TV movie that aired top top NBC’s “The Wonderful people of Disney” in 1975.

“We flourished up poor, man,” that said. “We didn’t have the money to perform auditions and also stuff, i m sorry is what you have to do. Had I stayed in Los Angeles, that would have actually been a lot more convenient for that purpose.”

Corley stated life occurred the way it was claimed to happen, and also he’s thrilled at exactly how things turn out. He claimed he own three suppliers — Masterpiece Roofing and also Painting, Masterpiece windows & Siding and also Decks of Denver — in Colorado.

“Where the Red Fern Grows” premiered in Salt Lake City, but a distinct premiere likewise was booked at Southroads Cinema on may 21, 1974. The is for sure the just movie premiere in Tulsa background to attribute both champagne and coon dogs.

The two hounds that starred in the movie to be present together with Beverly Garland and other actors. The dogs to be a huge hit. Your handler, George Kerr, told a reporter the dogs “almost had actually the hair petted off them” during visits to Oklahoma schools prior to the premiere.

Oklahomans with roles in the flick were invited, too, including Corley, Jeanna Wilson, Jill Clark, man Lindsey, Robert Telford and his wife, Jodie Telford.

Corley, who also attended the Salt Lake premiere, recalled attract white platform shoes, a blue jacket and bell bottom pants. It to be the ’70s, after all. “I looked killer,” that said.

Rawls, that was living in Idaho, went back to Oklahoma because that the huge event. He when said every he ever wanted to be the satisfaction of composing “Where the Red Fern Grows” and having it accepted by readers. A movie to be a pleasant side effect.

“I was never ever interested in reputation or in more than enough money to buy a fishing pole now and then,” the said.

At a push conference organized in conjunction v the Tulsa premiere, producer Lyman Dayton referred to as the G-rated movie one “unabashedly sentimental” film. But he likewise said there is a need for that type of movie.

“We would favor to give human being an different — a selection — to the sex and violence in countless movies today. In doing that, we don’t mind gift saccharine and maudlin,” Dayton said.

“Also, we think there space still a many of people in America who identify with these values and also who discover the sophistication of contemporary life discomforting. Those people are coming to view the film whereby it has actually opened. In some tiny towns where it has played, an ext people have seen the film 보다 the total population of the town. We’re acquiring the audience that has been left the end all this years.”

Corley, who loves the movie, said he the town hall it about once a year. That a reminder that a time of his life once he had a blast, and it’s a reminder the a various era, period. It’s a period piece the Tahlequah celebrate still.

Red Fern Festival

Now in that is eleventh year, the Red Fern Festival is held in downtown Tahlequah ~ above the last weekend in April. The 2017 Red Fern Festival will take ar April 28-29.

The festival spans over 7 blocks with tasks taking place at Norris Park, Cherokee Capitol Square and also Sequoyah City Park.

The event features live music, arts & crafts, hound dog ar trials, a car show, a barbeque/chili cook-off, a miss Red Fern pageant, old fashioned children’s games, fern sales, and a screening that the movie “Where the Red Fern Grows."


Friday, April 29

Noon: Festival opens.

3-8 p.m.: Inflatables in ~ Norris Park.

Noon-8 p.m.: Music in ~ the pavilion.

5:30 p.m.: Cake walk in ~ Norris Park.

6 p.m.: Coon hunt.

8 p.m.: Movie screening that "Where the Red Fern Grows."

Saturday, April 29

9 a.m.: Festival opens.

9 a.m.-8 p.m.: Inflatables in ~ Norris Park,

9 a.m.-5 p.m.: 5 C"s car show on Water Street.

10 a.m.: Old-fashioned games.

10 a.m.: Hound Dog ar Trials in ~ Sequoyah Park.

11 a.m.: Kiwanis BBQ and chili cook-off in ~ Downing & Muskogee.

1 p.m.: Music starts at the pavilion.

4:30 p.m.: Duck gyeongju presented through Leadership class 20.


more about Tahlequah

• The yearly Cherokee nationwide Holiday will certainly take place Sept. 1-3 in Tahlequah. It has actually grown right into one the the biggest festivals in Oklahoma, attracting much more than 100,000 tourists from throughout the world. Information:

• The Illinois River near Tahlequah is a location for those that love rafting. Many rental choices are available. Lake Tenkiller also attracts tourists to the area.

• The Cherokee Heritage facility (21192 S. Keeler Dr. In Park Hill) was created in 1967 come preserve, promote and also teach Cherokee Culture. Information:

• Tahlequah, the house of Northeastern State University, likewise was as soon as the "home office" for David Letterman"s optimal 10 lists.

• TahleCon, a comic and also pop culture convention, will certainly take location from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. July 8 in ~ the NSU Ballroom. Admission is $5. For details go come the TahleCon facebook page.

• actor Wes Studi to be born in Tahlequah. Country Music room of Famer Merle Travis live there till his fatality in 1983.

See more: What Does The Name Becker Mean Ing & Last Name History, What Does The Name Becker Mean

• Information about the city and major events deserve to be found at the Tahlequah Area Convention and also Visitors bureau at 123 E. Delaware St. Or through visiting