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Itís a Great Big Barbeque and Everyone is Invited

January 8, 2003

Almanac Transcript

Itís a great big barbeque and everyone's invited this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

As Oklahoma prepares to welcome in a new governor it seems only appropriate that we look back on one of the more unusual inaugural parties in the history of our state. The election of Jack Walton as Oklahomaís fifth governor in 1922 is interesting for many reasons. Responsible for Waltonís election was the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League, the last remaining vestige of the state's radical Socialist and Populist past. Walton served less than a year before being removed from office, and his battles with the KKK are chronicled in almost every Oklahoma history text.

Still, despite all of the important reasons to remember Jack Walton he probably made his biggest impression by putting together the largest BBQ in the history of the state and possibly the country. On the campaign trail Walton stated that if elected he would invite the entire state to an "old fashioned square dance and barbeque," and on January 9th, 1923 he made good on that promise. For the swearing-in ceremony, Walton and assistants prepared a massive feast to which every resident of the state was invited.

The numbers involved in this endeavor are mind-boggling. The BBQ pits, a series of long trenches, stretched for over a mile and a half. The world's largest coffee urns were constructed for the event, four of them holding over 8,000 gallons of coffee each. Three railroad cars of wood arrived as well as one car just for kindling. Meat served at the event included 289 head of cattle, 70 hogs, 36 sheep, 2,500 rabbits, 134 possums, 25 squirrels, 2,000 pounds of buffalo meet, 3 bears, 1,500 pounds of reindeer meat ,1400 chickens, 15 deer, 210 turkeys, 14 geese and 1 antelope with over 400,000 loaves of bread baked especially for the event. The cooking began early on Sunday and by Monday, 24 hours before the opening, people were standing in line. It is estimated that over 125,000 people attended the event with servers working around the clock until the food was gone.

Unfortunately for Walton, the BBQ feast was the high point in his career as governor as trouble with political appointments and the KKK, as well as partisan bickering, led to his removal from office less than a year into his term.

Governor Waltonís big BBQ this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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