WEWOKA, OKLAHOMA — The local sorghum cane is a little green this Fall. It’s 3 weeks early according to Dan Houser who helps grow Wewoka’s crop every year. “Mike Morgan didn’t cooperate with us,” he chuckles, “and we didn’t get the rain.”
It doesn’t make much difference though. The stalks he hauled from the back of his pickup truck made a nice bouquet for the front entrance to the Seminole Nation Museum. Another trailer load of cane from Holdenville actually made the molasses for the Sorghum Festival, which started on a Rotary Club whim back in 1976.
“I was 8 years old at the time,” says Richard Elwanger who is now curator at the museum and also the un-official organizer of this year’s Sorghum Day activities.
A quick inspection of the museum grounds revealed that all was ready: new cane mill, wood in the fire box, and eve a good supply of finished molasses in case of a hungry crowd. “We ship all over the United States,” says Ellwanger. “We get calls all the time from people wanting that good Wewoka sorghum.”
Back in 1976 another Rotatian, Paul Dodd, donated an old cane mill to the museum. His first choice had been to donate a wagon but he couldn’t get his wallet out fast enough to buy the one he wanted.
Then he thought for a minute. Since early Wewokans used to grow sorghum to make molasses, why couldn’t they throw a party to demonstrate the process? “We only made about 40 gallons of syrup,” said Ellwanger of the first year’s batch, “But for us that was quite an accomplishment.”
That original $100 investment sits by the front door of the museum these days. Since ’76 the annual Sorghum Festival has grown into one of Oklahoma’s biggest.
25,000 people come for parades and stick around for other stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with molasses. “We have artists, demonstrators, children’s crafts,” says Richard pointing out where all the other tents will go.
The old cane mill looks more like a doorstop now, but, if you think about it, it’s actually a cornerstone for the sweetest of town celebrations.