Great State: Every 4th of July One OK Town Still Bleeds Red, White and Blackberry

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MCLOUD, OKLAHOMA -- One of the only commercial blackberry patches left in Oklahoma lies north of the town of Harrah.

The berries that grow here supply all the Country Boy stores in the area.

On this morning they also satisfy the appetites of Wayne and Donna Heins.

"Beautiful weather. Perfect time of year," says Wayne who is McLoud Chamber of Commerce President.

"I don't want a close-up shot," he jokes, "because I'll have blackberry stains on my teeth."

The Heins moved to the town of McLoud five years ago to pastor a local church.

They didn't know they were destined to become Chamber members.

"And shortly thereafter," he continues, "they made me President. Rule number one. Never volunteer for anything."

The Heinz didn't know much about blackberries then either and how they stain the very fabric of McLoud history.

Wayne says, "They can trace the Blackberry Festival back to the beginning of the town in 1895."

Settlers found them wild and full of thorns in the cross timbers.

Commercial farms sprang up in the next generation.

By the late 1940's the town had declared itself 'the blackberry capitol of the world'.

They even shipped President Harry Truman a case of blackberries to sample.

Wayne says, "That's the big 'shindig' that made national news."

For more than seventy years the annual Blackberry Festival blended beautifully with the end of harvest and the Fourth of July.

This year's blackberry season started out of little slow.

The berries were soft from all the rain, but they came on late.

The vines waiting to be picked are big and sweet.

They'll last another couple of weeks for picking.

The Heins took to liking blackberries so much they found their own patch of wild ones on church land this summer.

The harvest doesn't leave town by the truck load any longer.

But as in years past, there remains blackberry royalty to crown, and a festival steeped in history to consume once again.

The annual McLoud Blackberry Festival takes place on the July 4th weekend in a field beside the town's high school.

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