DURANT, Okla. (KFOR) – It is the official flower of Shanghai, China, the state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as the blooming symbol of Durant.

The fragrant Magnolia and the century-old trees that hold them were likely brought to this part of the state by the Durant family, French and Choctaw, who resettled from Mississippi.

These transplants grew roots here too.

Of the founders, Durant Chamber of Commerce Tourism Coordinator Jerry Spence says, “They saw fit to make the city look pretty, not just be functional.”

We found Spence trapped inside the Choctaw Event Center at the start of the 2022 Magnolia Festival.

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A shimmering magnolia. Image KFOR

But he was only too happy to discuss his Magnolia Capitol, its tree-lined streets, the college at Southeastern OSU that calls itself ‘the campus of a thousand Magnolias,’ even the president’s house, the stately Magnolia Mansion.

“It’s everything about spring going into summer,” he insists. “You know it’s time to get into warm weather when the magnolias are blooming.”

He admits his city kind of took the tree for granted for a generation, but they made up for it by introducing an Adopt a Tree program that planted close to 2,500 trees since it started.

“We saw these things were going to be growing whether we wanted them to or not, so we decided to take hand in it and take some pride in it.”

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Capturing the magnolia’s beauty through art. Image KFOR

The southern varieties bloomed late this year, but just in time for the 24th annual festival, and to make a walk by Morrison Hall fragrant, and dotted pure white amidst the evergreen leaves.

“Whenever those blooms open up and you have this beautiful, white, lavish flower, it gives the town a beautiful scent.”

The old trees here now replaced a peach orchard as this college started.

The Magnolia took easy root as a way to beautify the university grounds, then the city itself, a Magnolia Capitol in more than just a name.

For more information on the 2022 Magnolia Festival go to magnoliafestival.com.