Gary Fife/Radio Communications Specialist
Worries and challenges, play-by-play at the Festival
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Emvpanayv: A Reporter’s Notebook: 2018 Muscogee Nation Festival. This is a running journal of a crazy Friday, trying something new and much longer to a radio audience of thousands and a bunch of disinterested people at the Festival.
It’s Friday morning at 8 a.m. and the energy is getting started in my old carcass to meet our challenge of the day: a two-hour special broadcast of ‘Mvskoke Radio,’ live from the 2018 Mvskoke Festival grounds.
Usually, the time kind of time flies by on the regular one-hour show, but now there are two hours to fill. But the time for each slot would have to be short. How much? Is it enough? Who is going to be talkative? Who is not? Oh, man!
Myself, co-host Darren Delaune and associate producer Josh Slane had hunkered down to figure out how to fill two hours with people and groups who will be informative and somewhat entertaining. We came up with a list of 12 folks/topics that would probably fill the bill. The challenge was how to get all of them in, for just a short time a piece within our allotted time.
Of course we included our principal and second chiefs, but this year we would add the mayor of Okmulgee and the director of Okmulgee Main Street. Yeah, yeah, that should work. We want to expand our reach and underline the relationship between tribe and community.
OK, it’s about 9:45 a.m. and we get the final rundown on how to use the remote broadcast equipment from Brooks Brewer, the owner of KOKL The Brew, the producer and technical director. The plan is to do our regular radio chatter on headsets and later, use a hand mic to interview a group and maybe, stick a public service announcement in to cover the breaks. But this year, Brewer brings us a laptop with the right buttons to click for our in-and-out music, PSAs and everything, right there at the festival booth. Even more stuff to worry about, huh?
10 a.m. – Here we go! Click on the button for our intro and we are committed. On the opening greeting, there’s a stumble on the Mvskoke phrase introducing myself. Oh great! That’s a heck of a way to start the show. I think of all that time spent at Mvskoke language class and I make such a simple mistake. I was thinking, ‘I’ll bet the fluent Mvskoke speakers out there are getting a giggle out of that one.’ Anyway, Darren got his greeting perfect, so maybe that’ll cover my fumble.
10:05 a.m. – As we get the opening of the show moving, our principal chief and second chief have arrived, so they are checked off my mental guest list. OK, there’s a chance to relax. These guys are old hands at being interviewed and speaking in public, so there’s the first spot taken care of. Or so, according to the plan — I’m thinking.
10:06 a.m. – Crash! The first of our ideas comes to a skidding halt as the hand mic is not delivering any sound and I can’t figure out what the problem is and there is a nice little hole in our program. Yikes! Oh, forget that idea and switch back to using the headset with mic attached. So, we make the quick switch and our chief now looks like he’s ready to do the play-by-play at a football game. That doesn’t bother him and he delivers a fine interview.
Second Chief Louis Hicks comes on next; sharing a warm greeting and talking about how important this annual festival is to our Nation and citizens. He’s always been easy to talk with and this time is no different, with lots of personality thrown in. Thank you Mr. Hicks!
OK, that’s the first spot on our list taken care of. Check that off. Next!
10:10 a.m. – Steven Baldridge, mayor of Okmulgee has shown up and is ready. So, I decide to adjust our line-up and have him come on. My idea was to talk about how the tribe and city cooperate to make the festival a highlight of the year for everybody. Okmulgee has made a major contribution to the security and traffic control on the streets, but especially important during the downtown parade. We’re glad to hear of the economic impact and how local merchants are sharing in the bounty. (I heard a snake decided to make an appearance and join the parade. I guess the Chitto Clan was represented.)
10:18 a.m. – Kyle Lee, director of MCN Tourism and Recreation has made it over to our booth and is ready to give a preview of the day’s activities and their work and challenges in putting the festival together. Lee does a great job in hitting the highlights of the Friday and Saturday program and sharing a bit of the behind-the-scenes work that’s been going on since the tail of end of last year in planning this festival.
10:25 a.m. – We had planned a live report from reporter Liz Gray on the Junior Olympics at Harmon Stadium. The idea is to give our show an on-the-spot feel. Josh whispers to me we have Liz on the line, but we can’t hear her. Oh jeez, I’m thinking. Is this where we start going down in flames? Then Josh tells me that she can be heard over the radio. So, while I’m on the air at one end, I have to carry on the discussion by listening to our show over the radio to find out what she is saying. Liz does a good job and we get that ‘on-the-scene’ feel from Ms. Gray.
10:40 a.m. – Time to let Darren take over. MCN Emergency Management Supervisor James Nichols is his guest. He has been a guest for every remote broadcast and he always has important information to share with listeners who are planning to attend the festival. They’ll talk about the precautions being taken to protect festivalgoers from the heat, where water and misting stations were available to cool folks and the first aid station. The Nation offered some security to children attending the fair. Colored wristbands with the child’s name and parents information are available to help find the child in case the little one gets lost.
10:55 a.m. – Since Darren is already on air, we’ll leave him there and call on Heather Sumner of Okmulgee Main Street to talk with him. Downtown Okmulgee is experiencing an evolution as new storefronts, greenery and developments begin to show up. The MCN Council House and planned enterprises will make big contributions as the two work together.
11:05 a.m. – Time for a commercial break, so to speak. Breanna Dawson, sales executive for Mvskoke Media slips on the headset to talk about our marketing campaign. Our department is working to raise its own funds to meet some of our expenses and provide some accessible cash for other projects. Part of the effort is to sell Mvskoke Media T-shirts, caps, advertising and other items.
She is the newest member of our staff and getting her first taste of Festival with its heat, dust and having to be ‘perky’ all afternoon. Good job!
John Neal of Neal’s Furniture also spoke with Darren. Neal had just put on a Farmer’s Fest, just across from the main tribal complex. Public reaction and turnout was pretty good and he is planning to repeat the event this summer.
11:15 a.m. – I speak with Cora Watson, manager of the Nation’s Red Stick Gallery about their presence in the downtown marketplace. She says they’re proud to give Mvskoke artists a place to sell their wares. They’re also hoping to expand as the Council House and a new visitor’s center come off the planning boards and into being — sometime in the not too distant future.
11:25 a.m. – Now, for a musical break: William Harjo is one of the many vendors at the festival and he brings his flute to the show. That’ll be a nice switch from the talking heads we’ve had so far. The soothing sound of the cane and cedar flutes is what the show will be sharing. But, what I hadn’t counted on was the loss of the hand mic and stand. So, the only solution was to have Harjo use the headset and move the mic boom out to a position where he could play.
That actually worked out fine, but (there’s always a ‘but’) the radio station computer hadn’t been re-set for the second hour of the show. In the middle of the flute song, a commercial began playing, covering up the music and the interview.
11:40 a.m. – I figured this would be a good chance to give our Election Board some exposure and the fact that they had set up a table to register new Mvskoke voters. Local elections were coming up and the next tribal election is not that far away. Tribal election numbers have usually been pretty low and their campaign was well worth publicizing.
11:45 a.m. – It’s time to acknowledge our ‘unsung hero’ of the day: Josh Slane. He was busy doing the tasks we needed to keep going. He found the flute maker, one of the food booth cooks and kept us informed about the arrival of guests He also let me know when the commercials were overriding the remote broadcast of our program. He kept me from sounding like a complete idiot because I had no idea of what was next.
11:50 a.m. – OK, it’s time to start wrapping up the show and I have only one community announcement in our file, so I hand it over to Darren and start thinking about stuff to chatter about and end the broadcast. Oh yeah, this weekend was the 50th reunion of my high school class at Tulsa Will Rogers. So, I sneak in a quick “Howdy to my fellow Ropers.” Fifty years! Holy cow! Adios, folks!
My next and final worry is to get the computer to play our end music and turn the airwaves back over to The Brew. The clock counts it down and I’m ready to knock off and collapse. Tons of tension gets released and its time for a cool lemonade. Time to start thinking about next week.