McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

September 20, 2013

Choctaw village special volunteer workday set for this weekend

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Organizers are looking forward to seeing the community turnout for the first special volunteer workday this weekend to start building a traditional Choctaw village at Hutchison Park.

The special work day is set to begin at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21 and 22, at the park, which is at Fourth Street and Krebs Avenue in McAlester’s Old Town.

“We are excited the work weekend is finally here,” said McAlester News-Capital Publisher Amy Johns.

“It looks like this dream is one step closer to reality. I’m looking forward to seeing all the volunteers and I’m thanking them in advance.”

As of Thursday, the National Weather Service in Tulsa has forecast sunny skies and temperatures in the lower 80s for both Saturday and Sunday, following the rain forecast for Friday.

Along with volunteers ready to help build the village, a call has gone out for materials. Volunteers need rocks and stones that can be used to line fire pits. Poles are needed, hewn from cedar trees to keep the look authentic. Some of those have already been donated, according to Pam Kirby, of the city of McAlester, who is helping plan the project.

“I would like to encourage people to come on out,” said Kirby, who like Johns, is hoping lots of enthusiastic volunteers join in to help this weekend.

Holes have already been drilled by a city crew using an auger in which to place the posts, but some volunteers may want to bring shovels and tamping poles to help pack down dirt around the posts after they’ve been placed. Others may want to bring saws in case the length of the posts have to be adjusted, Kirby said.

Plans are to do as much work as possible on Phase 1 of the project in preparation for the upcoming Wild West Festival, set for Oct. 5 in Old Town.

Phase 1 includes construction of a summer hut, fire pits, and construction of a smaller hut which can be used by vendors. Kirby said plans to build a mound in the village, which will require hauling in truckloads of dirt, have been moved to a later time because of the rain forecast on Friday, the day before the volunteer workday is set to begin.

Those planning the project also hope to resurface rest rooms and an existing pavilion at the park with willow branches or other brush, to make the existing sites blend more with the traditional structures to be built at the site.

Other phases of the project, including preparing a stickball field, are set for later, following completion of Phase 1.

The  main name that’s been suggested for the village to be constructed inside the park is Choctaw Tobaksi Village, with Tobaksi the Choctaw name for coal.

Plans call for Choctaw village to be formally dedicated at 11 a.m. on Oct. 5, while the Wild West Festival is under way in Old Town.

Contact James BEATY at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.