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Where the Wild Roses Grow: 31st Garden Festival at Will Rogers Gardens

5:40 AM EDT on May 17, 2021

About 25 or so years ago, parents would warn children not to go to Will Rogers Park, mostly for fear of walking in on the highly sexual antics that took place in and around the restrooms. But, now that I’m older, wiser, and, of course, erotically inclined, I went there this weekend looking for the much-maligned condom tree and, instead, found a much-loved flower show.

I guess it’ll have to do.

I had no idea that the Garden Festival was a recurring greenery spectacle—or even that Will Rogers Park is now Will Rogers Gardens, for that matter—but to have gone with a friend that is both into gardening and my off-color asides about the floral hobby, I was doubly entertained by the whole prospect; it always helps to have a friend like that.

We went on Saturday around one and I was immediately surprised just how packed the place was as we walked into the main parking lot and found multiple lines for food trucks, mostly selling coffee and corn dogs and such; then again, it’s really not a point of Oklahoma City pride unless fried eats are present and have a very long wait to get them...

Grabbing a few cups of joe, we walked past the magical double-door gates into the lush green park as a veritable army of geese waddled by while small children attempted to chase them; has the place really changed that much since I was a teenager?

The gardening tents were huddled close together, with most of them selling things like succulents and herbs, with the occasional wood, metal and Scentsy art somewhere in there, all busy and helping patrons to the best of their green-thumbed ability. The only tent there that seemed lonely was the man hyping a local funeral home, a full table of pens and paper in front of him, no one stopping by to even say hi.

(No offense, but maybe that wasn’t such a great idea after the year of absolute death we’ve had, but that’s just me, I guess.)

That moment of bleakness, however, was quickly forgotten by the arrival of two beautiful alpacas, Zorro and…I want to say…Mike? Regardless, the shaved love was evident as the medium-sized duo were crowd-friendly, obviously eating up the attention of the people that were gathered around, myself included. I was told by the handler that the ranch they came from offers murder mystery packages.

Do you know how long a dream of mine has been to accuse an alpaca of murdering a famed socialite in the drawing room with a candlestick?

Giving small children a chance to pet the alpacas—ugh!—we walked on up to the main building where a raffle was occurring, on into a building where yet more plant-heavy people had tables set up, selling their goods and wares. It was packed too—"Oklahoma City and surrounding areas must really love plants!” I exclaimed.

After a short tour of the building, we made our way back to the main drag. My friend bought a plant—I don’t know what kind, so please don’t ask—and talked to the horticulturist for a long time, with me interjecting a hilarious comment every now and then because, I guess, that’s what I do—I really should sell tickets to come and hang out with me.

We took the long path back to the car, along the wooden bridge on the scenic waterfront where turtles, ducks and koi lived together in peace and harmony…until, of course, someone throws some bits of bread into the stream, then it’s every aquatic creature for their selves.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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