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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

At the Tulsa International Mayfest, 1982
(2012.201.B1299.0211, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS).


An annual spring art festival, the Tulsa International Mayfest was initiated in 1973 by the Tulsa Junior League as Jubilee '73. The organization financed the event to celebrate the league's fiftieth anniversary. Subsequent festivals, sponsored by the Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council and Downtown Tulsa Unlimited, were known as Festival '74 to Festival '77. In 1978 the name changed to the Tulsa International Mayfest. Nationally known performers, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Three Dog Night, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, have appeared at the event. In 1980 Jim Halsey held a music festival in conjunction with the spring event.

The focus of Mayfest has been an art festival with juried art competitions and shows. Held in downtown Tulsa, except in 1991 and 1992 when it was moved north to Brady Village, the celebration allows visitors to view arts and crafts and enjoy a carnival atmosphere, with beer, ethnic cuisine, and the usual fair food such as funnel cake and fry bread. In 1985 Tulsa International Mayfest Incorporated, was formed, with Mary Collins serving as the first director. Despite dealing with Oklahoma's unpredictable May weather, the festival averaged an attendance of more than three hundred thousand by 2000. Economic conditions have also affected the event, but it has continued its free admission tradition, relying on corporate sponsorship. By the 1990s Mayfest had been expanded to ten days, but the extended length proved to be a financial burden. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Mayfest lasted four days.

Larry O'Dell


Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 18 January 1981, 4 March 1993, 14 May 1995, 11 May 1997, and 30 May 2003.

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “Tulsa International Mayfest,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=TU009.

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