Joni Nash with the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce is celebrating a major award for the second consecutive year.

During the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association’s RedBud Awards Gala held at the Oklahoma History Center in May, the Pawhuska Chamber received the merit award in outstanding event for its National Indian Taco Championship held each autumn.

“We were very excited to win it last year and get the accolades that came with it,” said Nash, executive director. “Then to get it back-to-back was something we really didn’t see coming, but we’re surprised and excited again this year.”

In October, contestants flock to downtown Pawhuska to taste some of the best Indian tacos in the country. Visitors to this annual championship not only taste tacos, but enjoy local bands, Native American dance demonstrations and craft vendor booths.

Local shops bustle with business and provide a unique shopping experience to all festival goers. Nash said that attendance for the popular event last fall was about 4,500 and nearly three times the crowd size.

“It’s always a well-attended event, but after we won the award last year, we got a lot of exposure naturally through the state award,” said Nash. “At that time we never had that many people in our downtown at one time. “

She added that it was the perfect timing as Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman Mercantile was just about to open up. The Food Network star and best-selling author’s storefront in Pawhuska is drawing thousands of customers daily to the small Osage County town.

In fact, the refurbished century-old building was declared the RedBud Award’s outstanding new attraction. Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, meanwhile, won the merit award for outstanding attraction.

Nash, who’s from the Oklahoma City area and been with the chamber for over two years, promotes the nearby offerings to the dozens of out-town-callers she gets daily.

“It was a good trial run to see how we logistically handle the crowds downtown and parking wasn’t a problem that day and everything just worked,” she said. “That’s what we’re here for, and it’s been great,” she said.

Open to all Oklahoma tourism entities, the RedBud Awards represent the highest honor given in the Oklahoma tourism industry. The Gala was held as part of the 2017 Oklahoma Conference on Tourism.