The director of Osage County Tourism says she thinks the county is poised to make a strong recovery as the nation gradually opens up and people begin to look for safe ways to travel.


“I think rural is going to look really good to people,” Tourism Director Kelly Bland said. “I think we have some assets that have become very appealing to the American public.”


As an example, she mentioned the Tulsa Botanic Garden, located in the Osage Hills to the northwest of Tulsa. The garden, which will open June 1 to the public and will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is away from the urban core of Tulsa and offers potential visitors an open-air attraction. It is located next to the Postoak Lodge & Retreat, which sits on 1,000 acres by itself.


Bland also noted the value of creative cultural offerings that take account of the need for social distancing. She mentioned the western variety show that was staged Saturday, May 16, at the Historic Whiting Hotel in Pawhuska as an instance of “creativity on steroids.” The show could be viewed in person, or watched live on Facebook, or watched later (in recorded form) on Facebook, or listened to on the radio.


“These people donated their talent and time,” Bland said of the entertainers who performed at the variety show. There was no admission charge for the show, but there was an appeal for donations to help finance activities of the local public schools, as they work to meet the needs of Pawhuska-area families during the COVID-19 health event.


Potential travelers will also want to know that The Pioneer Woman Mercantile reopened May 21, after having closed March 16 due to concerns about COVID-19. The Merc reopened with updated health and safety measures in place, according to an announcement.


“The Merc is sparkly clean, sanitized, and organized,” the business said in an announcement on its Facebook page. “We have implemented many new procedures to help ensure the safety of our guests and employees, so we appreciate your patience as we settle into this extraordinary new normal.”


Other downtown Pawhuska businesses had already reopened by the end of last week, or they were making plans to do so. Mudpies 2, at 537 Leahy Ave., just off Main Street, announced that it intended to open at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 26. “We sure have missed you,” the store said on its Facebook page.


Bland offered a reminder that one of Osage County’s traditional attractions, the Cavalcade Rodeo, is scheduled from July 13-19 at the fairgrounds. This will be the 74th year for the world’s largest amateur rodeo, and lovers of things western will want to visit the updated, better-than-before-COVID Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum, at the northeast corner of Leahy and Sixth.


“We are your social distancing vacation destination,” Bland said. She added that if all you really want is a great meal without distractions, you might want to see about having a ribeye on Saturday night at Mandy’s Cafe’ in Shidler. They’ll offer you a little cake to follow the steak.