Barnsdall welcomes return of Big Heart Day

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Pastor Jason Byers of Barnsdall is shown with a Big Heart Day T-shirt. Byers and his wife, Brenda, will be marshals for the parade held as an element of the town's annual Memorial Day weekend celebration. To buy a T-shirt, contact the Barnsdall Chamber of Commerce.

BARNSDALL – Big Heart Day (or Bigheart Day, if that’s the way you write it) is a classic American small-town celebration.

Every spring, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, there are turtle races, a fishing tournament for the kids, live musical performances, food, games and fireworks. Main Street is closed to vehicle traffic.

This May 29, it will be 68 years since the observance began, and a full return to Big Heart day fun is anticipated. A return, that is, because there was no Big Heart Day celebration in 2020. COVID-19 made it impossible.

Claud Rosendale, president of the Barnsdall Chamber of Commerce, anticipated the gloomy necessity of canceling the 2020 celebration by issuing a statement in March that said: “As a result of the current medical crisis and the fact that the Oklahoma Tax Commission is not currently issuing any event permits, it is with a heavy heart that we have decided to cancel the 2020 Big Heart Day celebration.”

The gloom has passed, and Rosendale last week informed Chamber members at their monthly luncheon on May 11 that T-shirts for the 2021 celebration had arrived. Prices will be $10 for youth sizes and $15 for adult sizes.

“It’s coming – not very far away now,” Rosendale said of Big Heart Day.

He acknowledged that parade entries and vendor signups had been slow, but the women’s and men’s alumni basketball games are set for Friday evening, May 28, and the fishing tournament for the kids is scheduled for 7 a.m. Saturday. The parade will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. There will also be co-ed softball, the Christian Music Talent Contest and the fireworks.

Pastor Jason Byers and his wife, Brenda, of the Barnsdall Assembly of God, are to be the parade marshals. Banners have been set up to remind folks that the big celebration is coming. Barnsdall’s cheer and hospitality are about to be on display once again.

The resumption of the Big Heart Day celebration comes at a time when Barnsdall High School just graduated its centennial class, sending 32 youths into the worlds of higher education and work. The local schools are also trying to recruit families and students to help keep the size of the student body from dwindling.

Superintendent Jeff Lay briefed the chamber’s luncheon attendees on May 11 that the school system is in the midst of a recruitment campaign called “Choose Barnsdall.” Lay said 14 students from other communities had already been added to the anticipated enrollment for the 2021-22 academic year.

Lay explained that Gov. Kevin Stitt had articulated the view that schools are a business that need to be competing for students, and Barnsdall is attempting to compete for the interest of families and their kids.

“Without that, the future does not look bright,” Lay said regarding Barnsdall’s efforts to attract students. “I appreciate everyone that helps us with that.”

Barnsdall Public Schools had 367 students during the 2020-21 academic year. There are always losses – due to graduation and other factors – and it is not clear what the enrollment for 2021-22 will be.

In other news, Barnsdall is expecting to see participants in the Ironman Triathlon bike through a portion of town on May 23, between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tulsa is the host city this spring for one of the triathlons.