I live in the small town of Jay, Oklahoma. (Population as of 10, October 2010, 2486.) I moved here in October of 1990 and quickly learned that I wasn’t going to die of boredom if I knew where to look. Jay is the county seat of Delaware County, which is situated in Northeast Oklahoma.
It has a school, and the mascot is The Bulldogs. The school colors are black and gold. Jay has two grocery stores (Homeland and Wood’s Grocery), several convenience stores (none of which stay open all night), one motel (Holiday Pines), a library/community center, a newspaper office (The Delaware County Journal, which is published by The Grove Sun), a small Wal-Mart, Dollar General Store, a feed store (B & L Feed), post office, police station, and sheriff’s office/jail/courthouse, Department of Human Services, Sam Hider Clinic, two doctor’s offices, a small book store, (Sissy’s Place), two banks, (Grand Federal Savings Bank and an Arvest Branch), along with a historical society museum, That is pretty much it! You can add to this the various churches, secondhand shops, flower shops, bail bonds offices and attorneys’ offices around town. There’s even a few nice little cafes and restaurants. (The City Perk and El Vallarta, which occupies the old bowling alley building) and fast food restaurants (Sonic, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Subway namely.)
So you’re probably asking yourself what tourist value it has. Well, it has a lot actually. The people around here are easy to get along with for the most part and they are laid back. There’s lots of interesting things to do and see once you know where to look. It took me 20 years to figure it out.
Jay is known as the Huckleberry Capital of the World. The annual Huckleberry Festival is held every 4th of July weekend. In times past they used to bring in concerts to hold at the football field, along with pow wows. However they don’t do that anymore. They do have an arts and crafts fair and quilt show, turtle derby, pie auctions, frog jump, fireworks display, parade, car show, and a few other events though along with a carnival midway.
Every spring you can expect the gigging tournament, held at Lake Eucha. (That is pronounced OOtchie by the way.) This is mainly a bunch of guys in flat bottomed boats, spearing the native suckerfish that live in the lake.
Every August, on the weekend before school starts, Jay has an annual cruise night and car show. People come from all over the USA to drive their cars in this event. There’s lots of great music, fun, food, and fireworks. Last year a replica of The General Lee appeared, and this year a car resembling a big beer can put in an appearance.
These events are seasonal but there’s many more things to do year round.
At the courthouse, which has been recently remodeled, for example, you can view lots of wonderful art photography pieces by local physician F. Rollin Bland. These pieces of art are on display throughout the courthouse. Just across the south side of the courthouse is the Mariee Wallace Historical Society Museum. Inside you will find antiques, and a host of historical items from local families from before the turn of the century. Mike and Jackie Coatney are the museum curators and they’ll be more than happy to tell you about anything in the building. There is even a gift shop that sells such things as huckleberry jam, huckleberry syrup, a few Native American recipe items, and more.
Anytime someone in the community needs a helping hand, or a church or other organization needs a fund raiser, you can pretty much bet you’re going to find an Indian taco sale to help out. Indian tacos are delicious. (Once in a while they will hold a chili supper, auction, yard sale, or spaghetti supper instead to help out families in need.) And, during election years, you can always find a free hog fry, chili feed, or Indian taco supper to go to courtesy of the candidates themselves.
Of course Jay is a small town and everything is in easy walking distance. It’s not hard to take a camera and take photos of interesting flowers, trees, and more on the way. Jay does lack a movie theater, or video rental store but there is a Red Box at Wal-Mart. Aside from the aforementioned cafes and fast food places and benefit food items you can find from time to time, you can also enjoy dinner specials from the local convenience stores. Okie Mart has things like salisbury steak, lasagna, chicken fried steak and BBQ beef brisket. All the convenience stores in the area sell pizza, chicken strips, bagel dogs, sandwiches, and more to go as well.
Lake Eucha isn’t as big or as bustling as nearby Grand Lake, but it is a nice place to go if you want to have some peace and quiet, go fishing, or just relax in nature. There are lots of caves, historical buildings, and trails to explore and wildlife is abundant just a short distance from town.
There are several thrift stores and secondhand permanent yard sales as well to shop at too. Jay is much more than meets the eye.