It's Okie Noodling kind of big

After a 2020 year of no festivities the sight of really big fish being hauled up to the stage should bring some big excitement and probably some really big crowds for this weekend's Okie Noodling event.

All the fish stories should come to life with the return of the big local noodling festival coming Friday and Saturday, June 18-19 in Wacker Park.

One Pauls Valley official says it was a tough deal to call off last year's tournament because of what was then a raging pandemic.

Now a full year later it's one big plus to see it back, says PV City Manager James Frizell.

“It was hard but the decision to cancel last year's event was made easy because of the coronavirus,” Frizell said.

“When you have an event like Okie Noodling is always a big deal. We were in the middle of the pandemic so we canceled because we wanted to keep people safe.

“I think this Okie Noodling will be bigger and hopefully better. I believe people want to get back out, so we're expecting a record-breaking experience this time around, record-breaking crowds.”

The tournament highlighting the unique sport of noodling – people getting into rivers to use their bare hands to catch large catfish – was created in 2001.

Since its start about 2,000 noodlers from across the country have participated with literally thousands of fish being caught.

The sight of those big fish has drawn the interest of crowds averaging about 15,000 people coming to each of the recent festivals in PV.

It has also had numerous competitors over the years with groups from France, Japan, China and Germany.

“The Okie Noodling Tournament began as a local event, and it's been incredible to watch it grow into the world's largest hand-fishing tournament,” said Jason Selman, local tourism director.

“Every year the tournament is an economic boom to Pauls Valley and surrounding areas. It's so popular because it's a unique event that appeals to all types of people – from avid noodlers to casual fans.”

It all gets started with a free concert featuring Kody West and then Cody Hibbard starting at 7 p.m. Friday.

Vendors then open at 10 a.m. Saturday as noodlers are expected to bring their super-sized catfish for weigh-in throughout the afternoon.

Activities to be featured include a noodling queen competition, noodle eating competition, live noodling demonstrations and a watermelon crawl.

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