Noodling fish story didn't start big

Today's absolutely gigantic of an event in Pauls Valley – an annual noodling gathering drawing in visitors from all over the planet – didn't start so big.

In fact, the 20th anniversary of the Okie Noodling Tournament coming Friday night and all day Saturday, June 14-15, had a more modest beginning.

It all began when the late local icon Phil Henderson organized a little thing for noodlers at another iconic spot in Pauls Valley – Bob's Pig Shop.

At the start a handful of visitors would crowd around a noodler's truck on arrival so they could see just how big the monster size catfish was they had caught with their bare hands.

After a few short years the event got so big the now city of Pauls Valley owned event was moved to its current location in Wacker Park, where throngs of visitors want to see real life fish stories come to life right in front of them.

Sherri Wing, president of the PV Chamber of Commerce, which helps city officials with the event's planning over many months, says it's a really big deal for this community.

“I'm looking forward to the event,” Wing said. “It takes a lot of work but I get to serve as an ambassador for the community. A lot of people get to be ambassadors for Pauls Valley.

“This is a premiere event for Pauls Valley and the state. I'm talking about one great event.”

Pauls Valley City Manager James Frizell seconds that motion.

“It's a big deal to us,” Frizell says.

“It's Pauls Valley's biggest event by far.”

It all gets started with the 5th annual Okie Noodling Eve Concert starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Casey Donahew is the featured performer with special guest Jason Boland and the Stragglers.

“The Friday night concert has become a mainstay.,” Frizell adds. “Upwards of 5,000 people will be here just for the concert.”

As for Saturday's full day of noodling related activities, Wing says this is where literally thousands of visitors will come to check things out at the local park.

They will naturally bring a lot of dollars with them during their visit to Pauls Valley.

“It has a huge economic impact on this community and it's a lot of fun,” Wing said.

“We have noodlers registered from Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania.”

“It brings in a lot of revenue to this city,” Frizell said.

She adds food trucks planning to be at the noodling event were sold out in January as there should also be a “wide array” of merchandise vendors.

One big change to remember is no coolers or outside drinks will be allowed into the festival because of new liquor laws.

On Saturday vendors are scheduled to begin opening up around 10 a.m. with live noodling demonstrations throughout much of the day.

Weigh-ins for fish will also be all day stretching up through around 6 p.m.

The schedule of events on Saturday includes:

• 11 a.m. – Okie Cornhole registration begins.

• Noon – Washita Casino noodle-eating competition.

• 1 p.m. – PV Chamber of Commerce watermelon crawl.

• 2 p.m. – CTS river relay team competition.

• 3 p.m. – Treasure Valley men's only wet t-shirt contest.

• 4 p.m. – PV Chamber of Commerce kids catfish eating competition.

• 5:30 p.m. – Jet Stream Casino Okie Noodling queen competition.

• 6 p.m. – Tournament weigh-in deadline.

• 6:30 p.m. – Okie Cornhole finals.

• 7:30 p.m. – Tournament winner announced.

• 8:30 p.m. – BC and the Big Red performs on stage to wrap up the festivities.

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