For “Highway to Henryetta” by Troy Aikman, Blake Shelton is joined by his wife Gwen Stefani | Local News
HENRYETTA — Five minutes before the start of Blake Shelton’s main event set, “Highway to Henryetta” host Troy Aikman welcomed special guests into their special seats.
Among those guests were Barry Switzer, who was Aikman’s OU coach in 1984-85 and his Dallas Cowboys coach in 1994-97; and Stephen Jones, Jerry’s son and executive vice president of the Cowboys.
Forty-five minutes into Shelton’s performance, he introduced a special guest: his famous wife Gwen Stefani, who sang her debut hit No Doubt (“Don’t Speak”) and a duet with her husband (whose fame spread because of his involvement in the talent show “The Voice”).
“I knew I was going to love this show tonight. I knew it,” Shelton said from the big stage at Henryetta’s Nichols Park. Oklahoma, baiting my deer stands with corn I got back in my truck and got a text from Troy Aikman.
“He asked me if I would come and do this (show). It was last fall. I said, “Man, I’d be honored to be a part of it.” I grew up in Ada. I can’t count how many times I’ve driven back and forth on I-40, and passed through Henryetta, Oklahoma – the home of Troy Aikman.
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Ten hours earlier, before the start of the inaugural “Highway to Henryetta” music festival, Aikman was asked about Nichols Park and how it was set up and prepared for a one-day festival.
“(It’s) probably bigger than I imagined,” said Aikman, a 1984 graduate of Henryetta High School. “I have a great team. I was here (Friday) and saw it for the first time. I think they did an amazing job, especially considering all the rain we’ve had in the last 36 hours. We mulched it and dried it out as best we could. I think it’s as good as we could have hoped for.
Pointing to his left, Aikman added, “I played baseball in the park here.”
“Obviously,” he added, “it’s unlike anything that’s ever happened in Henryetta.”
Located 52 miles south of downtown Tulsa, Henryetta has a population of 5,800. For the “Highway to Henryetta”, around 10,000 music lovers poured into the muddy park.
A 24-ounce Coors Light had a list price of $12.50. Chicken on a stick: $10. Bacon and cheddar ranch fries seemed popular at $12.
In the concert area of the park, there are only seven trees. As the temperature soared to 93 degrees, the shade provided by these trees was in great demand before sunset.
Shelton was preceded on the main stage by Pat Green, the Josh Abbott Band, Wade Bowen and Stoney Larue, as well as George Dunham and The Bird Dogs. Green effectively worked the crowd: “Today, Henryetta is the coolest place on the planet.”
The day’s soundtrack was loaded with Aikman’s beloved country music, but fans seemed thrilled to hear some rock covers. Bowen performed “Night Moves” by Bob Seger and “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles. While Larue’s band was fronted by a fantastic guitarist, they made an interesting medley that tied together The Jackson Five’s ‘I Want You Back’, Ted Nugent’s ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ and Tom Petty’s ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ .
There were two stages: the large main stage and the second “Hen House” stage. On the second stage were artists – including Mikayla Lane – who would do a 30-minute set as the main stage was prepared for the next artist on this side of the festival.
Lane, 17, juggles a showbiz quest with online classes at Mannford public schools. She recorded at a studio in Tulsa, made several appearances at Cain’s Ballroom, and gained early career support from Shelton and her executives.
“I found out that we were added to Henryetta’s list on my mother’s birthday,” Lane said. “The only other time I had been here was when we played at a retirement home.”
The energy level of the show doubled when Lane was on stage for the first of her two sets. “It’s my first festival,” she announced before her stellar band cooked during a cover of Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine.”
“I’m so lucky to have this group,” Lane said. “I love that there were only a few people on our stage when we started, and then you look up and see people coming from all over.”
For 13 years, Steve Norman served as Henryetta’s Chief of Police. It was a Saturday on the bridge for the Henryetta Police Department. The 12 officers spent the whole day and evening at the festival. Security assistance was provided by the Okmulgee Criminal Justice Authority and the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Department.
“So far today,” Norman said at 5 p.m., six hours after the doors opened, “we have had zero criminal incidents. Zero.
“I really didn’t know what to expect, but when you literally double the size of the city, you never know. But so far, yes, everyone has done very well. No problem.
Norman is a permanent resident of Henryetta and a graduate of Henryetta High School in 1993. His son, Brady Norman, will be Henryetta’s starting second quarterback this season. When Aikman was here in October, announcing his plan for the “Highway to Henryetta,” he was photographed for Tulsa World with Brady Norman.
As the show continued until 10:15 a.m., there never seemed to be any crowd control issues.
The festival was presented by AT&T and produced to raise funds for various community and educational issues in the Henryetta area. Aikman’s Oklahoma Weekend kicked off with the Friday donation of refurbished computers to 300 students in the Henryetta-Okmulgee area.
“I really believe in values and who I am – they were instilled during my years here at Henryetta,” said Aikman, 55, who after quarterbacking for the Henryetta Hens became a starter for the Sooners, a NFL No. 1 draft pick with the UCLA Bruins and three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys. In 2006, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I can’t imagine life without having spent some of it here in Oklahoma. I wish my own daughters could have experienced small town America,” said Aikman, who after 21 seasons as a Fox Sports games analyst moved to ESPN for Monday Night Football. “I’m thrilled that we have the chance to introduce (Henryetta) to people who have never been here before.”