By Jared F. Cranke
Many of Stillwater’s favorite musical acts will take the stage at the 12th Annual Dwight Boeckman Music Fest, Saturday, August 6, at the Okeene Baseball Field and all for a good cause.
Over the last decade, the Dwight Boeckman Music Fest has grown to one of the largest benefit concerts in central Oklahoma raising over $250,000 for various charities. This year’s beneficiaries include the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the Miami Project.
Also this year, organizer Jerry Payne, founding member of No Justice, said the effort was made to “get back to their roots” by focusing primarily on local and regional performers.
“Last year, we had Trent Willmon headline the event and, according to our ticket sales, not very many people in the area knew who Trent Willmon was,” jokes Payne. “This year, we wanted to get back to our roots and have an all local lineup. It feels better playing with your friends anyway.”
This year’s event features No Justice, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Johnny Cooper, Red Dirt Rangers, Chad Sullins & the Last Call Coalition and the Jake Moffat Band on the main stage. The acoustic stage will host Casey Smalley, Gib Stones, Eric Butler, Cale Lester, Jake Bowers and many more. Gates open at 3pm and music starts at 4pm for this all-ages event.
In July, 2000, at just 22 years old, Boeckman suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident which resulted in paralysis from the chest down. The festival was originally created to help Boeckman and his family with medical expenses, but by 2005 had surpassed Boeckman’s needs and thus shifted its focus towards helping others. Tragically, Boeckman was killed in an automobile accident in fall 2005, but the festival continues to honor his legacy and his dream to raise funds which will assist with research on spinal cord injury paralysis. Proceeds from this year’s benefit will go to The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and The Miami Project – a paralysis research facility in Florida that Boeckman attended.
Payne, Boeckman’s longtime friend, with the help of more than 50 volunteers that include Boeckman’s family and friends, organizes the concert every summer with monetary assistance from local businesses in Okeene and Stillwater, as well as national sponsors and foundations. Boeckman was born and raised in and around the community of Okeene. Thanks to the endless support of family and friends, Boeckman was able to give back to the community, which had been so generous to him during the most challenging years of his life. Before he passed, Boeckman was able to help leave his mark by establishing the “Challenge of Life” scholarship, which is awarded to a high school student graduating with high honors who has found time to make a difference while making the grade. According to Payne, Boeckman, before his death, tutored high school students in Okeene and a portion of the concert’s proceeds continues to fund the Challenge of Life Scholarship in his name.
“You can’t describe the impact Dwight had on people,” says Payne. “His heart was bigger than anything. If you got to meet him, your perception of this whole show is different. If you met him, you would be [at the concert] every year and give your money.”
The Dwight Boeckmen Music Festival has quickly become a favorite stop for regional bands that add it to their tour schedule almost a year in advance.
“We have never had a band play this show that doesn’t want to come back and play it the next year,” adds Payne. “As soon as the night’s over, they’re calling on Sunday saying ‘Book us for next year.’ It is the single, most fun concert you will ever go to in your life.”
Big words coming from a man who plays concerts 45-50 weekends per year, but you better believe him. Most fans of the Dwight Boeckman Music Festival mark their calendars very early, calling it their favorite event of the year. Watching the crowd arrive is normally a favorite pre-show activity Payne experiences with friends and volunteers.
“People bring kegs, lawn chairs, sofas and tents,” he says. “It’s like the Land Run. They’ll run out there with their stuff and set it all up. It’s fun to watch the crowd build their little claims in the field.”
One unusual aspect of this show for some is the location, the Okeene Baseball Field; but despite many offers to relocate the event to a larger venue, Payne contends that Okeene is home for the Dwight Boeckman Music Festival and doesn’t have any intention to change that anytime in the future.
“I’ve been asked to move this show to Stillwater and the Zoo Amphitheater, and I could get a lot more sponsors if it was in OKC -- major sponsors -- but it wouldn’t be the same,” Payne says.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the event’s Facebook page by searching for Dwight Boeckman Music Festival.