If you can’t win, make the one who does break a record.


If you can’t win, make the one who does break a record.


Some drivers did exactly this during the original National Sand Bass Festival boat races to confirm suspicions that one contestant was bending the rules. Working through a regional association, the NSBF committee contracted for boat races to open the week-long festival, which started in 1963. Little Glasses Cove was an ideal location.


Drivers from five states participated, pushing the festival opener into three days of time trials and other events before the Sunday afternoon stock engine and hydroplane races. A Tulsa driver drew critical attention one year with his rig, which was ran too fast for a stock engine. Knowing rules required any driver breaking a race course record was required to have his motor checked immediately following a run, other drivers took turns pushing the Tulsa entry to a record performance.


The ploy worked. Judges disqualified the winner after finding drilled pistons. Association officials took care of additional punishment.


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NSBF (1963-73) originated from a peach festival. Wayne Cabaniss, then manager of a Madill radio station, was fascinated with the success of an event attended in his hometown at Nashville, Ark. He felt “something like this could be done” to exploit Lake Texoma as a national outdoor attraction. Publisher Jim Pate substituted sand bass for peaches and obtained the King Sandie logo. Several Madill civic leaders formed a steering committee and the tribute to a fish was off and swimming upstream to becoming a “Top 20 National Outdoor Attraction” during the third week of June.


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Roy Lockhart Jr., a Madill banker, was the first chairman. The event was the only major annual community celebration in south central Oklahoma at that time other than Ardmore’s Birthday Party. With contracted rides and approved vendors, the entire Sunday-through-Saturday festival was organized and presented by Marshall County residents, Texoma resort owners and related businesses.


Participation was critical. A fledging art club displayed works in “Artist Alley,” an outdoor exhibit. The show grew into a judged show and the only original event still held annually 46 years later.


Carol Stafford organized a fish fry that soon grew to between 300-500 volunteers to catch, clean, dress and fry sandies on the courthouse lawn (attendance figures were based on the plate count). A major portion of the work crew worked at the First Methodist Church to mix ingredients for hush puppies. Marshall County Extension Homemakers did the serving.


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Other chairs (not in order) included Otis “Shorty” Ward, Gene Barnes, Cabaniss, Harold “Rosebud” Brown, James Chaney, Jim McLaughlin, Robert Watts (two terms), John Rorex, Ike Matlack, Pate, Mack Stafford, Bob Walker and yours truly.


Significant events are linked with some chairmen. Watts was head man the year when an intense thunderstorm disrupted the show and chased thousands of visitors from the downtown square. This was after most of the fish were already cooked. Folks at local nursing homes had a fish feast.


McLaughlin created and updated an annual scrapbook. As a fisherman and outstanding tennis player, he also revised rules for the fishing contest that stopped at least one sneaky –– and slightly greedy Texas angler –– from loading a sandy with lead weights to claim the big fish prize.


Walker moved to Texas and Ol’ Dog filled in as chairman-designate for the ‘74 festival which was called off because the event was too successful and time was needed to make revisions.


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Another generation of community leaders headed by Bink Stafford and Herb Pate brought King Sandie home in 1987. Festival number 35 is penciled in for the first week of June.