Park pavilion to bear namesake of local singer/songwriter

Park pavilion to bear namesake of local singer/songwriter
By Ken Childers
ONL Editor
The City of Okemah has long acknowledged its rich musical history by naming streets and walkways after artists who hail from the area. Three luminaries, Woody Guthrie, John Fullbright and Shawna Russell have had their names immortalized in one or more forms throughout the city, and now you can add another name to that list.
The pavilion in Noble Park, located right in the heart of the city, will soon bear the name of Melissa Hembree, an award-winning singer/songwriter who calls Okemah “home.”
Carl Alls of the Community Improvement Association and Kay Thompson, formerly of the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Concert Committee, last week asked the Okemah City Council to consider naming the pavilion after Hembree to honor her contributions to the community. Their proposal was met with unanimous council approval during its regular meeting on Oct. 15.
“We just want to recognize Melissa. She’s never said ‘no’ to us. She’s always been very good to the community and has never asked for anything from it,” Alls told the council during the public appearances portion of the meeting.
Hembree, who began recording at the tender age of nine, performs frequently around the Okemah area and has graced the stage during the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival multiple times.
“For the past 15 years I’ve been involved in music, she’s always been willing to step up,” Thompson said to the council. “Any time we needed her to help with Pioneer Days or WoodyFest, she took it up on her own. I think she’s very well deserving to be recognized.”
“It is an honor to be recognized by the city of Okemah. There are so many people in this town that work hard everyday for the betterment of our community,” Hembree said. “I am happy that I could be a part of that. We all have the ability to contribute to the growth of Okemah by volunteering our efforts to those programs and organizations that strive to promote economic and community development. My goal has always been to do what I can to make Okemah a better place for my children and grandchildren.”
Melissa Hembree is a veteran in the music business. She has been recording and touring the United States since she was nine years old. Joined by her bass player/husband, Bruce Metcalf, they released their debut EP titled “Pieces of Me” in 2012.
“Her self penned tunes are well crafted, well played, and sung from the depths of heart. A strong, powerful voice that speaks with full authority of a life lived with danger in the no passing zone,” wrote Rick Reiley of Corridor Magazine. Her most recent Album, “Down The Rabbit Hole,” was released at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in 2018 and she was awarded Homeland Artist of the Year by the Tulsa Music Awards for 2020. In four decades, she has never lost her love for a song. You can follow Melissa and her music at facebook.com/melissahembreemusicokla and www.reverbnation.com/melissahembree.

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