Bush to Visit OK on July 4

Former President George W. Bush will celebrate his first Fourth of July since leaving office with a speech at a northwestern Oklahoma festival.

The Woodward Tourism and Convention Bureau announced Wednesday that Bush would speak at the dedication of Crystal Beach Park during the "Let Freedom Ring 2009" celebration. The park has undergone major renovations for its 80th anniversary.

"He's going to be here on the Fourth and going to give a speech to the crowd," Landon Laubhan, the concert promoter who arranged for Bush's appearance, told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday night.

Laubhan wants it to be a nonpolitical event where Bush can enjoy the holiday and "nothing more."

The two-day celebration beginning July 3 is also to include concerts from country artists including Asleep at the Wheel, Sawyer Brown, Marty Stuart and Tanya Tucker.

The Woodward News first reported Bush's planned visit Wednesday, and the tourism bureau's executive director, Jim Curtiss, confirmed it later in the day. An official announcement is planned Monday.

Laubhan, who is from Freedom in northwestern Oklahoma, said he noticed a void in Fourth of July celebrations in Woodward in recent years and decided to try to put something together.

"It's just been one of those things that nobody has really stuck their neck out there and taken a chance," Laubhan said.

Laubhan started out by contacting country artists he'd already worked with and "it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger." He said he felt a little bit stupid when he asked if the former president, who now lives in Dallas, was already booked on Independence Day, but he ended up pleasantly surprised.

He was taken aback when the Washington Speakers' Bureau called to let him know Bush had agreed to attend.

"I was just, `You're kidding me.' ... For a town this size and where it's located, this is just something you don't expect," Laubhan said. Woodward is a city of about 12,000 people located 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

Laubhan said many people helped him in organizing the event, and he credited letters of recommendation from Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., for helping convince Bush to attend.

Bush's last public appearance in Oklahoma was in September, when he visited the state Capitol and attended a private fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He was in the state for less than five hours.

He also spoke at Oklahoma State University's commencement in 2006, landing at Vance Air Force Base in Enid before heading to Stillwater by helicopter.

Laudham said the visit from a former president could be a once-in-a-lifetime event for an "oilfield town out in the middle of nowhere."

"It'll just be one for the history books," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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