Shawnee takes top honors at tourism awards

Visit Shawnee
Pictured, from left, are Stacy Cramer Moore, director of tourism for the city of Shawnee; Michelle Kozel, owner of Sunshine Shelly's Pumpkin Patch & Nightmare Harvest; Peter Purin, creator Uncanny Comic Expo; and Erica Bass, tourism communications manager for the city of Shawnee

Visit Shawnee, the tourism department for the City of Shawnee, is proud to announce a Shawnee area event and attraction has received Oklahoma’s highest tourism honors, the Redbud.

The Oklahoma Travel Industry Association (OTIA) held its annual RedBud Awards at the Edmond Conference Center on June 29, 2021.

This year’s awards were emceed by Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell and Jennifer Reynolds.  The awards recognize Oklahoma’s top tourism attractions, events, programs and organizations for outstanding efforts to serve and promote Oklahoma’s tourism industry.

2021’s awards were a bit different, having been cancelled in 2020. The period of activity of note was expanded beyond 2020 to include both 2019 and 2020. 

Uncanny Comic Expo was awarded the “Best New Event” RedBud. Uncanny Comic Expo is now in its third year. The event is moving to the Grand Casino Resort just west of Shawnee on I-40 after much success at FireLake Arena.

Uncanny Comic Expo director, Dr. Peter Purin, explained, “As a vendor and attendee of San Diego Comic Con, I wanted to bring a comic con to my hometown.  I have strived to make it the best mid-sized con in the region with tickets that are affordable for a family, vendor fees that allow vendors to make money, special tickets for veterans. We also support local school art, drama, and music programs as we see comic books, cosplay, gaming, and related interests as expressions of and gateways to the Fine Arts. Most of us have a nerd-side, but Uncanny includes elements for other interests, too.”

Shawnees Director of Tourism Stacy Cramer Moore added, “Why is Uncanny Comic Expo Oklahoma’s best new event? Like the 13th Doctor, comic-cons are not for everyone. Uncanny Expo’s founder has created an event where nerds can “nerd-out” and their significant others still have a good time. He has worked very hard growing his base of attendees and financial sponsors. I am excited to see this year’s event Aug. 28 expanded into the Grand Casino Resort.” 

Shawnee’s other big winner was Kozel Family Farms, which operates Sunshine Shelly’s Pumpkin Patch and the Nightmare Harvest at the farm just north of Shawnee on Hwy 18. Sunshine Shelly’s received a RedBud for outstanding Agritourism Attraction in Oklahoma. 

Owner Michelle Kozel commented, “We have really tried to make it a fun experience for the whole family! We offer 20 acres of pumpkins, a 5 acre corn maze, concessions, kiddie maze, corn pits, big trykes, hayrides and more. The Nightmare Harvest experience is meant to scare the pants off our guests, so they bring back their friends the next weekend.”

Cramer Moore added, “We couldn’t have two more different winners, and that shows the level of diversity of events and activities in the Shawnee area. Shawnee is well positioned to attract guests from throughout Oklahoma and the Midwest. I’m proud to be able to represent events and activities that are award winning, take place in world-class facilities, and create excitement.”

Other nominations included Safe Event for Families’ 2019 Christmas Parade with Fireworks as Outstanding Event and Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art for Attraction of the Year.