With the March 26 announcement of the death of longtime Arts for All Executive Director Bobbi Matchette, directors for this year’s festival knew this year’s event would be about her.
Under the canopy of the 4th Street stage Friday afternoon, the official kick-off of the popular festival was dedicated to her honor.
Committee Chair Ronda Norrell welcomed the full tent of folks gathered for the event’s opening by mentioning the woman who served as executive director for 27 years before retiring late last year due to health problems. Matchette’s smile radiated from a large, framed photo that faced the audience.
“This is a very special dedication tonight,” she said.
Noting the flowers in many people’s hair and on the signs dedicating the festival as a signature of Matchette’s, Norrell said it is another way of carrying Matchette’s presence forward into this year’s festival.
Board member Jan Stratton carried a happy spirit despite choking up while describing her long-time friend.
“This is a weekend to be happy,” she said. “Bobbie’s impact is part of this tradition. She was kind, she was sweet, she was generous. She was a wonderful human being and she loved, loved, loved the arts.”
Matchette’s impact was recognized by Amber Sharples, the executive director for the Oklahoma Arts Council. She said it was an honor to travel from Oklahoma City on Friday to honor her friend.
“I’m just extremely honored to be here,” she said. “She really was the glue, the binding element. She is the epitome of the servant’s heart.”
A legislative citation co-authored by state Sen. John Michael Montgomery and Rep. Rande Worthen was read and presented to Matchette’s husband, Claude, and her daughter, Annie Clinton.
“To all you people,” began the husband, “thank you very much for being here and honoring her.”
Mayor Stan Booker called the Arts for All Festival the “flagship event for the community” and what Lawton is known for. Although he didn’t know Matchette personally, he knew of her tenacity and dedication to supporting Lawton’s arts community.
“She was always making investments in other people,” he said. “Bobbi was the best evangelist for the arts that I know.”
In closing, Norrell invited all to make the most of the events running through Sunday and do it in Matchette’s spirit.
“Go have fun, enjoy,” she said, “and go spend money.”
All drink proceeds benefit the non-profit Arts For All organization who use its funding to provide and promote the local arts community and creative culture.
And with that, the festival is underway.