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Oklahoma's tourism and agriculture departments turning to wine, music history to draw visitors

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma's tourism and agriculture departments are launching separate initiatives hoping to entice visitors to the state this summer through wine and music.

Rhythm & Routes will showcase musical artists and venues while Oklahoma Wine Trails showcases wineries through "trails" — itineraries that will take visitors across the state. Oklahoma Tourism Department spokeswoman Leslie Blair said people will be able to use the agency's website to find their favourite artist and develop itineraries based on that person's life.

Starting July 1, the site will include interviews, photos and other memorabilia.

"If you look at all the musical stars and the innovations that have come out of Oklahoma, it's really impressive," Blair said. "These are people — say, Reba, Vince, Garth, Kristin Chenoweth — people instantly know who you're talking about. People may not realize they're from Oklahoma, and so I think it's important for us to recognize the great, talented individuals and also not just individuals, but venues."

The first phase of the rollout of Rhythm & Routes is made up of 43 artists and venues, including Bob Wills, Carrie Underwood, Hanson, Kings of Leon, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Cain's Ballroom.

The Oklahoma Wine Trails features 10 different itineraries featuring a handful of wineries grouped together by location to showcase the state's booming wine industry, said agritourism program administrator Jamie Cummings.

Before 2000, the state had just four wineries. Now it has more than 60, and half of those are featured in the wine trails, Cummings said.

"Oklahoma had a huge winery industry before Prohibition and then the Dust Bowl kind of wiped it all out. The grapes do grow here. Most people are surprised by that," Cummings said.

Trail visitors can choose a more urban experience around Tulsa or Oklahoma, a trail that follows Route 66 or others that are in more rural areas. Participants will receive stickers at each winery they visit and once they complete a trail they can send in for a wine charm.

"The whole goal with this is to bring attention to what those areas can provide for, like I said, a day trip or even a weekend trip. Just getting on the road and checking out ... how beautiful it can be when you drive across rural Oklahoma," Cummings said.

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Email Kristi Eaton at Keaton@ap.org or follow her at https://twitter.com/KristiEaton .

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