Old Settlers Picnic in Velma-Alma

Velma-Alma, OK

Velma-Alma is a humble, community-loving town with a beautiful countryside of meadows and flowing creeks. 

Proud home to country music legend Joe Diffie, the 125-year-old annual Old Settler's Picnic, and the tasty Chuckwagon BBQ, this quaint town has all the small-town charm needed for a day trip of history, fun and food!

What to Do 

As Velma developed over the years, the community became more interested in entertainment and social events. The town wanted something more entertaining than taffy pulls and country dances for the younger generations. In 1890, the Old Settler’s Picnic began an annual town tradition still cherished and celebrated today. Families would travel for miles in wagons to camp and enjoy the free community picnic. Ranchers would gladly furnish the main dish, usually barbeque, and ladies would provide complementary dishes of their own. In addition to the picnic, families also participated in local games, such as a swing pulled by a mule, and a variety of races and contests.

The longest continuously running free rodeo began years later and is currently a main feature of the picnic. A carnival was also added to further the entertainment and later in 1950, the Old Settlers’ Group Picture was added to enable decades of memories of a time-honored tradition to be treasured by new old settler's for years to come. Each year, every local and visitor are welcomed into the annual picture, so come revel in being an old settler for the day!

Where to Eat

Besides the annual Old Settler's Picnic, travelers today also enjoy visiting the area to view the breathtaking scenery at the Hat Top Mesa lodge, learn more about country music legend Joe Diffie, or savor a meal at the local eatery, Chuckwagon BBQ & Grill.

Chuckwagon BBQ & Grill is a locally owned and operated restaurant located on the corner of Highway 7 and Hargrove Street in Velma. This BBQ & Grill offers a large warm and inviting family dining atmosphere. The menu includes lunch and dinner options for hearty-style cuisine including: BBQ, seafood, American, Mexican, salads, sandwiches, specialty burgers, and desserts. The restaurant also caters to several events with attendance ranging from 30 to 400. Chuckwagon BBQ & Grill is sure to satisfy the taste buds!

The Doo-Whop is a small, local restaurant that knows a thing or two about feeding big appetites. The restaurant lives by its slogan, “It ain’t food if it ain’t fried!” Serving everything from fried pickles and mozzarella sticks, to chicken fried steaks and curly fries, this restaurant has a passion for fried foods.

Where to Stay

The perfect r&r hideaway located along the beautiful countryside of Velma. It is known as a scenic retreat named after Hat Top Mountain which stands like a tremendous cowboy hat and is located west of town. The lodge offers accommodations for relaxing getaways or special occasion events such as weddings, birthdays and reunions. The property not only features a rustic lodge for groups up to 14, but a cozy cabin for two as well. Both the lodge and cabin are fully equipped with all the amenities needed for a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Guests often spend evenings relaxing in the refreshing outdoors while watching a spellbinding Oklahoma sunset. Recreational activities include fishing and several opportunities for wildlife viewing. If you are looking for a day or weekend of rest, Hat Top Mesa is definitely the place to be!

Joe Diffie is a country music legend, CMA and Grammy Award winner and multi-platinum-selling artist who has gained popularity in Velma, also know as "Home of Joe Diffie” even before his career began. Joe’s fame began in the early 1990s, but he has never slowed down. He continues writing, touring and recording projects including his recent "Roots And Boots" acoustic tour and collaborative CD "All In The Same Boat," with fellow hitmakers Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin. Recently he is working with the Jawga Boyz on a brand new single, which was recently released to country radio. Joe says, "I’ve been writing with a lot of new artists and I never thought that collaboration with one of them would lead to this, but I’m really glad that it has. It’s a different sound for me and I’m having so much fun with it all. I can’t wait to see what the future brings!"

Some of his chart-toppers include "Pickup Man," "Third Rock From the Sun," and "John Deere Green". A renowned songwriter in his own right who recently turned his focus back to writing after years on the road, Joe has hits for artists like Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty, and Jo Dee Messina, and has cuts on upcoming projects for "X Factor" winner Tate Stevens, Dylan Scott, and Tyler Farr among others.


Velma is located in Stephens County and is a humble, community-loving town. The first to settle in the area were the early Plains Indians, who chose to make their home the beautiful countryside of Velma. The flowing creeks, wooded areas, flint for arrows, oil springs for medicinal use, and abundance of wild game created an ideal environment for the families of the Plains Indians. The large meadows and grasslands were suitable for many travelers such as explorers, army scouting units, the pony express, and stagecoach or wagon settlers. Soon after settlers began dwelling in the area, the first county-wide store, church and school were developed. A post office was established in 1886 and the name Velma was chosen after Velma Dobbins, the daughter of Mr. Dobbins, a general store operations manager for one of the first businesses in town owned by Jim Doak. The store was known as the Doak’s Store and was established in 1883.

The Velma-Alma School District Movement began with the building of the first school only a few miles east of Velma around 1885. The building was poorly constructed of cottonwood lumber, however it was the first school in what is now Stephens County. Shortly after opening, the institution started increasing in attendance and the school closed. A new school opened in the same location of the Doak’s Store in 1893. In 1903, Judge J.W. Marshall taught at average of 50 students at a subscription school in a large residential home. Each student paid $1 per month in tuition to attend. In 1915, a new school building was constructed in Velma and it was used until 1941 with attending students ranging from grade school through high school.

In 1946, the superintendents of the Alma and Velma school districts, along with their respective school boards and community members, started a movement to form the Velma-Alma School District. Other small districts incorporated in the movement include: Caddo, Colley, Countyline, Santa Fe, Center Grove, Arthur, Prairiedale, Stoner, Valley View, Payne, Harrisburg and Loco. The Velma-Alma district is currently providing elementary through high school education and offers an array of extracurricular academic, social and athletic opportunities.

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