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Oh, no! Results of Oklawaha pronunciation challenge announced

The Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway announced the results of its community challenge, a month-long voting opportunity at the Oklawaha Brewing Co. to decide how to pronounce the name.

The official vote-with-cash count yielded $103 in favor of the long O sound (O as in oak tree) and $63 for the short O sound (O as in octopus).

“The Oklawaha Greenway Singers may have influenced the results with their song, delivered at a greenway event on Saint Patrick’s Day at the brewery!" organizer Katie Breckheimer said. "Their song, borrowed from the Broadway musical Oklahoma, uses the long O sound in its chorus. All of the singers prefer the long O pronunciation, and really enjoy singing it that way!”

Last month, the pronunciation challenge sparked many conversations about how to say the Native American word. Jan Allen, a member of the greenway friends steering committee, remembers growing up near Florida’s Ocklawaha River, most likely the word’s origin.

“I remember the spelling being the same as the one we use here today, without the letter C. I checked with my brother to see how he remembers pronouncing it,” she said. “He always said it with a short O sound.”
Allen was intrigued enough to research the spelling, and found a historical reference from Paul Nosca’s 2013 History of Florida’s Ocklawaha River: Ocklawaha is the correct official spelling of this river's name since 1992 (and its original pre-1892 spelling). From 1892 to 1992 the river's name was officially spelled "Oklawaha."

“No matter how you spell or pronounce the word, it was a fun challenge to go along with our fundraiser,” Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway chairperson Suzanne Hale said. “Thank you to everyone who voted, and to our sponsor, Oklawaha Brewing Co. The money we raised will help with our native plant garden and new birding trail on the greenway.” To find more information about the Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway, and how you can volunteer, visit