In 1906, in the Oklahoma territory, a handsome cowboy Curly McLain admires the beautiful morning and looks forward to the wonderful day to come as he wanders into a local farm girl, Laurey Williams’, yard (“Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’”). He and Laurey engage in some innocent flirtation while Laurey’s Aunt Eller keeps a watchful eye. There is going to be a box social dance that evening, during which local girls will be auctioning off baskets to raise money for the local schoolhouse. The man who wins each basket also wins a lunch date with the woman who prepared it. Curly wastes no time in asking Laurey to be his date. However, much to his dismay, Laurey refuses, believing that he has taken too long to ask her. In an effort to persuade her, Curly tells her all about the fine carriage he plans to drive her to the dance with (“The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”). Laurey teases him about it so much that he tells her the whole thing was made up to get even with her. She storms off, not realizing that he actually has rented the surrey he told her about.
Shortly thereafter the lonesome and disturbed farm hand Jud Fry -- who has become obsessed with Laurey -- asks her to be his date at the box social. Although Laurey is visibly distressed by him, she accepts merely to spite Curly.
Meanwhile another cowboy, Will Parker, returns