Most people reading this probably missed their chance to trade whimsies with Will Rogers, dodge a hold-up by Pretty Boy Floyd or wade their way through a crowd of temperance protesters. But even those born closer to the 2020s than the 1920s will have a chance to relive all these vintage Oklahoma thrills for one night.
Oklahoma Historical Society is putting an exciting spin on its annual fundraising gala this year with A Night in the Life: The Roaring Twenties. The historically set night of food, drink, music and creative programming runs 7-10 p.m. Oct. 20 at Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.
Tickets for the event are $35-$100 and must be reserved at okhistory.org/gala by Tuesday.
Different local groups and institutions hold formal fundraising galas all the time, but few other such events actually aim to draw guests into a different time period. Historical actors and history center education staff will portray historic Okies like humorist Rogers and gangster Floyd. There will also be mock protests by supporters of Prohibition and a staged police raid.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What is it that we can do that is unique to us and another organization could not do as well?’” said Oklahoma History Center executive assistant Nicole Harvey. “And the answer was immersive throwback history.”
Guests are encouraged to come dressed in ’20s attire. In addition to drop-ins by historical figures, guests can enjoy a barrelhouse including whiskey casks and moonshine with acoustic blues by Harold Aldridge. Period-appropriate jazz hits will be played by Walter Taylor III and the TaylorMadeJazz band in the VIP area modeled after a traditional Prohibition-era speakeasy that can only be entered by providing the correct password to the bouncer at the door.
A group of dancers from Oklahoma City University will present a ’20s-era tap routine while dance instructors in the hall will teach guests how to do the Charleston and the Lindy hop.
A green-screen photo booth will allow attendees to insert themselves into photos from the history center’s photo archive, including old scenes from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
“We can make it fun and lighthearted but, to the best degree possible, historically accurate,” Harvey said.
The immersive approach to the fundraising gala was in part inspired by the historical society’s young professionals steering committee History OffCenter as a way to get a younger crowd excited about state history. Other recent History OffCenter events have included a mingling event at 21c Museum Hotel and a historic bike tour of downtown Oklahoma City.
Still, Harvey said people of all ages (as long as they’re at least 21 years old) will find something to enjoy at the unique historical spectacle.
“We’re pretty familiar with our members and the people who come to a lot of our stuff, and we knew this would also be interesting to them,” she said. “We were just tweaking what we were doing a little bit to also appeal to a new demographic.”
A Night in the Life: The Roaring Twenties
7-10 p.m. Oct. 20
Oklahoma History Center
800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive
Print headline: History repeating, Guests can take a step back in time while attending Oklahoma Historical Society’s ’20s-themed gala.