okgazette.com http://okgazette.com Oklahoma City's Arts & Entertainment Authority. Mon, 22 Sep 2014 21:49:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Preview: OKG cover story reveals benefits, influence of energy industry http://okgazette.com/2014/09/22/preview-okg-cover-story-reveals-benefits-influence-of-energy-industry/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/22/preview-okg-cover-story-reveals-benefits-influence-of-energy-industry/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 18:38:21 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67435 Jason Roberts drills on a Devon natural gas rig in the CANA field near Calumet Oklahoma.  (Mark Hancock)

Jason Roberts drills on a Devon natural gas rig in the CANA field near Calumet Oklahoma. (Mark Hancock)

Check out the exclusive preview of this week’s Oklahoma Gazette cover story. Read the full story in Wednesday’s online and print editions.

In North Dakota, another state experiencing a boom in oil and gas production, the state budget has seen double-digit percentage increases thanks to a taxing rate that is more than twice as high as Oklahoma’s. While Oklahoma has made the biggest cuts to education in the nation since 2008, North Dakota made the biggest increase, according to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Lower taxes might mean a higher return for Oklahoma energy company shareholders, but its impact on education spending could create challenges for those same companies looking to hire local workers in the future.

“Science and technology education are paramount for us in looking for [new workers],” Lance Robertson, vice president of Marathon Oil, told an audience at last month’s Governor’s Energy Conference in Oklahoma City. “We need lots of professionals to run our business effectively, and we would like for as many of those to come from the state as can.”

Workers with high levels of education in science and math are viewed as important to the energy industry, especially as new technology is implemented. However, those are two academic subjects Oklahoma has ranked below average in, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The education of the local workforce becomes more important as energy companies look to move to the region. General Electric plans to open an oil and natural gas technology research center in Oklahoma City, a one-of-a-kind facility that is expected to add 130 high-paying jobs to the local workforce.

“We picked Oklahoma City because it is in the heart of the oil and gas space,” Mark Little, GE’s director of global research, said last year when OKC was selected.

The facility represents the region’s role as an energy hub, but it also highlights the evolution of an industry that is becoming more tech-based.

“The next wave of [oil and gas] innovation is going to be open innovation and technology,” said Eric Gebhardt, chief technology officer for GE. “But one of the challenges is that the skills of the team we have developed [at the new facility] is based on the model of today. Having that culture of continuous learning and continuous change [is a challenge].”

Oklahoma is underperforming in the academic subjects that the energy sector needs, and the state is also struggling to produce workers with the specific skills that are required.

“The skills gap in Oklahoma is one of the things we spend a lot of time talking about,” said Greg Winters, superintendent of Canadian Valley Technology Center in Canadian County. “People talk about the process of education all the time … but quite frankly, I don’t think we spend enough time talking about the product of education.”

Canadian Valley features several programs related to the energy sector, including classes in becoming a wind energy technician, which is a growing field in the state. Other schools have launched energy-related degree programs, like the Master of Business Administration in Energy program at the University of Oklahoma City.

“[Students] are petroleum engineers or geologists or geophysicists, but they don’t know about business,” Meinders School of Business Dean Steve Agee told The Oklahoman this year. “They don’t know how to read financial statements, and they don’t know about balance sheets or energy economics.”

Pick up Wednesday’s Oklahoma Gazette for the full cover story by news reporter Ben Felder. 

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Wine + women: New sommeliers change status quo http://okgazette.com/2014/09/22/wine-and-women-status-quo-is-changing-in-sommelier-industry/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/22/wine-and-women-status-quo-is-changing-in-sommelier-industry/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 18:29:26 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67415 Amie Hendrickson is a sommelier at Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard in Edmond.  (Mark Hancock)

Amie Hendrickson is a sommelier at Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard in Edmond. (Mark Hancock)

In an industry dominated by men, Oklahoma women are committing to the arduous task of becoming sommeliers, both in retail and restaurant professions.

The numbers can be a little surprising to people outside the industry, but women have been grossly underrepresented in wine professions.

Our state, which has an unusually high number of restaurants per capita, has only one master sommelier: Randa Warren of Tulsa.

Warren said that the path to certification is open to everyone and gender, although a complicating factor, is not a limitation.

“I tell students they have to be willing to study like all day, to read note cards all day, to spend vacations on education and to spend your income on cases of wine to taste. If you do that, you can achieve any certification.”

She owns a liquor store in Tulsa and spends a good part of her time writing about and educating consumers about wine. She is one of less than two dozen women in the world to achieve the title of master sommelier, a task that required a decade of learning, studying, traveling and tasting. There are 214 master sommeliers worldwide, and women account for only about 10 percent of that number, according to the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Also, there are four tiers of certification for sommeliers: introductory, certified, advanced and master, Warren said.

The levels increase in difficulty and the amount of time required to earn each level. Training is overseen by the Court of Master Sommeliers, an international organization founded in 1977 to strengthen standards of beverage service in dining establishments and hotels, chiefly in regard to wine and food pairing.

The only woman in the room

Amie Hendrickson, a level two certified sommelier at Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard, in Edmond, began her career 16 years ago, when she took a job as a holiday salesperson at the shop. She has never left.

Hendrickson said she was the only woman in the room when she sat for the test to become a certified sommelier in 2012.

“At that time, there were just over 1,000 certified female sommeliers in the U.S.,” Hendrickson said.

Today, she estimates there are around 3,600.

“More and more ladies are finding their way into the industry, and I’ve seen the numbers grow over the years,” she said.

Still, the numbers are not even close to parity, and that is partly because the industry has a long tradition of male dominance. Overall certification numbers, both locally and internationally, are harder to come by, Hendrickson said.

Changing attitudes

Kasi Shelton, former sommelier at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, moved to Manhattan, New York, to continue her wine education. Recently, she moved back to the OKC metro and is working with a restaurant group on their plans to open a restaurant in the downtown area next year.

She added insight into the foothold women have made in this industry.

“In New York City, I found restaurants that would only hire male servers, but the industry is changing,” Shelton said. “Many New York restaurants found that their wine sales increased when they hired female sommeliers.”

Shelton is a certified sommelier and has passed two of the three tests required to earn level three advanced certification. She said it isn’t an easy process. An applicant must pass all three tests in the same cycle to earn the advanced sommelier certification, so Shelton will retake all three exams.

However, Hendrickson said she also has noticed a lack of women in the industry at the higher professional levels, both in retail and restaurant businesses, and that she doesn’t get to work with many on a regular basis.

“I think at this level, it’s more about motivating yourself and staying disciplined,” she said. “I’ve never experienced discrimination from other professionals as a woman, but I have from customers.”

The George's female sommelier Mindy Magers with its extensive wine collection. (Mark Hancock)

The George’s female sommelier Mindy Magers with its extensive wine collection. (Mark Hancock)

Building camaraderie

When Kevin George recently opened The George Prime Steakhouse, 5900 Mosteller Drive, he hired Mindy Magers, a Ponca City native, to head his beverage program. Magers has extensive restaurant experience and recently began the certification program.

“When I worked for Wolfgang Puck’s in L.A., they didn’t care about certifications,” Magers said. “They cared about knowledge.”

Magers sat for the certified sommelier exams this month in Tulsa and could know her results as soon as late October. She said the process has been fairly slow because the wine culture in Oklahoma is different than other places she has worked, including Dallas and Austin.

“We don’t have the camaraderie here we did in those places,” she said. “There is a shortage of women in the profession here, and I do think it is a bit harder for people to take you seriously as a woman.”


Print headline: Wine and women: There are few female wine experts in Oklahoma, but the culture is changing.

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BLOG: OKC ranks fifth for economic output http://okgazette.com/2014/09/22/blog-okc-ranks-fifth-for-economic-output/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/22/blog-okc-ranks-fifth-for-economic-output/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:50:56 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67390 Technology and energy. Those are the two economic sectors that are paying off the most for America’s cities.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released its list of the top cities for economic output as gross domestic output and those performing the best are cities with strong energy and high tech sectors. Oklahoma City, which has a large energy sector, ranked fifth with 3.9 percent growth from 2012.


“In addition to Houston and San Jose, the tech hubs of Denver, Raleigh and the energy hub of Oklahoma City round out the top five fastest growing large metros,” wrote Richard Florida in a post for the Atlantic’s City Lab blog. “The top seven large metros all registered rates of economic growth more than double the national average.”

You can see a complete ranking of cities, including those that experienced declines, by clicking this link to Florida’s post.


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Film review: Tusk http://okgazette.com/2014/09/19/film-review-tusk/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/19/film-review-tusk/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 22:05:58 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67339 Tusk, Kevin Smith continues a tangent seemingly spurred by 2011’s Red State.]]> Tusk-1

At the heart of all cinema lies a body-horror film about a human walrus. With Tusk, now playing exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, Kevin Smith continues a tangent seemingly spurred by 2011’s Red State, a traumatic yet oddly amusing film about a violent extremist cult herded by veteran star Michael Parks. The path Smith takes with Tusk, however, distantly echoes the comedic futility Dante experiences in the director’s first reputable feature, Clerks.

Wallace (Justin Long, Movie 43) is a blossoming comedian and journalist at the height of his career, which thrives on the exploitation of obscure and tragic viral Internet personalities. In an autobiographical allusion to Smith himself, Wallace shares his findings with best friend and co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense) on the “Not-see Party,” a weekly podcast emitting lowbrow humor akin to Long’s early roles like Dodgeball and Idiocracy. Meanwhile, Wallace’s girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez, Identity Thief), is placed on the afterburner, falling short of an implosion of confidence caused by Wallace’s grotesque profession. After presumably wasting a trip to Canada due to the “unanticipated” suicide of his next teenaged subject, Wallace learns of an ancient mariner (the literary references in the film itself are abundant) willing to share his life of mystery and adventure, provided the listener stay for a few nights.

At this point, the film breaks its overt comedic mold as a tale of amputated limbs and dehumanization begins to unravel. Howard Howe’s (Michael Parks, Django Unchained) bipolarity begins to wane on Wallace, as he bounds gracefully between the roles of caretaker and tormentor. Much like he did in Red State, Parks provides a hysterical edge to a character that would otherwise be a Doctor Moreau look-alike. Howe easily matches Wallace’s distress with precise melodrama, reaffirming that he does, in fact, reside far below the threshold of humanity.

To Tusk’s benefit, Smith chooses to divert attention from Wallace’s physical transformation, opting instead to focus on his psychological plunge into animalism. Doing so allows for the figurative (and sometimes literal) fleshing out of Howe and the redesigned Wallace’s relationship — loving, yet terribly one-sided. To Long’s credit, Wallace’s post-op emotions are easily deciphered through the actor’s rubberized face, perhaps more so than in his natural form. On that note, Smith places particular attention upon the cast’s visages, often filming symmetrical shots of a single character spanning several minutes at a time, which many of the players handle exceptionally.

General goofiness is reinstated in the film’s final act via a nearly unrecognizable Johnny Depp as Inspector LaPointe, a belligerent man-hunter and soon-to-be mainstay of Smith’s True North Trilogy. Unfortunately, the way in which Tusk’s humor appears to function in retrospect leaves many of the film’s obvious gags below sea level. For instance, though LaPointe’s frequent body humor may extract a light guffaw, considering the actual logistics of walrus-man on walrus-man combat is far more entertaining after the fact.

Thus, Tusk conjures one of the most bilateral interpretations of “dark comedy” the genre has to offer. Ultimately, the film emerges distinct amongst an ocean of comparable horror, setting an above-average, yet realistic precedent for Smith’s next film to follow.

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Broncho premieres “Class Historian” video, announces tour http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/broncho-premieres-class-historian-video-announces-tour/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/broncho-premieres-class-historian-video-announces-tour/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:00:27 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67100 broncho

Broncho’s recently released sophomore album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman, finds the Oklahoma garage-rock stalwarts digging deep into their bag of tricks, exploring new sounds to house their often ridiculously catchy hooks. Nowhere is this as palpable — or as masterfully executed — as on “Class Historian,” one of the most irresistible and flat-out best songs released by anyone in 2014 (as explained in our review of the record).

On the heels of the album’s release, Broncho announced a handful of tour dates and unveiled a shiny new video to go along with the single, and the visual element is just as endearingly retro as the song itself.

Check it out below, and catch Broncho with fellow Tulsa hot commodities Low Litas 10 p.m. Oct. 3 at Opolis.

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TopGolf growing the game, opening facility in OKC http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/topgolf-growing-the-game-opening-facility-in-okc/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/topgolf-growing-the-game-opening-facility-in-okc/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:40:06 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67092 TopGolf plans to open its first location in Oklahoma City this spring. (Provided)

TopGolf plans to open its first location in Oklahoma City this spring. (Provided)

Adrienne Chance has heard almost daily from Oklahoma residents begging her company, TopGolf, to build a top-notch golf entertainment facility in Oklahoma City like the ones that operate in Dallas, Houston and other cities.

Those pleas have been heard.

TopGolf is building a new 65,000-square-foot flagship location near Quail Springs Mall in the southwest quadrant of N. Western Avenue and the John Kilpatrick Turnpike. Work began on the $15-$20 million facility, which will combine the fun of golf with the excitement of video games and the social aspect of a sports bar, a few weeks ago.

“We have never seen a market that was so excited about the concept,” said Chance, senior communications manager at TopGolf.

The new facility, expected to open this spring, will feature three levels with 102 hitting bays that can hold six players each. Players hit golf balls equipped with computer microchips that track each shot’s accuracy and distance while awarding points for hitting targets on the outfield. You can bring your own clubs, but clubs are provided in every bay.

An entertainment hub, TopGolf will also feature a full-service restaurant and three bars, indoor gaming areas with billiards and shuffleboard, a rooftop terrace with a fire pit and space for live music, HDTVs in every hitting bay that guests can operate using a smartphone app and 3,000 square feet of private event space.

“It’s a facility that can be enjoyed by all ages, all skill levels all year round,” Chance said. “Even if you don’t play golf, there are so many activities that you can participate in.”

Formed in 2000 by British twins Steve and Dave Jolliffe, the company began a robust expansion about three years ago after the brothers sold out to an ownership group that includes Dallas businessman Tom Dundon and California-based Callaway Golf Co.

The Oklahoma City project is funded through TopGolf ’s investors and EPR Properties, a $3.4 billion specialty real estate investment trust based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Oklahoma City’s facility will serve approximately 425,000 visitors in its first year of operation, estimates Randy Starr, TopGolf ’s chief development officer. Its 10-year total fiscal impact to the community (including sales tax, property tax, business tax, etc.) will exceed $31 million, and the company expects to hire approximately 400- 450 workers, creating 100 full-time positions.

TopGolf is building a new 65,000-square-foot flagship location near Quail Springs Mall. (Provided)

TopGolf is building a new 65,000-square-foot flagship location near Quail Springs Mall. (Provided)

Growing the game

Nationally, golf is a game in decline. According to the National Golf Foundation, there were 25.3 million U.S. golfers ages six and older in 2012, down from a peak of 30 million in 2005. Across the country, more golf courses are closing than opening.

TopGolf has taken on the mantle of helping grow the game, Chance said. About 65 percent of TopGolf ’s guests are ages 18-34, millennials less likely to take up golf. The company uses a guerilla marketing strategy combining social media and local appearances before a location’s opening. The company is also rolling out a golf instruction program offering guests lessons for $20.

“We just kind of break the barriers that stop a lot of people from getting into traditional golf,” she said.

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Edelman, champion of civil rights, to speak at OCU http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/edelman-champion-of-civil-rights-to-speak-at-ocu/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/edelman-champion-of-civil-rights-to-speak-at-ocu/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:20:05 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67085 Mary Wright Edelman

Mary Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman doesn’t understand barriers. You could say the same for her relationship with obstacles. Throughout her career as an activist and advocate, she has refused to be kept in her place.

With her calm demeanor and her quiet yet authoritative voice, she has earned her place among the greats as a champion of the underprivileged and a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Her dreams were big, and her accomplishments were even greater than she expected.

“My father believed in God, in serving others and in education,” she said.

Her father died when she was 14. Sadly, he missed the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that started the process of integrating schools, by one week. He emphasized how strongly he felt that education would lift her up to be anything she wished to be. He told her, “Never let anything get in the way of your education.” She took those words and her father’s legacy of helping others as her mission.

“We were taught that the world had a lot of problems but that we could change them, those of us who were given much had a responsibility to give back and service is the rent we pay for living,” she said.

She graduated from Yale with a law degree in 1963 and became the first black woman to be admitted to the Mississippi state bar. She went on to become a successful attorney in Mississippi, never failing to remember her “rent,” working with poor communities and advocating for those most often overlooked. She was a visible participant in the civil rights movement and even advised Martin Luther King, Jr.

She caught his attention as director of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, helping countless people obtain equality and justice regardless of their race, education or income.

After the heady days at the center of the civil rights movement, Wright was not content to rest. She admits that we have come a long way since the days of segregated schools and color-specific drinking fountains, but we still have a way to go.

“Although we’ve come far, our work is far from complete,” she said. “What keeps me going every day is my belief that we can and will win the fight to make America live up to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and realize the dream of a level playing field for all.”

In the 1970s, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), a national advocacy group for children and families.

“Growing up, I was richly blessed with parents and a black community who nurtured me and other children so that we could realize our God- given potential despite many negative messages of the outside segregated world,” she said.

She gives back this nurturing in many ways. Edelman, who is now in her 70s, lectures extensively and continues to be an inspiration for all generations.

Dr. Harbour Winn is the co-chair of the board that organizes the Distinguished Speakers Series for Oklahoma City University (OCU).

Edelman has been on the board’s speaker wish list for several years. The series, now in its 12th year, has hosted luminaries from various disciplines, including Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Jane Goodall and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The most impressive thing about the series, besides the people who come and speak, is that it is free and open to the public. Winn emphasized that this is part of the university’s mission as part of the community.

The speakers are chosen by a committee that consists of faculty, staff and students.

“I’ve been on the committee since its inception,” Winn said. “We meet regularly to decide who to invite … it’s a committee out of the provost, Susan Barber’s office, and part of the success, I think, has been the continuity and the variety [of the committee]. We try to get a broad representation from the balance of students and staff.”

Winn cited Edelman’s staggering resume as only part of the reason the committee desired her to visit.

“She’s absolutely committed to the CDF in Washington, D.C., one of the largest groups of advocates for the rights of children,” he said. “She has such a broad range of experience for advocacy and activism.”

“Although we’ve come far, our work isn’t finished,” Edelman said when asked about the future of civil rights now that we are moving into a new era of equality for all. “The greatest threat to America’s national security comes from no enemy without but from our own failure to invest adequately and fairly in the health, education and sound development of all of our children.”

Distinguished Speakers Series at Oklahoma City University
Marian Wright Edelman

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24

Henry J. Freede Wellness and Activity Center
2701 N. Florida Ave.

Print: Rule breaker; Armed with an education and her father’s advice, Marian Wright Edelman has made the world a better place.

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Cover story: Your guide to state fair quirk http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/heres-your-guide-to-the-cultural-quirk-of-the-oklahoma-state-fair/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/heres-your-guide-to-the-cultural-quirk-of-the-oklahoma-state-fair/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:55:58 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=66072 in a pool at the kiddy game on the midway at the State Fair.  (Mark Hancock)

in a pool at the kiddy game on the midway at the State Fair. (Mark Hancock)

For many, the Oklahoma State Fair is a judgment-free zone.

“It’s a really good opportunity to eat terrible things surrounded by people who don’t make you feel bad about eating terrible things,” said Chelsea Spence, who attended the fair on opening day.

With hundreds of vendors serving up food creations like deep-fried gummy bear on a stick and creamy cran-n-turkey on a croissant, the fair isn’t the place to count calories.

For over a century, the Oklahoma State Fair has offered a uniquely American experience of fatty foods, unwinnable carnival games, cultural exhibits and thrill rides that rock back and forth on the chipped pavement.

“As a kid, the rides were more exciting,” said Jon Spence. “But as you get older, the rides kind of lose their luster and its more about the food.”

In a city that has spent the past several years trying to reinvent itself, the state fair offers a more familiar experience that can evoke memories from years past for even those who are new to the area.

“I used to always go to my state fair back home,” said Alicia Graves, a Lawton resident who grew up in Indiana. “I remember eating all the food and petting animals.”

Graves said she was seeking a pineapple whip, a sorbetlike treat she remembers enjoying when she was younger. Graves’ husband, Cody, was looking for pizza on a stick.

“That looks pretty good to me,” he said.

Running until Sept. 21, fair officials claim they will welcome over one million visitors. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, with those under 5 years old granted free admission.

The fair’s website, okstatefair.com, offers a complete guide to the events, contests and attractions that are offered each day. The website also includes an interactive food finder, allowing guests to quickly find the unique culinary creation their hearts desire.

In this Oklahoma Gazette guide, we offer a closer look at some of the cultural oddities that make the Oklahoma State Fair such a unique experience. Our guide offers tips on how to relax after walking up and down the midway, unique food items worth a try and an inside look at the life of a carny.

Charles Bennett helps run the t-shirt booth at the State Fair.  (Mark Hancock)

Charles Bennett helps run the t-shirt booth at the State Fair. (Mark Hancock)

Express yourself

Standing out at the Oklahoma State Fair is no easy task, but various t-shirt vendors offer the chance to express your witty thoughts or deeply held political beliefs. There’s a shirt reading “The Second Amendment” over a picture of George Washington holding an AK-47. Another will identify you as the “Twerk Queen.” Then there is the shirt that says “I’d tap that,” referring instead to a keg of beer.

Charles Bennett was working one t-shirt stand on opening day and said the Oklahoma State Fair crowd featured a different taste than other events across the country.

“We do have a pretty intelligent crowd here, so historically, we are going to sell more wordy shirts, ones that have more thought to them,” Bennett said.

When asked for an example of a shirt that appeals to a more “intelligent” state fair guest, Bennett pointed to a bright pink shirt that read, “Classy, sassy and a bit smart-assy.”

— Ben Felder

Carny Jimmy Thompson (Mark Hancock)

Carny Jimmy Thompson (Mark Hancock)

Hitting the road

There are a lot of sights and events to see at the state fair. Across the U.S., each state fair has its own unique take on things, but they also offer similar events and experiences. Chances are Jimmy Thompson has seen most of them, including the ones in Oklahoma. He has been working the carnival and fair circuit longer than many patrons have been alive.

“Forty-nine years,” Thomson said. “Ever since I was 15 years old. I didn’t like going to school. I told my dad I wanted to quit school, and he said,As long as you got a job,’ so the fair came to my hometown and I left.”

Thompson works the games by the rides. The Wacky Wire and the Gun Ball are his favorites to work, but they don’t set up the Gun Ball at the Oklahoma State Fair. The Block Buster is also one he likes. The objective of the game is to knock over three bottles with a ball, but it is rarely as easy as it seems.

The carnivals travel up and down the United States from North to South, depending on the change of the seasons, and although he has traveled as far as Puerto Rico for work, Thompson said Oklahoma City is one of his favorite stops, but mostly because of the money.

“The carnivals are all over the world. I depend on this fair all season long,” he said. “You get some good money here.”

One of the things that might not happen as often at other state fairs is something that is truly an Oklahoma experience, something that might ruin Thompson’s chances to earn more money. But he takes it all in stride.

“This is a good fair. Last year, we had all kinds of tornado warnings and all of that, but it still turned out pretty good,” he said, tapping his can in between words. “Oklahoma has got some good fairs. This fair is good and the Tulsa fair is good.”

Thompson has a telltale lisp, a result of a few missing teeth. He is a bit weathered but can be seen smiling and chatting up passersby around the Wack Wire game by the carnival rides.

— Kory B. Oswald

Paul Boyd takes a bite of a gooey fried large gummy bear. (Shannon Cornman)

Paul Boyd takes a bite of a gooey fried large gummy bear. (Shannon Cornman)

Deep-fried gummy bears

If you love sugar and you sort of like strange fried things, you should try the deep-fried gummy bear from the Sweet Shop booth. It was 90 percent sweet and 10 percent just plain weird, but it was definitely worth the experience you won’t find anywhere but the fair.

Whatever you do, make sure you eat the entire thing in bites that include both the powdered-sugar-sprinkled breading and the hot gummy bear inside before it cools though. It gets a bit chewy if you let it cool off.

Sweet Shop is based in Columbus, Ohio, and starts with a “naked” cherry-flavored gummy bear that it makes by pouring hot gelatin into molds at its home base and transports to the fair in a cooler.

— Brittany Pickering

A couple celebrates its 30th year of coming to the fair together. (Shannon Cornman)

A couple celebrates its 30th year of coming to the fair together. (Shannon Cornman)

Fair of the heart

John and Linda Bennett of Edmond have made opening day of the Oklahoma State Fair for 30 years. As they celebrated their upcoming 37th wedding anniversary, John bought Linda the one thing she looks for each year while here: a caramel apple.

The couple estimates that they spend $200-$300 each year, including tickets, car shows, tech gadgets and more. This year, they also hope to take their granddaughter to see Disney on Ice.

“We’ll also be coming back for senior day and military day,” John said.

As John and Linda walk away from the pink-hued fancy apple stand — it’s hard to miss — owner Lisa Albers talked about the seven years that she has been serving her award-winning treats.

She and husband Rodney, from Newcastle, have made this stand their bread and butter and travel the country full-time, selling their Caramel Apple Pie fancy apple (it has won awards here at the state fair food contests and at the Festival of the Arts) and countless other varieties.

“The biggest seller at the Oklahoma State Fair is usually the Heath candy bar fancy apple,” she said.

Working the fair is often one of the few times Lisa and Rodney get to visit with friends and family.

“This is home to us, so we always have a great time at the fair,” she said. “And the nicest people are here in Oklahoma.”

When asked if it’s difficult to work so closely with her husband, she pointed a finger south.

“No. He’s busy in our second stand, selling Double Stuffed Pizza,” she said, laughing.

— Jennifer Chancellor

Left Karen Jackson and right, Irene Morgan sew. (Shannon Cornman)

Left Karen Jackson and right, Irene Morgan sew. (Shannon Cornman)

Sew much fun

The Oklahoma City chapter of the American Sewing Guild was on hand to answer sewing questions and invite sewers, both novice and expert, to join them at their monthly meetings. While at the fair, the guild was sewing Christmas stockings for U R Special Ministries in Edmond. Each year, members of the guild sew more than 600 stockings to be filled with special items for needy and at-risk children. Other charities they sew for include Bethel Foundation, Hope Pregnancy Center, ConKerr Cancer and The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany.

The Creative Arts Building also hosts quilting, lace making, knitting, contemporary pottery, woodturning and cooking demonstrations and contests throughout the remaining days of the fair. This year, it is also home to the Fastest Hook in the West Contest, which takes place Wednesday at 11 a.m. and judges crocheters on speed and quality.

— BP

Diamond Dawgs Wonderboys (Mark Hancock)

Diamond Dawgs Wonderboys (Mark Hancock)

Wiener slingers

Ask anyone who has had the munchies: Salty and sweet are the cornerstone of any winning dish, and many of the fair food slingers have been known to take it to extremes. Some, like the fried butter or fried Twinkies, are widely known staples with an eclectic take on the tradition of salty and sweet. However Diamond Dawgs are the new guys on the food block at the state fair, and they’ve got a take that combines breakfast cereal and meat in a way that is so ingenious it almost hurts when you wonder why you didn’t think of it.

The Captain Crunch Corndog, or The Wonderboy ($6) as it is officially called, is fried to a perfect crisp that makes the sweetened gold of the cereal shimmer and crunch but leaves the inside gooey, salty and hot. It is served with honey mustard that elevates it to another level. This thing, the “golden rod of goodness,” will make a vegetarian eat meat for the first time in years. And the Captain Crunch Chicken Strips ($8) are just as good but are served with packets of real honey.

“My son and I created the Diamond Dawgs concept. I’ve been a baseball freak my whole life,” Buddy Simon said. “Twenty-eight years ago, I put [the Cap’n Crunch batter] on chicken … then my son whipped one of the Wonderboys up and it was just a godsend.”

The father-and-son team and the rest of the “certified wiener slingers” are serving the dishes at the state fair for the first time, but they’ve been in business for two years in Norman and Ardmore and also have a BBQ joint that has been around for much longer.

“We have a place that we’ve had for about 28 years called Budro’s Rib Joint … we moved up to Norman about two and a half years ago and opened [Diamond Dawgs] on Asp Street,” Simon said.

Diamond Dawgs sold around 60,000 of the Wonderdogs in the first 8 months of business in Norman, and there is a reason for that: it is fantastic fare perfect for the state fair.

Now that the Simons are working their first fair, the food trailer and its brand-new paint job can be found across from Jim Norick Arena.

— KO

The world's smallest horse and dog at the Oklahoma State Fair. (Mark Hancock)

The world’s smallest horse and dog at the Oklahoma State Fair. (Mark Hancock)

All the small things

When you go to the fair, you probably expect things to be bigger — rides, stuffed animals and calorie counts not the least among them. But you can get a healthy dose of the miniature too, and the Oklahoma State Fair has two of the smallest things of their kind: The World’s Smallest Woman and The World’s Smallest Horse.

You can’t take any pictures of these lovely, fun-sized attractions, but you can catch a glimpse for only $1 (50 cents for the kiddos) each. The two are located near one another, but we weren’t able to confirm if the woman rides the horse outside work hours. We’re just going to pretend that she does.

— Zach Hale

Good Vibrations (Mark Hancock)

Good Vibrations (Mark Hancock)

Good vibrations

That you will have to walk at the fair is a self-evident truth (it might have actually been in the Declaration of Independence), but all that leisurely strolling can take a toll on your tootsies (er, your feet). If only there were a remedy to keep your feet feeling fresh …

Oh, hey. There is! Do enough walking and you’ll stumble upon an automatic foot-massager. The concept is simple: You sit down, insert a quarter into the deposit and put your feet on the metal plate. Then the magic happens. Fair warning, though: These things are intense. It’ll make your feet feel like they popped a dozen muscle relaxers — which is pretty awesome if you ask us.

— ZH

Partners in Anomal Health (OVMA) anticipate the arrival of kids (baby goats) this week at the OK State Fair. (Shannon Cornman)

Partners in Anomal Health (OVMA) anticipate the arrival of kids (baby goats) this week at the OK State Fair. (Shannon Cornman)

The miracle of life

In a pickle on how to talk to your young ones about the birds and bees? Why not show them the story of the pigs and the goats and the chickens and the sheep?

Thanks to the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association (OKVMA) and a sponsorship by Veterinary Partners of Animal Health, approximately 60 veterinarians from all over the state take care of and answer questions about the pregnant animals in their care. There are four pigs, three sheep and two goats that are due to give birth during this year’s fair.

Dr. Rhys Cole practices veterinary medicine at Piedmont Veterinary Clinic and was on hand to answer numerous questions ranging from How long is a pig’s gestation period? — three months, three weeks and three days — to How big is a goat’s uterus? Answer: They are tiny. He also informed us that while the ladies could go into labor at any time, they usually give birth during the night, when it’s quiet. Who could blame them? The mothers and babies spend the rest of the fair snuggling to the sounds of the “oohs and ahs” of their visitors

There is also an animal surgical suite where OKVMA volunteer veterinarians perform live operations such as spaying and neutering. All dogs that are operated on are from the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter and are available for adoption. As if that’s not enough excitement, several pet rescue groups will be hosting adoption events throughout the day every day. Dr. Cole said that it is one of the most visited attractions at the fair. Probably because there is nothing cuter than a baby goat.

— Devon Green

Two yearlings in the petting zoo at the fair. (Shannon Cornman)

Two yearlings in the petting zoo at the fair. (Shannon Cornman)

Mom! The baby is eating my sweater!

And the alpaca keeps photo-bombing! Just another day at the Great American Petting Zoo — one of the top five attractions at the fair. Stocked with a menagerie ranging from farm chickens to fallow deer, it boasts 50 animals, and every one of them wants your attention.

“These are our pets,” said Sarah Kupelian, the manager of the zoo. “They’re never mistreated, and that’s why they’re naturally sweet and never aggressive.”

They travel the circuit with the managers and handlers, one big family on the road. You can lay hands on a micro pot-bellied pig, if you can catch it. (So tiny! So fast!) There are also ducks, llamas, many goats, and several others wandering around. No wonder it’s one of the most popular attractions; where else are you going to potentially lose your shirt to a goat? They really just nibble anyway.

— DG

(Cover by Christopher Street)

(Cover by Christopher Street)

Print headline: Something for everyone; It’s easy to find a distinct experience at the Oklahoma State Fair, whether it is the same experience for 30 years or something brand-new for 2014.

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Local Dems see potential in NW OKC districts this November http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/local-dems-see-potential-in-nw-okc-districts-this-november/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/local-dems-see-potential-in-nw-okc-districts-this-november/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:05:47 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=67036 Democratic candidates from left, John Handy Edwards, Cyndi Munson and Collin Walke, photographed in the Crown Heights neighborhood.  (Mark Hancock)

Democratic candidates from left, John Handy Edwards, Cyndi Munson and Collin Walke, photographed in the Crown Heights neighborhood. (Mark Hancock)

Oklahoma Republicans are at no risk of losing power of the Legislature this November, in part because of a lack of Democratic challengers and electoral math that remains stacked in the GOP’s favor.

While winning any of the statewide seats (governor and superintendent, among others) might be viewed as the biggest potential victory for Democrats, a more realistic achievement might be found in a handful of districts in the inner-ring suburban communities of Oklahoma City.

Between the bright red of the suburbs and the deep blue of the inner city, there might be just enough purple for Democrats to have a shot.

“I think there are many voters who are flippable,” Collin Walke, a Democratic candidate in House District 87, said about his ability to sway some Republicans to vote for him in November.

House District 87

District 87, which includes portions of northwest OKC, is a seat Democrats have come close to winning in recent years. The Democratic candidate received 46 percent of the vote in 2004, followed by 48 percent in 2006 and 49 percent in 2008. Rep. Jason Nelson, the current Republican holding the seat, won reelection in 2010 and 2012 by about 10 points each time, widening the distance between the parties. But Walke says history shows the seat is up for grabs.

“Education is the No. 1 issue for people [in the district],” Walke said. “I think it’s something I have been able to relate to a lot of voters on.”

Nelson is no stranger to education. He has authored or helped support bills aimed at school choice, education savings accounts and local control of curriculum. Viewed as one of the more policy-minded legislators, Nelson also helped spearhead reforms of the Department of Human Services.

However, Walke believes the growing dissatisfaction with education policy in Oklahoma plays to his advantage, including the recent announcement that the Legislature’s repeal of Common Core, which was supported by Nelson, has cost the state its No Child Left Behind waiver.

“Even though many [voters] may not like Common Core, they are realizing the results of not thinking two steps ahead,” Walke said. “Voters want reasonable solutions that they aren’t currently getting.”

Nelson has downplayed the impact the loss of the waiver will mean for the state and said his support of Common Core repeal shows he is in lockstep with his constituents.

“What I did see [this year] was a lot of energy on the part of teachers and parents against Common Core and to get rid of it,” Nelson said. “I think it actually gives me an advantage because it shows that I have been responsive to the will of the voters.”

House District 85

In House District 85, which sits just north of District 87, challenger Cyndi Munson is looking to not only take the seat from Republicans but from the Dank family that has represented this northwest OKC district for 20 years. Represented by the late Odilia Dank from 1994 to 2006, her husband, Rep. David Dank, won the seat in 2006 by less than one percent. However, since that narrow victory, Dank has increased his margin each election and, in 2012, won the seat without a challenger.

Name recognition and six-figure funding might make Dank hard to beat, but Munson believes there are plenty of voters in the district who are ready for a change.

“Residents [in District 87] are phasing out and new ones are coming in, like me,” said Munson, who has called the district home for three years. “Dank is an established name, but there are a lot of new residents.”

Senate District 40

While Districts 85 and 87 feature young Democrats challenging multiple winning incumbents, Senate District 40, another northwest OKC district that includes portions of both 85 and 87, features two new candidates. Republican Ervin Yen advanced past a June primary and August runoff, and John Handy Edwards was the lone Democrat to file. Senate District 40 appears even more Republican than either House District 85 or 87, but recent redistricting has added some Democratic-leaning precincts — even if it also added a few Republican ones.

“The conventional wisdom is it’s a Republican-leaning district,” Edwards said. “I could have the underdog tone because of the big money and big power that has lined up behind him. However, we are going into the general election with about the same amount of money.”

Yen has raised nearly a quarter million dollars, double that of Edwards. But Yen has also spent a lot in his primary battle, and the two candidates enter the fall with similar levels of campaign funds (Yen: $82,000, Edwards: $66,000), according to August campaign finance reports.

Yen has been backed by dozens of political action committees, a fact Edwards says will limit Yen’s ability to legislate independently if elected.

“If Yen is elected, he will be another Republican lost in a sea of Republicans,” Edwards said. “It’s good to have a counteractive voice in there. We should talk about ideas. We should see what the best choice for Oklahoma is.”

District 40 has trended more Democratic over the past 20 years, but Republicans have never experienced a real threat of losing the seat. Republican Brooks Douglas was elected in 1994 with 70 percent of the vote and won reelection unopposed in 1998. Sen. Cliff Branan, who reaches term limits this year, won election in 2002 and 2006 by at least nine points and was unopposed in 2010.

State Democratic leaders have said over the past few years that the party’s path back to strength will most likely come from the changing urban districts of OKC and Tulsa as suburban and rural districts have turned even redder in recent years. A win in either House District 85 or 87 or Senate District 40 would not only validate that belief but also steal a seat from Republicans.

On the flipside, a Republican victory, especially a sweep of the three seats, would further solidify the party’s strength in northwest OKC and show that, while the region might be trending more Democratic, it isn’t ready to turn blue.


House District 85 election 

2012: Republican won unopposed
2010: Republican won with 58 percent
2008: Republican won with 55 percent
2006: Republican won with 50.5 percent

House District 87 election 

2012: Republican won with 55 percent
2010: Republican won with 54 percent
2008: Republican won with 50.6 percent
2006: Republican won with 51 percent

print headline: Close races, Local Democrats see potential in NW OKC districts this November.

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Local crooner Denver Duncan is hungry for respect http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/local-crooner-denver-duncan-is-hungry-for-respect/ http://okgazette.com/2014/09/17/local-crooner-denver-duncan-is-hungry-for-respect/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:00:59 +0000 http://okgazette.com/?p=66336 (Nathan Poppe)

(Nathan Poppe)

Oklahoma City’s own blue-eyed soul Denver Duncan has more in store for fans this fall and coming in 2015. After a yearlong hiatus following the arrival of his third child, the Rat Pack-inspired crooner is at it again, collaborating with numerous local artists on everything from national ad campaigns to his own personal “dream project” with longtime friend and OKC-based rapper Jabee Williams.

“There’s a lot in the can. We’re always talking about it and working on it, and it could possibly come out in 2015,” Duncan said. “My songwriting style and [Jabee’s] hip-hop really work well together.”

Williams isn’t the only local artist Duncan shares longtime dreams with. Since the 2011 release of the music video for “Stalker” — a catchy, funny tune about an overly enthusiastic fan — the singer-songwriter has been on the lookout for ways to work with Kyle Roberts, a friend and well-known videographer. Duncan and Roberts filmed the video on a Nokia N8 smartphone when Nokia selected “Stalker” to be the first official music video made on the phone. The whimsical video has since reached over 40,000 views.

“Kyle and I really want to build a rotating room someday for making music videos,” Duncan said.

The 32-year-old son of a preacher and music teacher — admittedly influenced by Frank Sinatra and having been compared to today’s Michael Bublé, Jason Mraz, Jamie Cullum and Robin Thicke — is certainly finding his place in the world of soulful pop. His 2010 debut release, Let’s See What Happens, won him widespread acclaim, including the number two spot on Oklahoma Radio’s Best Songs of 2010 list for haunting duet “Beg Me,” performed with Okie folkstress Sherree Chamberlain.

Fans eagerly awaiting more from Duncan, take heart: This October, he will begin to release a series of singles with music videos, including a special Christmas collaboration with country artist Bryan White. Duncan toured with White in December 2010, opening a series of Christmas shows for his longtime friend.

Duncan’s soulful sound is nosecret to the advertising world, either, as OKC’s Robot House Creative recently sought a Duncan original to soundtrack a national ad campaign for GlobalHealth. The ad will air in mid-September, and the track is simply titled “Good.” Expect nothing less from the impassioned songwriter, who is happy to once again share the stage with the talented Chamberlain.

“[We] take every chance we get to sing the song together,” Duncan said.

See Duncan perform live along with Sherree Chamberlain and Elms at the inaugural Heard on Hurd, Edmond’s ambitious food truck festival molded in the image of OKC’s wildly successful H&8th Night Market, 7 p.m. Friday. Admission to the event is free.

Heard on Hurd with Denver Duncan, Sherree Chamberlain and Elms

7-11 p.m. Saturday

Broadway between Main Street and Hurd Street, Edmond



Print headline:

Duncan difference

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