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Downtown in December marks start of second decade in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City's Downtown in December festival, now featuring 22 events, began with just holiday lighting and an ice-skating rink a decade ago.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: November 24, 2012

Youngblood said a Bricktown property owner threatened to start his own rival ice rink if it wasn't located in the entertainment district. Organizers, meanwhile, thought the plaza in front of Leadership Square would create the perfect “big city” backdrop for what would continue to be one of the festival's marquee events.

That site, Youngblood said, was too small. The Civic Center park site worked, but Youngblood said city officials had to scramble to provide last-minute electrical lines to the site.

Juliet Nees-Bright, who previously worked with Disney, was hired to help launch the ice rink.

“We were a staff of four,” Youngblood said. “We really stretched everything to make it work. We were fortunate that we had Mark (Funke) with the big vision to launch a version of the arts festival, and we had Ashley (Perkins) who had the experience in helping us with operations.”

When the Zamboni ice-cleaning machine ordered for the ice rink got caught up in a crash on the way up from Texas, Youngblood himself chipped in on shoveling “snow” kicked up by the ice skaters, including on Christmas Eve.

Youngblood said city employees went above and beyond in helping to make the event a success. He credited much of the ice rink's success to a live cam set up by the city's public information office that broadcast footage of skaters on the city's cable channel.

The festival was an instant hit, and after just a few years it was honored by the International Downtown Association.

Organizing for Downtown in December is now done virtually year-round, Jenkins said, with planning for the 2013 festival set to begin with a debriefing among staffers and volunteers shortly after the end of the current festivities.

Suggestions and recommendations by visitors are given careful consideration, Jenkins said, adding that surveys led to the decision to add this year's winter market.

“We look at what works and what doesn't work,” Jenkins said. “We then put it away for 30 days. Then, in April, we get busy. We start getting commitments from folks about dates, about sponsorships, and we're always trying to get in front of it, to prepare for what is next.”

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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