The good folks at NewsOK launched an experiment two weeks ago where every Friday at 10 a.m. I host a live chat with readers. For 60 minutes readers have asked about everything ranging from plans for a new boulevard, ongoing downtown development and a lot of inquiries about housing.
I failed, however, in answering a question about why downtown Tulsa seems to host more concerts than Oklahoma City:
“I'd argue that we lose more of the smaller concerts due to the fact we've not been able to come up with our own version of Tulsa's incredible Cain's Ballroom.”
I was soon reminded after the chat that Oklahoma City does have its own music venue — Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market at 311 S Klein Ave. Yeah, I messed up. But what's worrisome is that so few people corrected me compared to those who made it a point that they agreed with my conclusion.
Leave it to the very gracious William McAnally, whose family owns the historic market, to provide me with cover on this mistake.
Despite the history of this venue, built back in 1928, with an incredible facade, wonderful old wood ballroom floor and musical heritage, not enough folks know that the market is back in business.
The market never actually closed. When it was built by John J. Harden, the market was promoted as a way to clear up the mess farmers were creating along California Avenue. With its opening, Oklahoma City had one centralized place for farmers to sell their produce and a community event center as well. The upstairs of the market hosted music legends Hank Williams, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Daniels and Arlo Guthrie. Cain's can't be duplicated, but one can argue Farmer's Public Market is every bit its peer.
By the time McAnally's parents, Burt and Jody, bought the market in 2002, the building had clearly seen better days. The upstairs was used infrequently, the first floor was a mishmash of antique stores (some of which I loved to browse in my younger days).
Over the past decade, the McAnallys have spent $2 million on upgrades that included all new plumbing, electricity, an elevator and new roof. Upcoming improvements include restoring the ballroom's original wood floor and a fresh paint job.
Getting the word out about Farmer's Public Market is part of the challenge for the McAnallys as they face uninformed folks like myself and hope to revive the event venue.
As the once blighted west edge of downtown continues to develop, the once-isolated Oklahoma City Farmer's Public Market, with its history and vast views of the skyline, is seen by some planners as the likely anchor of the next hot district.
Oklahoma City has its own Cain's Ballroom — let's hope it doesn't take too long for it to be discovered.