Editor's note: Today's regular OKC Central column has been refocused for a weeklong series looking at Oklahoma City's revival.
The satellite trucks are back. More than 500 people representing media organizations are in town this week — a gathering not seen since the worst tragedy in the city's history took place with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building one spring morning in 1995 that claimed 168 lives.
This occasion, however, is no tragedy. Oklahoma City is hosting the biggest sports event in the world this week with the start of NBA Finals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
And amid the basketball frenzy, my time spent downtown this weekend was a reminder that Oklahoma City's success story goes far beyond our beloved Thunder.
A pleasant breeze provided for perfect outdoor viewing Saturday night. Hundreds gathered on the lawn to watch “Under African Skies,” a documentary about Paul Simon's “Graceland” album and how it conflicted with the 1980s boycott of South Africa. The film was a part of the thriving deadCenter Film Festival, which boasted numerous sold-out screenings and attendance by major Hollywood names including James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Chris Kattan, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally.
The festival didn't exist a dozen years ago and now draws thousands downtown.
The same can be said for the drag boat races over the weekend along the Oklahoma River.
And in the middle of it all, Oklahoma's American Indian heritage was on display at the Cox Convention Center with the annual Red Earth Festival.
Shifting rows, roles
Downtown is alive — even in areas once written off as hopeless. Sheridan Avenue west of Walker Avenue was once dismissed as “Skid Row,” yet it has emerged the past few years as a reinvented “Film Row.” The strip last weekend was a popular spot for after-screening wine parties for deadCenter participants, and Joey's Pizzeria, located in the landmark Film Exchange Building, at 700 W Sheridan Ave., has become a top pick for many seeking late-night dining options.
At a glance
Downtown OKC, then and now: