Sunday's issue of The Oklahoman was one that was worth far more than the newsstand price. The highlight of the paper for me was the latest addition to the series “Stories of the Ages”: an in-depth package written by Matt Patterson looking at the “Century Chest” opened Monday at downtown's First Lutheran Church.
Spectators of the opening were treated to what may very well be the best historical treasure trove ever provided by a time capsule in Oklahoma City. Listening to the thoughts, dreams, ideals and concerns expressed by civic leaders a century ago, I wonder what they would make of Oklahoma City in 2013.
Springtime in Oklahoma City is certainly turning into an annual showcase of just how far we've come, not just in a century, but simply in the past decade. Even a few years ago, a shot at Oklahoma City making national headlines was pretty much limited to bad news — tornadoes, reminders of the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, and sometimes the occasional bit of embarrassing hyperbole expressed at the state Capitol.
A lot of hard work and dedication have turned springtime into a showcase of what makes Oklahoma City great — the annual Memorial Marathon, regattas along the Oklahoma River, and yes, a shot at the Thunder making the NBA playoffs.
Should the Thunder advance through the playoffs, the number of reporters visiting downtown will swell into the hundreds. At the same time, the waves of civic leaders from other cities seeking to learn about our revival continue. Just this week, we hosted 110 civic leaders, including the mayor and council from Raleigh, N.C.
The reporters and visitors drawn to Oklahoma City over the coming weeks will see a downtown where tens of thousands of people gather for the annual Festival of the Arts. They will see a packed Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark where old-fashioned minor league baseball remains a family favorite.
On at least two nights there will be an overlap in games played by the RedHawks while the Oklahoma City Barons battle for the American Hockey League trophy at the nearby Cox Arena.
On the final Friday of the month, MidTown will again host the increasingly popular H&8th outdoor food market that last month drew thousands of people to the corner of NW 8 and Hudson Avenue.
If this mix isn't enough to make an impression on visitors, the sight of a massive influx of FFA kids in Bricktown during their annual convention should be enough to convey that downtown isn't just for adults. Stay at the Colcord Hotel, and one might see Oscar-winning actor William H. Macy, who has spent quite a bit of time downtown setting up production for his latest movie (other celebrity sightings are likely thanks to the movie and the draw of the Thunder during the playoffs).
When our city's founders gathered at First Lutheran Church a century ago, they were warned by Mayor Whit Grant that only with the involvement of its citizens, working hard and looking forward, could Oklahoma City continue to thrive.
About 40 years ago we almost forgot this bit of wisdom. The key to the Oklahoma City success story being sought out by civic leaders across the country is that Grant's spirit remained alive in our deepest core, we did pull together, and after 20 years of work we're enjoying the fruits of that work.