There is a lot to do around Ponca City. We had three big events last weekend. We started out at the Centennial Celebration in front of the Civic Center on Friday evening, then went to the Annual Arts Festival on Saturday. We had enjoyed silent movie organist Dennis James so much the previous week that we looked up his schedule on the internet and drove over to Miami, Oklahoma to catch him at another show on Sunday. And I almost forgot that on Friday night at the same time as the Centennial Celebration, the Community Concert series had their first event of the season at the Poncan Theater. After the Centennial Celebration, we drove down to the Poncan and snuck into the balcony and caught the last few numbers.
On Saturday my wife and I went to the annual Arts Festival at Soldani Mansion. There were about 60 artists selling their work. Dave May led an auction for the pieces that had been produced during the quick draw event at the Fine Arts Festival.
My wife and I finally had a chance to meet Native American Artist Jeanne Rorex Bridges, an award-winning artist of Cherokee ancestry. We have admired her work at the Gilcrease Museum for several years and it was a real treat to meet her at the Festival. She lives on a hill in rural eastern Oklahoma, part of the farm and ranch land where she was raised. Here she paints and runs her successful art business with her husband James. Jeanne’s work has become nationally known, winning many awards in Native American art shows. For several years, she has incorporated paintings depicting the shared history of Southeastern Indians and African Americans with her Native American work. The story of Crossing Bok Chitto was a perfect fit for her first illustrated book."
On Friday evening we brought out our lawn chairs and sat down right in front for the Oklahoma Centennial Celebration in front of the Civic Center in Ponca City. Highlights of the program were an hour of music by Les Gilliam and Cordelia Clapp signing "Oklahoma Rising." The show was put on my Ponca City Main Street and featured Mayor Homer Nicholson, Larry Buck talking about Centennial Plaza, and the President of Ponca City Main Street, Phil Bandy.
"Les Gilliam's concerts of cowboy, western swing, country and/or gospel music include fascinating stories about the songs and the artists who performed them. His country dances feature great western swing music and fun activities for the audience. He always includes original songs and humorous material, adding a touch of nostalgia and good ole fashion patriotism."
I especially enjoyed Les' stories about Woody Guthrie, Patti Page and the Page Milk Company, and Gene Autry's five stars on Hollywood's walk of fame. Les was born in Gene Autry, Oklahoma and had just returned from a celebration in California of the 100th anniversary of Autry's birth.
We really liked seeing Cordelia Clapp at last years Centennial Program when she signed a thrilling version of "God Bless America" with the musical accompaniment of Celine Dion. This year she presented her interpretation of "Oklahoma Rising" in Native American sign language. Clapp is a registered nurse who was born in Sells, Arizona, to a full-blooded Pawnee Indian mother and a full-blooded Spanish father. Growing up Clapp had the chance to live on numerous reservations in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. She taught herself the Native signing of “God Bless America” after 9/11 in hopes that sharing the Native American culture with others would help heal the hearts of Americans. She has opened numerous conferences nationwide with her signing, dressed in full Native American regalia.
On Sunday we made a day trip to Miami Oklahoma to see Dennis James perform on the Mighty Wurlitzer in the Coleman Theater which is even more beautiful than the Poncan Theater. We drove over to the Gilcrease Museum for their wonderful brunch, then up to Miami for a 230 pm show. The show we saw at the Coleman was "It" with Clara Bow. Dennis James the organist got up and explained that "it" was a term coined by English romance novelist and screenwriter Elinor Glyn to describe actress Clara Bow. Glyn had written a best-seller of the day that popularized the word "it" as a euphemism for sex-appeal. The story revolved around Bow as a salesgirl in a department story and her romance with the boss's son. The movie was very entertaining. After Dennis' show, the manager of the theater gave us a private two hour tour of the theater. What a treat.
The Coleman Theatre was built by George L. Coleman Sr., a magnate who made his fortune in zinc around the turn of the century. Coleman wanted to give something back to the community of Miami so in 1929 he had the theatre built for $600,000. Some say his motives might not have been completely altruistic since by providing entertainment for his workers he kept them out of bars. The exterior architecture of the theatre is Spanish Mission Revival. There are Terra cotta gargoyles and other hand-carved figures on the exterior of the building. The interior of the theatre is in Louis XV style and includes gold leaf trim, silk damask panels, stained glass panels, a carved mahogany staircase and decorative plaster moldings and railings.
The community of Miami raised $85,000 to bring "The Mighty Wurlitzer" home to the Coleman in 1996. The organ was restored by the J.T. Peterson Organ Company of Fort Worth, Texas who restored, refurbished, enhanced and completed the reinstallation of the organ. We absolutely loved the sound that came out of a true pipe organ. The sound from the deepest registered shook your bones. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the community of Ponca City could get together to bring a pipe organ to the Ponca Theatre?
After the theatre tour we drove back to Tulsa for dinner at P.F. Chang's and then drove back back to Ponca City arriving about midnight. What a nice day. Look at the photos we took at the Art Festival, the Centennial Celebration, and at the Coleman Theatre in Miami.
This weekend coming up we plan to go see "Annie get Your Gun" at Ponca Playhouse and go to the Annual Chili Cookoff out at Lake Ponca on Saturday. The following weekend is the opening of the "Standing Bear Museum" and "Riders in the Sky" will be coming to Ponca City.
Whoever says there is nothing to do in a town of 25,000 is dead wrong. There is so much to do, that you never get a chance to catch your breath.