Burns Hargis is right on track with his leadership efforts to bring a new edge to the nation's perception of Oklahoma City. That leadership included a belief that a major Halloween parade could showcase Central Oklahoma's artistic and creative spirits and help hone the new edge.
As Hargis worked his way through the usual channels, selling the notion proved to be a challenge. Then, early this year, I told Hargis that the project fit perfectly in Oklahoma Gazette's mission. We received the green light to proceed with the parade in July.
What transpired over the next four short months was a phenomenon appropriate for Halloween. With little time remaining, our associate publisher, Jeffri-Lynn Dyer, took over project management, calling upon our incredible Gazette staff to head up the many committees and recruit volunteers.
The word went out to the arts community to join us with parade entries and volunteer support. The response was overwhelming with more than 50 registered entries and hundreds of volunteers. The Banta Companies and Party Galaxy stepped up early to be major sponsors.
No one could recall there being a nighttime parade in Oklahoma City, particularly a Halloween parade. When the parade was announced, some people conjured up very negative expectations and spread similar rumors.
Yet many provided immediate support for the effort such as Paige Gregory and Kim Searls of Downtown OKC Inc., who helped run the gauntlet of city and county review and permitting requirements. Peter Dolese shared his wisdom gleaned from decades of art festivals.
Jim Cowan, Nick and Renee Preftakes, and Chris and Meg Salyer provided critical assistance in developing the parade route and getting the support and participation of the businesses in Bricktown and Automobile Alley.
Use of the vacant lot between N.W. Third and Fourth Streets for our major spectator area, renamed "Field of Screams," graciously was provided by Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, OPUBCO Communication Group and the YMCA, for which special thanks go to Joe Van Bullard, Jim Tolbert and David Thompson.
It was our grand marshal for our inaugural parade, Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, who provided the event's grand finale. Their entry of "1,000 Flaming Skeletons" brought the parade to an exciting and dramatic climax and garnered the event national and international attention.
Their promoters, Scott Booker and Angie DeVore-Green, were instrumental in squeezing something on the scale of a rock concert production into the parade lineup.
The parade route was lined with thousands of spectators who viewed the incredible entries and costumes created by community artists, businesses and creative spirits. Crowd estimates range from 10,000 to 14,000, and many watchers continued their celebrations in restaurants and clubs on and near the parade route.
Notwithstanding the prophecies of the naysayers, the parade occurred without major incident and within the appropriate spirit of the occasion. We are indebted to the Oklahoma City police and the Oklahoma County sheriff's office for their support, particularly the Bricktown police division under the leadership of Capt. Patrick Stewart.
The great Gazette staff, wonderful volunteers, and a ready and willing artistic and creative community put together a remarkable parade beyond our expectations for a very receptive audience. A parade is being planned for next year and, from the responses we've received, it too will exceed our expectations.
Bleakley is publisher of Oklahoma Gazette.