Now in its 10th year, Downtown in December has done its very best to relocate the North Pole into the heart of the city in hopes of attracting locals to discover all it has to offer.
“I think a lot of residents don’t realize that there is more going on downtown than business,” said Gentry McKeown, communications coordinator at Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., which organizes the annual event. “This is a way to bring people in and show them what’s happening here.”
The area undergoes an impressive transformation as it prepares to host a wealth of attractions like an ice rink, snow tubing and lots and lots of Christmas lights.
“It really contributes to a more festive atmosphere downtown; almost every district is covered in Christmas lights,” McKeown said. “One of the coolest feelings is driving through downtown. It actually feels like Christmas.”
Elaborate displays through Automobile Alley, Midtown and the Bricktown canal light the way to a wide array of events like “The Christmas Show” and “The Nutcracker” at Civic Center Music Hall, the 5K Santa run, free museum admission on select days, shopping deals and OK CityScape, a reconstruction of the Oklahoma City landscape with Legos.
Devon Energy spread its support beyond the core events — the ice rink, Holiday River Parade and the new Saturdays with Santa — to expand the entire Downtown in December program.
“This year, we’ve really stepped up our involvement,” said Alesha Leemaster, Devon community affairs coordinator. “Downtown in December is the downtown community coming together to make creative, unique events to bring in families to experience downtown. The collection and variety of events offered to families is really impressive.”
Leemaster also feels that this is the perfect opportunity for Oklahoma City residents to show off the evolution of their city.
“The holidays are really special — a time to be able to come downtown and see the momentum and to show out-of-town friends and family that you are proud to live here,” she said. “Just being in the vibrancy of everything that is happening is great.”
Although events take place all over the area, “no piece of downtown is left out,” Leemaster said. The Myriad Botanical Gardens has become a hub of sorts for many of the festivities. After a brief absence because of renovations, the park has returned to host the ice rink, Garden Lights and free admission on select days to the Crystal Bridge. From noon to 3 p.m. each Saturday through Dec. 17, kids can meet Kris Kringle himself at Saturdays with Santa, where they will also be able to take pictures, visit the arts-and-crafts table and play in the adjacent, brand-new children’s park.
Maureen Heffernan, Myriad Botanical Gardens executive director, said the New Year’s Eve tradition known as Opening Night will have outdoor happenings like live music, the midnight ball raising and the fireworks display in the gardens as well. She’s excited to see Myriad Gardens continue its grand re-opening efforts in such a magnificent fashion.
“We want to make this a place that is vibrant year-round,” she said.
“It makes a lot of sense to have (the ice rink) here. It’s picturesque in this garden setting, and it can be a permanent home.”
Already, Downtown in December is poised to be bigger and better than last year, and it looks as if the seasons to come will see the event shining even brighter.
“In the future, the sky is the limit,” Heffernan said.
Photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman