Commentary: Community spirit and the new OKC 

David Wanzer (Provided)
  • Provided
  • David Wanzer

When you get a minute, stop. Look around you, and you can sense the ever-growing spirit of community within Oklahoma City, the pride of place, the collaborative efforts to strengthen and improve our city. I can feel it — it’s palpable. This is in stark contrast to those days not so long ago when we were often reluctant to answer the question “So, where are you from?”

Notice the cool (and free) neighborhood events happening every weekend and almost every night of the week? Monthly Friday night events like H&8th Night Market, LIVE on the Plaza, Premier on Film Row and the venerable First Friday Gallery Walk in the Historic Paseo Arts District attract a diverse crowd and make every Friday night a potential date night out on the town.

What about other monthly and annual events like Auto Alley Shop Hop, 6 Degrees of Bacon, The Girlie Show (we will miss you) or Better Block OKC?

Family-friendly things to do include the annual Wiggle Out Loud family music festival, Summer Movie Nights and Sunday Twilight Concert Series at Myriad Botanical Gardens — again, all free.

For those interested in outdoor healthy living events, I can’t count the number of 5ks, bicycle rides, river sports events and yoga studios in town, not to mention OKC’s flagship athletic event, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

Then there are the 41 Oklahoma City Thunder home games a year (plus playoffs!) that even non-sports fans have embraced and welcomed, chanting “O-K- C” and buying Thunder tees designed by local artists and sold citywide.

Our friends, family, neighbors and entire community are clamoring for and embracing every opportunity to get involved and be a part of this new OKC. Witness the fact that 20,000 people showed up for the Open Streets OKC inaugural event, which shut down Uptown 23rd Street from Western to Robinson avenues one Sunday afternoon in March. I even brought my parents from Guthrie to enjoy the event, and they did.

Real and authentic community spirit and community-building is taking hold in OKC. This city proves that people crave to be connected to one another.

Community spirit sometimes only triumphs after tragedy. Something special is occurring here right now; community spirit is rallying in the most positive way.

Everyone seems to be working together for the greater good of our metro area. We want to see others succeed and build our sense of togetherness instead of being envious of each other’s success and becoming bogged down in petty competitiveness and differences.

Community leaders such as local business owner and H&8th Night Market co-founder Laura Massenat, artist and Plaza District Association executive director Kristen Vails and arts advocate Jonathan Fowler epitomize this spirit with their efforts and energies. This spirit is contagious, spreading statewide, as nearby towns like Guthrie and Edmond create their own community events inspired by the success of H&8th.

If you want to make a difference, all you have to do is make the effort, become a voice. The pioneer spirit that we were founded on is truly alive and well. You can make an impact, make your mark and make a difference.

This spirit and energy is building a city like we have never experienced before. I encourage you to participate — to get involved, show up and build community.

David Wanzer is an Oklahoma City-based developer and designer with a passion for modern architecture, adaptive re-use and community-building.

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