There have been plenty of things to celebrate in Tulsa over the past year. One that might slip past many people, however, is the 50th anniversary of a locally based corporation that stays committed to its home and community.
Yes, it's hard to believe, but QuikTrip (commonly and affectionately referred to as simply QT in these parts) has reached the "golden anniversary" and just like any couple that last that long, its worthy of a celebration. And what better way to celebrate than throw a party for all your closest friends--or in this case, your hometown?
This weekend, the QuikTrip 50th Anniversary Festival will take place at the River Parks Festival grounds on the west bank of the Arkansas River, the same site for events like Oktoberfest and last weekend's Scottish games. Thrown as an all-day party and festival, the event is an all-ages, family-friendly affair, with live music and activities Sat., Sept. 20 from noon until 9:30pm, when the evening will culminate with a fireworks display.
Some of the bands performing should be household names in town, while others are a little less familiar and a few are relatively unknown. Festival gates open at 11am on Saturday, and the first band to take the stage, Uche and the Crash, will get festivities rolling at 12pm. Although unknown in Tulsa, the Wichita-based band features a leader who has been with QT for more than 20 years. The band's eclectic blend of folk, pop and alt-rock will make sure things get hopping early.
Following Uche and the Crash at 12:50pm on the main stage will be local act Little Chair, a collaboration among Dustin Pittsley, Jesse Aycock and Jeff Martinson, which made its unofficial debut opening for Charlie Musselwhite at the Blank Slate only a few short months ago. When QT Vice President of Marketing Jim Denny saw the trio open the Musselwhite show, he was so impressed, he was convinced the group needed to be a part of the festivities, providing a modern perspective on the classic "Tulsa Sound."
When speaking to Denny about the festival, he explained that the company wanted to do something for the community, and initial thoughts were, much like many other big dreamers, to bring in a big name act like Garth Brooks for a concert. Realizing that Brooks would likely not agreed to step out of his self-imposed hiatus for the show (and the cost would be way beyond budget anyway), the names of a number of other high-profile country acts with Oklahoma ties were bandied about, but all negotiations and plans eventually fell through.
"Chad Rodgers from the Cain's Ballroom has been invaluable to us in helping to organize the event and help with contracting the bands," Denny told me recently. "And we were completely surprised at how enthusiastic a response we got from Hanson, right from the outset."
With a lineup that crosses a wide spectrum of music, Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma's musical footprint is well represented in a number of genres. Coweta-based hard rock kids Crooked X will bring their mighty thunder to the festival park for the younger crowd, balanced by the more mellow and classic rock vibes of longtime party favorite Midlife Crisis Band later in the afternoon. And while South 40 brings a splash of country-fried rock to the festivities, the evening's biggest names spread out the musical love.
The final outside act that most people may not know about, however is Rattle and Hum, a U2 tribute band based out of Kansas City. Denny explained that bassist Pat Ross is a 28-year veteran of the QT corporation, but his band is no joke. Although the members don't look exactly like U2, they focus on recreating the band's sound and stage presence as authentically as possible and have become one of the premier U2 tribute acts in the country. Of special note is the fact that QuikTrip is taking all of its employees of at least 25 years on a Hawaii trip, and Ross will be returning directly to Tulsa on Saturday morning to play the show at 2:30pm.
On the Tulsa side of the equation, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's Brian Haas has been all about this gig, even mentioning it following the group's glorious triumph at Dfest. Whenever the band gets an opportunity to play before a large crowd and represent its hometown, it seems the stakes are raised and the group always steps up to top its last performance.
The real curiosity of the JFJO show, though, will be which side of the group's eclectic nature will be spotlighted? The traditional, Mingus-inspired jazz swingers, the more-recently inspired electronica experimentalists, or the free-form jamsters that shredded the Dfest stage? Perhaps that will be solely dictated by the mood of the afternoon, but it will undoubtedly be an inspired show.
Of course there are the other headliners that are indelibly linked to Tulsa as well. Leon Russell is an icon and, as Denny said, "Leon is, well... Leon. What else can I say? I think it shows a real diversity, though that we are able to go from Leon Russell to Hanson, who have really developed into great musicians and songwriters over the past few years."
"Our only real concern at this point," Denny shared with me, "is that we printed out 50,000 tickets for distribution at our stores, and they're already going fast. We do have a back-up plan, however, should we need it, as we can also simulcast the show at Veterans Park, which will also provide a great view of the fireworks."
"I'm kind of a pyromaniac, or pyrotechnic-maniac," said Denny. "Our fireworks show will be roughly 50 percent bigger and better than even the 4th of July display, and it's all computer-generated and synched, so it will be amazing."
The only other imperative information for Tulsans to note is that there will be no available parking at the festival grounds, due to limited space and employee parking. To help alleviate the problem, QT will be running shuttles from the Tulsa County Fairgrounds all day on Saturday from the parking lot just west of the QuikTrip Center. Plenty of busses will be on hand and extras have been arranged for the end of the evening to make sure transportation goes as smoothly as possible all day.
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