Winterfest opens in downtown Tulsa
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012
11/24/12 at 7:28 AM
Holiday happenings: See a full Winterfest calendar with prices and daily
hours of operation.
See a list of holiday activities in the downtown area.
Christy Lawson and her two children have attended Winterfest in downtown Tulsa for the last three years.
This year, Cassidy and Garrett Lawson, 15 and 13, and their two cousins from St. Louis were the first skaters on the ice when the event's signature ice skating rink opened at 10 a.m. Friday outside the BOK Center.
"This is a thing we do every year," Christy Lawson said. "It's tradition."
Winterfest, now in its fifth year, has become a regular part of the holidays for numerous families, BOK Center Events Manager Jill DuVall said.
Attendance has grown from about 31,000 in its inaugural year to more than 131,000 in 2011, and at least 120,000 people are expected this year, she said.
"It's grown by leaps and bounds and we've been in awe every year," she said. "It's just become really popular with a lot of Tulsa families."
This year's 45-day run is Winterfest's longest yet, she said. Christmas concerts by choir groups, carriage rides and visits from "Segway Santa" are planned through Jan. 6, and a 44-foot Christmas tree - billed by organizers as Oklahoma's largest - will shine its 35,700 lights outside the BOK Center every night.
Fireworks will mark the five-year milestone Dec. 8 after the downtown Holiday Parade of Lights and the third-annual Holiday Market, which will showcase hundreds of seasonal vendors inside the BOK Center.
More than 1,500 runners kicked off the festivities Friday with the 8:30 a.m. Turkey Trot 5k and one-mile runs, BOK Center Special Events Coordinator Brian Smith said.
By noon, about a dozen skaters had trickled into the 60-by-150-foot ice rink on Third Street between Denver and Frisco avenues. With temperatures in the low 50s, the few puddles that formed around the edges were tame compared to previous years, DuVall said.
Two giant coolers kept most of the ice frozen atop 40 truckloads of sand that had been dropped for the rink's foundation over the last two weeks, she said.
"The last couple of years, it's been like 70 degrees on opening day, so we're thankful for the cooler weather this year," DuVall said. "As long as it's in the low 60s, we can have good ice."
Garrett and Alanna Albrecht, 10 and 8, splashed through thin layers of water and clung to the side wall as their aunt, Heather Wright, instructed them to push with the sides of their feet. They were visiting Wright from Nebraska and had never skated before.
"We've been talking this up for four years, and they're leaving today so we were like, 'Well, it opens at 10,' " said Wright, who has now attended Winterfest all five years. "We usually go at night, when everything is lit up and it's so beautiful."
The children's mother, Tina Albrecht, watched as they tried standing without help from the rails.
"They just had to ice skate," she said.
Griffin and Payton Allen, 11 and 7, had skated several times before Friday but needed some time to find their footing.
"The key to ice skating is to keep your butt off the ice," their father, Bobby Allen, warned.
About 15 minutes later, Griffin was one of the first skaters of the day to fall.
"I just hope he doesn't try figure skating," Bobby Allen said.
As Payton completed her first successful venture off the side wall, her father threw his hands in the air. She skated back to family watching from the side, smiling.
"It's slippery," she said.
It was the first visit to Winterfest for Christy Lawson's family from St. Louis, which included Zachary and Alex Adams, 15 and 14.
As the four teenagers formed a train on the ice, synchronizing their movements, the two families said they would like to make Winterfest a joint tradition.
Although St. Louis has a similar outdoor skating rink, "This is just great," Cheryl Adams said. "We're going to come back."
'Arvest Winterfest' presented by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation
When: Through Jan. 6
Where: Third Street between Denver and Frisco avenues
Key dates: Dec. 8 - Holiday Market in the BOK Center's Grand Lobby, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fireworks after dark. Dec. 9 - Free ice skating day
Original Print Headline: Holiday tradition
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Zack Adams, 15, ice skates at Winterfest in downtown Tulsa on Friday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Payton Allen, 7, ice skates at Winterfest outside the BOK Center. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Gwyneth Meyers, 5, takes a spill while ice skating at Winterfest in downtown Tulsa on Friday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World