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OU Concessions offers new items for football season: Get a food writer's take

NORMAN — When the University of Oklahoma unveiled the new concession items it will be offering this season, one item in particular caught the public’s attention — a large glazed doughnut in the shape of a stylized human hand, the fingers arranged into a variant of the notorious “Hook ‘Em Horns” gesture.

The hand was part of a display from Hurts Donut, which, along with the Tulsa-based Rib Crib, is partnering with Levy Restaurants, the company that oversees all concessions at OU sporting events.

It didn’t take long for images of this provocative pastry to show up on social media and get people asking where they might purchase one.

One place that “Horns Down-nuts” will NOT be available is at the Hurts Donut food truck, which will set up shop on game day at Gate 7 of the OU’s Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, beginning with Sunday’s contest that will pit the No. 4-ranked Sooners against the University of Houston.

“We wanted to have a fun display of doughnuts for the media day, and that was one of the things we came up with,” said Jess Maulsby, who operates the Norman franchise of Hurts Donut. “It was just something we did for fun. We didn’t quite expect it to take off on social media the way it did.”

However, Hurts Donut founder Tim Clegg said the “Horns Down-nut” will be available for purchase at the Norman Hurts Donut shop located in Campus Corner, just north of the OU campus.

“We’ll make it available at the store only on game days,” Clegg said.

But Sooner football fans are in no danger of going hungry anytime soon; 10 new food items will be available at concession areas this season starting Sunday.

Earlier this week, as part of OU’s Media Day, Levy Restaurants gave writers the chance to sample each of the new items, which range from the smoky to the salty to the sweet.

“We usually add anywhere from five to 10 new concession items a year,” said Jon Wanland, executive chef for Levy. “We want to provide a variety, but we also know that there are some items people are always going to expect to see, such as hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders. These are fan favorites, and we aren’t going to mess with those.

“On the other hand, for the premium suites, we completely re-do the menu each year because we offer a different menu for each game,” he said.

The media day tasting included some items that will be served in the stadium’s premium areas, including a perfectly medium-rare tomahawk rib-eye steak, pretzel nuggets with a beer cheese spread, and made-to-order guacamole that can be customized with the addition of pineapple, jalapeno salsa, pico de gallo, roasted corn and pickled onions.

One innovation being introduced this year involves those stadium staples, popcorn and soft drinks.

The Refillable Popcorn and Soda Kit includes a large order of popcorn and a large soda in reusable clear plastic containers for $20. These containers can then be refilled unlimited times, with popcorn refills costing $3, and soft drinks costing $3.50.

“This is the first time we’ve tried this,” said Kelly Joiner, director of operations for Levy. “We wanted to come up with something that would be of value to the devoted OU fan. They can bring their Refillables to all OU sporting events, not just football games, and be able to get them filled for the same discounted price.”

Those with a hankerin’ for Hurts Donut will be able to satisfy that craving in two ways. The Hurts Donut “emergency donut delivery vehicle” will be offering two creations that honor OU’s winningest coaches: the Strawberry Stoops Cake and the Raspberry Switzer, two pastries decorated in typical, over-the-top Hurts Donut fashion.

Hurts Donut also show up in the Hurts Donut Burger ($10), a surprisingly tasty entree with a well-seasoned beef patty topped with bacon, onion straws, cheese and a tangy mustard-based sauce, with a Hurts glazed doughnut as the bun. The balance of salty, sweet and savory is just about perfect.

Among the more substantial offerings are two items from Rib Crib: the BBQ Pork Queso Spud ($12) and the BBQ Pork Sandwich ($10). The sandwich definitely benefits from a generous helping of Rib Crib’s sauce, while the potato is topped with a white queso sauce, bacon bits and pico de gallo.

Kettle-cooked potato chips are featured in two new creations. Sooner Shakers ($5) are chips that can be topped with a choice of seasonings — chili limon, garlic Parmesan, and ranch — then shaken to coat.

Boomer Nachos ($10) are potato chips topped with roast pork, shredded cheese, barbecue sauce and pico de gallo; in spite of all the toppings, the chips remain satisfyingly crunchy.

A slightly different take on nachos is the Pretzel Nacho Knots ($10), deep-fried chunks of dough topped with a yellow cheese sauce, white cheese curds and a sprinkling of green onions. The “pretzels” had no pretzel flavor, and the industrial nacho cheese sauce quickly turned them soggy.

On the other hand, the Bacon Cheddar Tots ($6.50) are really good. “Tots” is something of a misnomer, as these are handball-size orbs that require at least a couple of bites to consume. A crunchy exterior contains a blend of creamy potato, bacon, cheese and onion — basically, a twice-baked potato that has been deep-fried.

Those with a highly developed sweet tooth will enjoy the Crimson and Cream Funnel Cake ($8.50), made up of finger-length tubes of funnel cake, topped with a cherry pie-filling sauce, whipped cream and crumbled graham crackers. A different version of this, with cinnamon-sugared pita chips, is available in the stadium’s premium suites, but we preferred the funnel cake version.

Percentage of kindergartners with vaccine exemptions up as immunization rate improves in Oklahoma

The percentage of Oklahoma kindergartners who were up to date on their immunizations increased last school year over the previous year, but so did the percentage who claimed an exemption from vaccines, according to a new government report.

Overall, 91.4% of kindergartners were up to date on their vaccines when surveyed during the 2018-19 school year, a 1% increase over the prior year, according to an Oklahoma State Department of Health report.

However, the percentage of students claiming an exemption from any vaccine increased from 2.4% to 2.6% during the same time period, the report states. The overall exemption rate was 1.9% in 2016-17.

The increase in the overall exemption rate was driven largely by the public school sector. The percentage of public school students claiming an exemption increased from 1.9% in 2017-18 to 2.4% in 2018-19.

As a smaller percentage of private schools participating in the voluntary survey declined from an all-time high of 59% in 2017-18 to 44% in 2018-19, the overall share of private school students claiming an exemption also declined from 6% to 4.7%, according to the report.

Parents may seek an exemption for their children from vaccinations for medical, personal or religious reasons.

The majority of exemptions from vaccinations are for nonmedical reasons, according to state Health Department officials.

“Analysis of this data drives program activities to improve vaccination coverage in our state,” Interim Commissioner of Health Tom Bates said in a written statement.

“We appreciate the support from the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the local school officials who contributed to such an important project.

“We know that vaccinations are among the most effective ways to protect against serious diseases.”

Dr. Chris E. Smith, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at OU Physicians-Tulsa, said in an interview that the 2018-19 vaccination report was encouraging.

“My general feeling is I’m encouraged anytime I see anything that shows our up-to-date (immunization) rates may be increasing,” Smith said.

Still, he voiced concerns about both the survey participation rate among private schools and their overall higher exemption rates.

“I think there’s some really good gains,” Smith said. “We still have some areas to improve on as far as getting the response rate up from all of our schools and all of our kids in Oklahoma.

“I still see that there is a high nonparticipation rate among many of our private schools.”

Nonmedical exemptions among private schools declined from 4.9% to 4.1%. The medical exemption rate for private school kindergartners decreased from 0.7% to 0.6%.

“Sometimes I think private schools’ exemption rates may be a little bit higher just because families who pursue exemptions tend to choose private education,” Smith said.

Smith said he was impressed by the amount of detail that was made available to the public by the Health Department with this report.

The detailed information will allow communities to better address ways to increase vaccination rates among children, he said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health for the first time created an online interactive map to view vaccination rates by county or by individual school.

The Tulsa World in April published an interactive map to display the 2017-18 vaccination data.

Smith said the 91% up-to-date rate for kindergartners is still lower than what pediatricians would like to see.

The state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has set a goal of seeing 95% of the state’s children up to date on all immunizations, he said.

“We know when we hit 95% that our population of kids will be healthier when it comes to these immunization-related preventable diseases,” Smith said.

The state Health Department conducts the kindergarten vaccination survey annually.

The survey measures the share of students who are up to date for the six vaccines required for children to be enrolled in school.

The share of kindergarten students vaccinated for measles, which have seen a record number of outbreaks nationwide in recent years, increased from 92.9% in 2017-18 to 93.2% in 2018-19.

The survey results are considered preliminary until they are forwarded to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiles the data in a national report.

The data sent to the CDC exclude figures from state charter schools, some of which are the fastest-growing segment of the public school districts.

For instance Epic Charter Schools, the fifth-largest school district in the state, is one of those districts missing from the state report.

Epic Charter Schools maintains both a virtual school program — Epic Charter One-on-One School, where students complete all assignments outside of a traditional classroom setting, and a “blended” program, where students living in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties may attend classes with other students while also completing work from home.

About 21% of students enrolled in Epic’s blended program were exempt from one or more vaccinations during the 2017-18 school year, according to the Health Department survey.

A school spokesperson said in April that about 9.3% of Epic Charter kindergartners in the blended program were exempt in the 2018-19 school year.

Epic Charter One-on-One students were not surveyed along with other virtual school districts in the state. The bulk of Epic Charter students attend the virtual school.

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WWII veteran from Perry who died without survivors to be honored by community

PERRY — A World War II Navy veteran who left behind no known survivors when he died recently will receive a send-off befitting a hero next week.

Herman Augusta White, who died Aug. 11 at 97, will be buried with military honors in a graveside service at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Grace Hill Cemetery, 501 Memorial Drive in Perry.

American Legion Post 53 in Perry and Perry First Baptist Church donated money to help pay for the service, with Brown-Dugger Funeral Home covering the rest of the cost and the casket.

The community effort to honor White, whose wife and son died previously, began with the funeral home.

Funeral Director Rebecca Raines and a colleague, after searching unsuccessfully for survivors, were prepared to do what they had to, they said, to give White a service, even if they were the only two to attend.

But after they started reaching out, “it’s just spread and spread,” Raines said. “People are calling and saying ‘Can I play? Can I speak? Can I read a poem?’ I’ve got four volunteering to play bagpipes. ... We’ve ended up with everything we need.”

At the service, Legion volunteers will read from Psalm 23, give a brief speech, accept the flag from the U.S. Navy Color Guard and play taps.

Letters from President Donald Trump, Gov. Kevin Stitt and Navy Admiral Greg Slavonic will also be read.

Raines said White will be buried next to his wife, Evelyn, and son, Mickey, in a plot he reserved.

Had it not been for the donations, he might have been interred at a local potter’s field.

“I really, really hated to do that,” Raines said. “I wanted to bury him next to his wife and son. He’s entitled to that. He’s earned that.”

Not a lot is known about White’s military experience.

Per his documents, he served in the Pacific aboard the USS Muliphen, an attack cargo ship. He served from May 1945 to April 1946 and received an honorable discharge as a seaman second class.

White was born Dec. 1, 1921. He was a native of Wayside, Oklahoma, and was in Seward at the time he entered the service.

White’s wife and son died in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

He spent the last years of his life, Raines said, playing dominoes at the Perry Senior Citizens Center and drinking coffee at Mr. C’s convenience store. He donated his home and possessions to First Baptist Church.

The only other thing organizers ask is for the public to attend the service.

Despite all the positive feedback and promises, Raines confessed she’s still afraid “no one will come.”

“I’m scared and terrified. But if it’s just me, that’s OK,” she said, adding that she feels like she knows White personally, having been in his home and researched his life.

“I will be crying like a baby, and he will know that somebody here misses him.”

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