The Roots bring large crowds
Overflow crowds watched from walkways, slides and stone walls — anywhere a body could sit, stand, and catch a glimpse of the stage to see The Roots.
Delaney Zumwalt, clad in technicolor tights and shining silver jacket, was stuck toward the edge of the crowd but dancing every bit as hard as the fans down front and center.
“It just feels so good. Where else in Tulsa can you go and see this many people from this many parts of town and everything just come together in one place,” Zumwalt said of the park. “This is unprecedented here. It’s going to change everything.”
Many attendees knew The Roots because of their place on NBC’s “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Parker Vay admits he is one of those attendees. In fact, he didn’t know The Roots were even supposed to be playing at Gathering Place.
Having now seen and heard them live has been like a musical baptism, he said.
“It’s genuinely great music and their presence is just out of this world,” Vay said. “I am a fan now. I’ve been converted.”
When Mayor G.T. Bynum took the stage during opening ceremonies, he mentioned that he was carrying gear as though he had been skydiving.
The plan had been for someone to skydive into the park during the final minutes before the grand opening. The mayor then would take the stage as though he had been the skydiver. An overcast day with low-hanging clouds thwarted the skydiving plan, although it didn’t seem to dampen spirts as Bynum read the final book in the Reading Tree Challenge — “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.”
The Reading Tree Challenge began last fall, when Tulsa-area students were challenged to read 2 million books before the park’s opening. They read more than 2.2 million books.
Gathering Place Executive Director Tony Moore moved from Florida to run the park. On Saturday, his parents made the trip north for the opening. Norma Cox lives in Orlando. Winston Moore lives in Miami. Dad could not have been prouder of his son.
“You could see it coming, that he was going to become something real good. ... My son, my son, my son. It’s all about my son and this achievement.”
First in line
Mike Odon, 58, was the first person to show up at River Spirit Casino to catch a shuttle to the park. It was a few minutes after 6 a.m. Odon, a native of England, and resident of Broken Arrow, said he’s been following the development of the park for years.
“I have been so excited about the Gathering Place,” he said. “I think it is a transformative location for the Tulsa area. It is going to bring people together from diverse backgrounds and is going to put Tulsa on the map.”
Who’s that DJ?
Most people who know Spencer Gainey are used to seeing him in a business suit, or some other business attire. He is, after all, government affairs director for Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors.
But that wasn’t his job Saturday, and he certainly was not in a business suit. No, it was a ball cap and T-shirt day. That’s what you wear when you DJ at the skate park and pump tracks.
Gainey says he’s had the side gig for more than a decade. Saturday, he was playing hip-hop music for the swarms of young people — and a few older folks — racing around on skateboards, BMX bikes and scooters.
“We had to take the lyrics out of it,” he said of the music, a broad smile creasing his face.
Alice Hewett, 65, and her husband, Tim Hewett, 72, have lived on the southeast corner of 30th Street and Cincinnati Avenue since 1979. On Saturday morning, before 7 a.m., she headed out for a walk with her dogs and stopped at the security entrance at 30th Street and Boston Avenue.
It’s a stroll she’s made almost every day since construction of the park began four years ago.
As a child, Tim Hewett’s mother would push him in a baby buggy along a gravel path near what is now the park grounds to play in the sand near the Arkansas River.
“I think he is the only person still living in the neighborhood that grew up here,” Alice Hewett said.
Tim Hewett did not accompany his wife on her walk Saturday. He was working out, something Alice Hewitt says he never misses.
Stacy Layton of Tulsa was among the first to arrive at the Gathering Place parade, taking a 6 a.m. shuttle and getting a seat on the curb.
“I wanted to be out here to beat the crowd. I’m excited about the zip-lining. I’ve never done it.”
Gary Haynes of Tulsa had a seat beside her.
“I feel like a little kid. I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning. I’m excited. I feel like I’m out of town and going to a lodge that you pay for, only it’s free.”
Fun fact file
The park has 1.2 million plants and shrubs; Williams Lodge is home to an oval-shaped, two-story fireplace; the Water Maze, located south of Mist Mountain, shoots water almost seven feet in the air.
David Garcia and Ezekiel Bartlett test their balance and practice flips on the log climb area at the Gathering Place. The 14-year-olds agree the park has a lot of great spots for Parkour, a sport they’ve both done for years.
The key is “to get good at falling,” they said.
“The place is so close by I’ll definitely be coming here a lot,” Bartlett said.
James Varner came to the park dressed as Spider-Man, for photo ops, and to collect donations for charity. Varner goes to various events in the spidey suit nearly every weekend, he said, collecting cash and change.
“It’s very popular with the kids obviously, but a lot of adults get very excited too by the suit,” he said.
As busy as the Gathering Place was Saturday, he’s pretty certain Spider-Man will become a common fixture at the park, he said.
Piecing them all together
Alex Almonte is painstakingly putting together a mosaic using photos taken by park visitors during the opening days.
Almonte works for Luster, a company that uses special algorithm assisted printers that help employees like Almonte identify the best pictures to use to create a mosaic based on color and composition. The algorithm selects from photos paired with a given hashtag, in this case #gathertulsa, which encourages social media participation.
The printer does a lot of the work, Almonte said. But a human touch still makes all the difference. It’s a secret what the final image will be, but Almonte said it will be completed by Sept. 15.