Dickens on the Boulevard takes downtown back in time

Claremore has been stuck in a time loop for the last 20 years.

Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving, downtown Claremore is transported back to the 1800s with Dickens on the Boulevard. And this year, now entering two decades of Claremore’s favorite holiday event, is no different.

Free to attend, Dickens on the Boulevard is a two-night Victorian-themed Christmas festival set to kick off at 6 p.m. on Nov. 18 and 19.

“Dickens on the Boulevard is one of my favorite events each year,” said Jessica Jackson, Claremore Main Street director. “It propels you back in time, showcasing some of the great aspects of the Victorian era, while still giving you the perks downtown Claremore currently has to offer.”
Guests will feel like they are back in the 1800s as they walk through downtown and see the blacksmiths, hand spinners, street urchins performing on the sidewalks and other actors in a “living window.”

Those who get a little thirsty can stop by the saloon for entertainment, a sip of sarsaparilla and a chance to play cards with the Territorial Marshals.

Further down the street is a living nativity scene, a horse and carriage ride to the Belvidere Mansion and Santa’s Workshop – a chance for children to paint an ornament to take home to put on their trees.

In the middle block, stage entertainment will greet attendees while Santa Claus is available for holiday pictures inside the Cranberry Merchant, 417 W. Will Rogers Blvd., for $5.

A volunteer will be available to take family photos by at 12-foot tree in the lobby of the Will Rogers Hotel on individual cell phones for free.

Beginning at 7:45 p.m. each night will be a re-enactment. On Friday night, the Territorial Marshals will perform and on Saturday, the Tri-State Gunfighters will take to the streets.

Stores stay open during the event. Shoppers can qualify for the Dickens Dollars drawing by spending $10 in any of the participating stores or simply by walking into the store and asking for their complimentary ticket.

There is a separate drawing each night. Winners receive “Dickens Dollars,” which are good to spend as cash in any of the participating stores through Christmas Eve.

Each year, the event features a Victorian costume contest with categories for different ages and genders as well as for the best dressed couple.

Following the costume awards presentation is the festival’s nightcap – the Victorian stroll and street dance. The stroll is the perfect opportunity for young and old to get together on the street and enjoy the old-fashioned entertainment.

“Watching people from all walks of life dancing together in the streets is such a wonderful thing,” Jackson said. “It warms your heart to see the community come together downtown like that.”

Tales from the Top is a ticketed tour of the upper floors of five downtown Claremore buildings held in conjunction with Dickens on the Boulevard.

The tour begins at 6 p.m. and last about an hour. Tickets are $10 and are limited. They can be purchased beginning on Nov. 1 at the Claremore Main Street office, 419 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

“People love traveling up the upper floors, especially those abandoned, and hearing a little about the history of the building,” Jackson said. “We host small plays that help showcase some the history of the buildings and of Claremore as a whole.”

Tales from the Top is family friendly but some of the buildings do not have electricity and those on the tour can see only through battery-powered lights in the buildings and complimentary flashlights, so it may not be suitable for all children.

Dickens on the Boulevard is hosted by Claremore Main Street and sponsored by Kevin Fortna, CPA, Will Rogers Downs Casino and the City of Claremore.

For more information, visit the website or call 918-341-5881.

Fall Cash Mob sends full proceeds to nonprofit

The bimonthly Cash Mob is the perfect excuse for Claremore shoppers to spend money downtown, take home fabulous items and help out a local nonprofit – and they got their money’s worth in October.

The “mobbing” is where a collection of local supporters assemble for a small gathering prior to going out and shopping at a downtown store chosen at random the night of the event. Normally, 10 percent of the proceeds go to a local nonprofit chosen by the shoppers themselves.

But in October, the mobbers took over Thrift Harbor, 316 W. Will Rogers Blvd. Since Thrift Harbor supports Hope Harbor Children’s Home, the managers agreed to send 100 percent of the night’s proceeds on to Hope Harbor.

Shoppers, undeterred by the discounted prices at the thrift store, spend more than $700 in about an hour. The mob was sponsored by moreclaremore.com.

“It generated a lot of excitement in the store, and we were excited to be chosen,” said Mary Baumgardner, volunteer coordinator for Thrift Harbor. “It was fun to see a lot of new faces in the store. We appreciate the funds that were raised.”

The vision for Hope Harbor began in 1947 as the Turley Children’s Home. The mission is to serve at-risk youth and their families. Boys and girls in the program live at different cottages, attend school and receive counseling all on the Hope Harbor campus. Additionally, parents receive training and support to strengthen and stabilize the home environment.

Participants in the Cash Mob agree to attend every other month and spend at minimum $20 at the store chosen at random the night of the event. The goal is to encourage shopping local and the downtown businesses’ success and to support local nonprofits.
“I was encouraged to see so many different people participating,” Baumgardner said. “Not only are they helping the nonprofits through this but it’s helping the downtown too because it gives them the exposure to the downtown stores.”

Additionally, participants are invited to a special VIP gathering prior to the start of the mob. In October, Arri’bin Hills Winery gave out wine samples and Claremore Chiropractic did free assessments.

Cash Mob is every other month on the first Tuesday of the month. Pre-registration is necessary because the starting location changes each month. Register online at http://bit.ly/CashMob1516, and we will email the location out a week prior.

The next Cash Mob is scheduled for Dec. 6. The selected store will be drawn at 5:30 p.m. Kevin Fortna, CPA, is the mob’s sponsor.

Downtown determined National Historic District

Three blocks of downtown Claremore received a new designation last month as the National Parks Service officially added the district to the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Parks Service made the announcement weeks after receiving the nomination from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

“We are so excited to receive this exclusive designation,” said Jessica Jackson, Claremore Main Street executive director. “Our volunteers have worked tirelessly on this project to benefit our district and further development in downtown Claremore.”

Included on the Register is the area between Route 66 and Muskogee Avenue and from 4th Street to the alley between Will Rogers Boulevard and Patti Page.
​The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.

“Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources,” its website states.

The designation came after years of the research and application process by Claremore Main Street volunteers alongside the State Historic Preservation Office.

Main Street Board of Directors Treasurer Ray Brown and former executive director Cindy Bissett, along with other community members and volunteers, spent hours poring over research, talking to former residents and property owners and going through property records to complete the application and narrative.

“With the National Park Service designation, downtown Claremore has another major attraction to the City of Claremore,” Brown said. “With the historical structures downtown and the anticipated renovation, Claremore will attract even more people to the downtown area.”

Brown said when he first heard about the project, he knew it fit exactly in his area of expertise, and that he wanted to have a significant role in the project.

“I was formally educated in demography and economic development; I have a lifetime interest in conducting research,” he said. “I love Claremore with its downtown area that is beautiful and historically significant, and I desire to see the City and its downtown area prosper.”

One of the major benefits of the designation to the National Register is that building owners will be able to make use of federal tax credits to revitalize or renovate their building, which would lead to some façade updates and upper floor development within the downtown district.

“Owners of qualifying buildings in the historic preservation district may receive federal and state tax credits up to 40 percent, “ Brown said. “Encouraging reinvestment creates for the owners more valuable assets which are very functional in today’s commercial and social environment.”

Other benefits include the tourism perks and protection from federal government projects that may harm the district.

“The Downtown Claremore Historic District will join the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, the Claremore Museum of History and many other attractions to become part of a true ‘destination center’ attracting visitors and encouraging business investment,” Brown said.

There are no regulations on property owners or what they can do to their buildings unless they wish to qualify for the tax credits.

Additionally, Claremore Main Street’s Board of Directors say they hope to see the status boost tourism, especially among those traveling along the Route 66 corridor.

“Being named to the National Register of Historic Places is quite an honor,” Jackson said. “We hope those travelers who love seeing historic sites will be sure to put us down as a stop. We have beautiful historic buildings, great culture and modern amenities perfect for any wanderer.”

The historic district is significant for its role in commerce in Claremore from 1890 to 1955. This area has been the center of commercial development in Claremore from shortly after its founding in the 1880s to the present.

The vast majority of the buildings were completed by the 1930s, with most commercial construction activity after this time being renovations.

The buildings in the Downtown Claremore Historic District reflect the commercial growth of this community, growth spurred by transportation routes like Route 66 and the two railroad systems, transportation related activities and the radium water bath industry.

The National Register of Historic Places includes individual buildings as well as entire districts like downtown Claremore.

Claremore’s district was one of eight new designations in the state and the only district included. In all, there are more than 90,000 properties nationwide included on the register, including 1,306 in Oklahoma and 107 districts.

“Someday, not too far in the future, visitors going on self-guided tours of historic downtown Claremore will be common place,” Brown said. “Becoming a National Historic District opens so many wonderful opportunities, I can hardly wait to see the many developments that will come.”

Celebrate Will Rogers’ birthday with free cake

Claremore can celebrate Will Rogers’ 137th birthday with free birthday cake and coffee on Nov. 5 at the historic Will Rogers Hotel Lobby, 524 W. Will Rogers Blvd., in downtown Claremore.

Cake and coffee will be served beginning at 2 p.m. A group photo will be taken at 2:30 p.m.

Claremore Main Street and the Claremore Area Chamber of Commerce are hosting the event in conjunction with Will Rogers Days. McDonald’s is donating the coffee while the Will Rogers Memorial Museum is supplying the cake.

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., stop by the center block of downtown to sign a “Happy Birthday, Will” banner that will be displayed in the birthday group picture.
Throughout the day, downtown is celebrating 1st Saturday Downtown will great deals and discounts up and down the street, including several in-store specials. Dorothy’s Wiches will be in the RCB Drive Thru beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Many of the stores will be displaying Will Rogers coloring pages by Sequoyah third grade students. Shoppers can vote on their favorite one in each participating store. The top three winners will receive a prize as will the teacher of the First Place winner.

The coloring page project and prizes are hosted by the Downtown Claremore Merchant’s Group.

For more information about the birthday cake or coloring pages, call or text Claremore Main Street at 918-341-5881. For a full list of Will Rogers Days activities, visit willrogers.com.

Food Truck Thursday hosts Halloween party

Downtown Claremore is closing off the second season of Food Truck Thursday with a Halloween bash from 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 27.

Food Truck Thursday: Downtown Claremore Zombie Infestation features local band Kelli Lynn and the Skillet Lickers, a Halloween costume contest, Trick-or-Treating through the block, a free Kids Zone by First United Methodist Church, more than 10 food trucks and late-night shopping deals.

“We’re asking guests to wear costumes that are fun and family-friendly – not too scary – and enjoy our last food truck event of the season,” said Carol Thibodeau, the event committee chairwoman and owner of Rhapsody Boutique & Spa, 318 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

There will be a costume contest at the stage at 7 p.m. The age categories are 0-5 years old, 6-12 years old and 13 and older. Costumes do not have to be zombie-themed.
“I’m a huge fan of Halloween, so I’m really excited about this month’s Food Truck Thursday theme,” said Jessica Jackson, Claremore Main Street’s director. “We hope everyone comes out to enjoy the atmosphere, band, food trucks and especially our fabulous shopping.”

The Kids Zone by First United Methodist Church is completely free to attendees, but parents are asked to watch their children while they enjoy the games and fun activities.

Boarding House Books, 300 W. Will Rogers Blvd., will feature a book signing by local authors Linda Trout, Peter Bradasz, Jessica Garrison, John Paul Tucker and Dorothy Cummings.

This month the event features thirteen food trucks, brought in to provide more variety of cuisine and desserts and potentially shorter food lines.

Food trucks include Meltdown Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Dorothy’s Wiches, MooChewSooey BBQ, Taqueria El Jarocho, Papos Latin/American Cafe, Curbside Comfort, Jeremiah’s A Cafe of Hope, Kona Ice, BackWatters BBQ Chuckwagon, La Hermosa, Wild Al’s, Maw & Paw Kettle Corn and Jen’s Java.

This is the final Food Truck Thursday remaining this season. The event will return in the spring.

The monthly event is hosted by the Downtown Merchants Group and Claremore Main Street, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the downtown district and reigniting the area as the social core of our community.

Community, Main Street gather to clean alleys

Community members, downtown business and building owner and members of the Main Street Board of Directors set out to sweep glass and pick up loose trash in the first Claremore Main Street Alley Clean Up Day on Sunday.

“It was wonderful to see everyone come together for a common mission,” said Jessica Jackson, Claremore Main Street Executive Director. “We got out there and worked together as a team – people from all different ages with different relationships to the district. It was neat to witness.”

Among the crew were four children, who picked up trash and shoveled glass like the rest of the volunteers, showcasing that every bit helps and that community involvement can begin early.

​The idea for the Alley Clean Up Day began in a Board of Directors meeting a few months ago, around the time the City of Claremore was participating in its citywide clean up day. While the timing did not work out to hold the events in conjunction, the idea was postponed to the fall

Jill Ferenc, City Planner and Main Street Board member, headed up the project. Supplies, including gloves and trash bags, were donated by the City. The City also plans to remove an old business sign behind The Willow Tree later this week as part of the initiative.

“Our downtown is the heart of the city, and alleys are an integral part of that urban fabric,” Ferenc said. “This event promotes the enhancement and utilization of alleys for connectivity and more active public uses in the future.”

Jackson said she hopes to make the Alley Clean Up Day a semi-annual event, including getting volunteers to help building owners with their projects.

“Main Street would like to sincerely thank everyone who came out to help us clean the alleys,” she said. “They look great, and I appreciate the community’s support.”