By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Friday was the crowning day for those who worked six years to make Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center a reality.
Lew Ward, chairman of the board for the center, gave the keynote speech at the grand opening ceremony Friday.
“The Land Run of 1893 is said to be the largest competitive event in the history of the country,” Ward said. “They came from across our country and many from foreign lands. They brought what some call the Immigrant’s Edge. A pioneer sharpened by previous hardship and excited about the American frontier. It was a story of a dream, of opportunity and freedom, that lured the homesteaders. It’s a story of surviving against all odds.”
The turnout for the opening was huge. Although 220 chairs initially were set out for the audience, staff brought out about 25 additional chairs when they noticed about 75 people standing. Still, people trickled in. Even with all the chairs set out for the crowd, probably 75 people were stood throughout the opening ceremony.
Dignitaries including Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, former Gov. George Nigh and Bob Blackburn, executive director of Oklahoma Historical Society, stepped to the lectern to speak to the crowd about the effort and fundraising that went into the $10 million heritage center initiative.
“It’s important that we pause and examine who we are and where we came from and the history of this place,” Lamb said.
After the speeches and introductions of those who brought the dream of the heritage center to fruition were done, the eager crowd filed inside to see the exhibits.
Phillips University Legacy Foundation hosted an evening reception for major donors to the Heritage Center.
The center creates a repository for the artifacts of Phillips University, which operated in Enid from 1907 to 1998. In the center of the Thelma Gungoll Phillips University Gallery is the cornerstone of the administration and classroom building that burned to the ground in May 1947. It is surrounded by display cases highlighting the four cornerposts of Christian education: Intellectual, spiritual, physical and social learning.
Don and Barbara Angle, who have been the Phillips University historians and the archivers of the university artifacts since its closure, were at the museum opening. Don Angle said he now is ready for a break.
“But it won’t stop,” Angle quipped.
The exhibit in the gallery will rotate, keeping the displays fresh.
The other four galleries are The Outlet, featuring pre-land run history; The Land and the People, featuring survival in the early years after the land run; Dave Donaldson Oil and Gas, which highlights the importance of the energy industry to the area; and The Allen Enid Gallery, featuring Enid’s development into a center of commerce and culture.