By Micah Choquette
One of the highlights of the 33rd Annual Route 66 Blowout was the Christmas Chute prototype installed at the corner of Dewey Avenue and Water Street.
For many, it was the first sight of what is going to make Sapulpa a destination during the holiday season this year.
The prototype represented one-fifth of a section of the Route 66 Christmas Chute. Each of the panels affixed to the roof represented eight of the ten different themes that will be on display.
Families walked and stopped, mesmerized by the experience. Brenda Smith, who is on one of the decorating teams, said it was wonderful to watch.
“People were very excited about the whole thing,” she said. “It was really neat to watch the kids stare at each panel. It’s been a very positive experience.”
The entire chute will span from Main Street to the Creek County Courthouse, a total of 25,000sqft, made up of tens of thousands of lights, decorations, garland, and zip-ties.
The families’ sense of excitement grows as the “Chute Committee” members begin to explain what is actually going to take place when Lights On! Sapulpa happens on November 3rd. Most are leaving in awe, and no doubt dreaming of Christmas, though it’s barely September.
The process of figuring out how to make this happen began two years ago, after an experience at Roosevelt’s in Tulsa, which is decorated in a similar manner. A crack team of visionaries assembled to bring the idea of the Christmas Chute to life.
As discussions were had with city officials about how to handle various responsibilities that came along with a large-scale event like this, safety played an important role. Although initially, the idea was to have a single lane of traffic in the middle Dewey Avenue in order for people to drive by and see decorations, the Chute Committee ultimately decided to close the street entirely during the months of the event, for the sake of safety and the retailers involved. As the plan was put forth at a City Council Study Session meeting, City Manager Joan Riley and Vice Mayor Carla Gunn agreed that closing the street was the right move.
“We did have a plan for some sort of cable barrier to keep people in the chute,” Riley said. “but the more I thought about it, I realized how easy it would be for a little girl to duck under that cable and go right into oncoming traffic.”
Gunn agreed, saying that safety “has to be the most important concern if this really is going to be everything we want it to be.”
Experience shows that in past holiday events, when the streets were closed to traffic, families were more likely to walk around and shop, and sales of the downtown retailers were reportedly higher.
While some have raised concerns about the Christmas Chute removing the parking on Dewey, the realization that—out of the 1200-plus parking spots in downtown, the Christmas Chute is doing away with sixty—puts most minds at ease.
In any case, Saturday’s Route 66 Blowout was an exercise in whether or not people are willing to park a few blocks to come to enjoy an amazing experience. The Blowout—rumored to be our largest ever—proved that the answer was a resounding “yes.”
The Route 66 Christmas Chute will begin assembly in October, and will officially be open for the season from November 3rd to January 2nd.