Year In Review: 2022 as told through our biggest stories

2022 was a very wild and crazy year for Sapulpa—and that’s really saying something given the last few years that we’ve all been through.

A year clearly designated as “post-covid,” 2022 was when many of us tried to get back to life as it was before the coronavirus or attempted to live out a new normal, with the pandemic always in the back of our minds.

For many of us, our life was rocked by one of the stories we’re going to mention here, but at any rate, these stories share the experiences, the loss, the excitement, and the heartache of a whirlwind of a year in the heart of Route 66. Here they are, in no particular order:

Hickory House BBQ, Freddie’s, My Table Restaurant, and Roma Italian Ristorante all closed

This year saw a larger-than-usual closing of local restaurants, including two that have been around for decades; Route 66 icon Hickory House BBQ said “goodbye” after 41 years in business, and the beloved Freddie’s BBQ and Steakhouse also decided to close this year, due to the unfortunate passing of the owner, Edmond “Tex” Slyman—an event that almost made our Year-In-Review story by itself.

Freddie’s BBQ and Steak House closed in 2022.

Both Hickory House and Freddie’s celebrated their last days with sold-out crowds and thousands of well-wishers, eager to catch one last visit before the doors closed for good.

We also saw two exciting new restaurants start and then shutter almost as quickly. Roma Italian Ristorante on Mission Street received a lot of fanfare when it first opened but struggled to find consistency in quality of food and service. It improved enough that Sapulpa Times did a second story, encouraging patrons to give it another chance, but ultimately Sapulpa’s only Italian restaurant closed due to what they chalked up to staffing issues.

In a similar fashion, My Table Restaurant, started by Elaine Wheat and Tracy McDaniel, brought a lot of excitement to the downtown area, being the second new restaurant to open downtown this year. An extensive renovation to the inside and outside of the building brought a lot of speculation, and the restaurant’s comfort-food fare was a hit with locals looking for a lighter lunch option. Unfortunately, irregular hours and staffing issues kept this restaurant from succeeding, and it closed in late December.

The Collins Ballroom is forced to close to larger gatherings, will become a county boardroom

After seven decades of continuous use as a ballroom and meeting space, one of Sapulpa’s grandest rooms has been considerably cut down to size.

Collins Ballroom. File photo.

The State Fire Marshal issued a decree stating no more than 49 people could be present in the room, due to its lack of a secondary exit. The move effectively ended its ability to be used as an event space.

The County Commissioners have since decided to convert the space into a County Board Room, paid for by American Rescue Plan Act funding. Renovations are expected to be complete soon.

Crossroads Cookery Opens to great crowds and reviews

“There’s nothing else like it in this town, and there hasn’t been for a long time,” is how the new Crossroads Cookery was described, but it has to be seen to be understood.

Neon sign outside the Crossroads Cookery.

The restaurant is the latest project by the Kante Group, the development arm of skincare magnate Joni Rogers-Kante, and has become known for its classy by approachable atmosphere, an appealing menu that you won’t find anywhere else in Sapulpa, and the surprising combination of services, with home-roasted coffee, dinner and cocktails, and an almost-old-fashioned ice cream parlor. The restaurant saw a lot of success after opening, especially as events like Hobson Hops and the Christmas Chute brought people to their front doors. Late hours and the variety of offerings should keep people coming back time and again.

Local Boy Scouts Troop Celebrates 100 Years

Troop 224 at City Hall for “Boy Scout Troop 224 Day” last August. File photo.

In place since 1922, Troop 224 of the local Boy Scouts has seen over 400 young men, graduated more than 140 Eagle Scouts and been led by at least 30 Scout Masters. The troop has produced city councilors, state senators and more. This year, a tribute was paid to the troop’s service to the community by Mayor Craig Henderson, who declared August 14th, 2022 as “Boy Scout Troop 224 Day.” Scout Master Kevin Crowl called the experience humbling, and said “I’m overwhelmed with pride for our city.”

City’s Alleyway Redesign Started

A project that initially brought a lot of speculation about the viability—or even necessity—has turned into a bigger attraction that Sapulpa could’ve hoped for.

Rendering of the Alleyway Project north of Dewey Avenue between Water and Park streets. (Courtesy of Reed Architects and Interior)

In 2021, Sapulpa embarked on a Downtown Master Plan intent on making downtown Sapulpa more “walkable,” believing that doing so would draw more businesses, foot traffic and more families. The alleyway redesign was the first real test of that theory, which has now proven to be correct and then some.

Work started on the alleyway on the north side of Dewey Avenue between Water and Park streets, hoping to be completed in time for the Chamber’s Hobson Hops event in October. During that event, the necessity and popularity of the alleyway became indisputable. During the Christmas Chute, the alley was outfitted with three light-up Christmas ornaments, which drew photographers and families from all over.

Work on the second phase of the alleyway redesign project is due to start in January.

Sapulpa Herald building demolished

More than almost any other building in Sapulpa, the small, almost nondescript structure at 16 S. Park defined the Oil Capital of the Southwest.

Former Sapulpa Herald building at 16 N. Park

The Sapulpa Herald building was purchased by the City of Sapulpa earlier this year with the intention of being torn down to make way for the planned alleyway redesign as part of the Downtown Master Plan. The Herald staff, who long had to deal with roof leaks, an aging facility, and at one time, a live bobcat—has temporarily relocated to 20 S. Park while they work on locating a new headquarters.

Sapulpa Times and Sapulpa Herald Merge

Certainly the biggest news to come from the local newspaper this year is the merging of the ‘Herald with its friendly competitor The Sapulpa Times.

After seven years of friendly competition in providing reliable local news for the citizens of Sapulpa and surrounding areas, the two entities have joined forces to begin a new direction for the newspaper that’s been in Sapulpa since 1914.

The new operation is an effort to make “the best paper for Sapulpa,” as Herald Publisher Darren Sumner has put it, and we’re excited about what 2023 is going to bring to the community and the new Herald operations.

The Route 66 Christmas Chute Exceeds Expectations

Undoubtedly, the hallmark on Sapulpa’s year would have to be the Route 66 Christmas Chute.

A boy stares up at the Route 66 Christmas Chute during a daytime stroll. Photo by Paulette Richardson

A project two years in the making, there’s nothing that could’ve prepared Sapulpa for the thousands upon thousands that descended into downtown Sapulpa almost every night during November and December. The Route 66 Christmas Chute featured 21,000 sqft of walkable Christmas decor, combined with events, pop-up shops and local restaurants and food trucks…it was an economic wonder for Sapulpa.

A momentous season had an epilogue made even grander when Sapulpa’s Route 66 Christmas Chute was chosen as one of The Today Show’s “Merriest Main Streets,” resulting in being featured live in New York City on the national morning show.

A crowd downtown cheers for The Today Show’s “Merriest Main Streets” episode. Photo by Chris Neal.

Plans for 2023 are already underway, but there’s no doubt that 2022 at the Christmas Chute will be a lifetime of memories.