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Blue Whale Christmas November 26, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Preservation.

On Friday evening, spectators witnessed a sight that had never before been seen in the nearly 40-year history of the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Okla. — the Route 66 landmark was decorated for Christmas.

Volunteers with Catoosa Arts and Tourism spent the past few weeks stringing LED lights along the Blue Whale, its souvenir stand, and the neighboring and long-closed Noah’s Ark. With darkness fast approaching Friday, Mayor Rita Lamkin began a countdown, and the lights were turned on, to much applause.

I counted at least 40 cars in the parking lot 20 minutes before the ceremony, with more vehicles arriving. A small bonfire in the corner of the grounds helped keep away the early-winter chill. A portable P.A. system played Christmas music, and Rogers State University’s choir director helped guide spectators into singing a few carols.

Scores of children were seen walking on the Blue Whale, peering out of the structure’s portholes, and climbing the ladder into the second level of its head. Scores of parents swapped stories of when Hugh Davis’ creation (as an anniversary gift to his wife, Zelta) became a popular public swimming hole.

The Blue Whale about 45 minutes before the lighting ceremony.

Catoosa put on the event to raise awareness about the Blue Whale and boost fundraising to preserve the landmark. It’s hard to believe now, but just over a decade ago, menacing “No Trespassing” signs lined the property’s perimeter as the Blue Whale’s paint peeled and grew drab.

But bit by bit, the Blue Whale was restored to its former glory. Although swimming still isn’t permitted, the property has been reopened to tourists, the souvenir stand operates during the summer, and fishing is allowed again.

LED Christmas lights are becoming popular because they save energy. But volunteers and spectators commented about how the LEDs’ bluish tinge meshed remarkably well with the Blue Whale’s hue. And the reflection of the lights on the water also proved to be a visual delight.

Here’s a video I shot of scenes before and during the ceremony:

The Blue Whale’s lights will be on from sundown to midnight nightly during the Christmas season.

During the next two weekends, Santa Claus will make an appearance from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The souvenir stand will also be open at that time.

The nearby Noah's Ark was decked out, too.


1. wendyvee - November 26, 2010

So happy for the whale. We love you … we really love you :) LOL

2. DynoDave - November 27, 2010

Very cool video. Thanks for posting that Ron.

3. Trevor Hilton - November 27, 2010

I hope one day the entire complex can be restored.

Y’know, that whale would be a good place to reenact the story of Jonah.

4. Jp - November 27, 2010

or even better, I’d like to see them fit all of the current animals on that Ark!

5. Beverly Scott-Kendall - November 27, 2010

thank you for the story and great pictures of the Whale. I have never seen it like this. I was born in Tulsa in 1936 and think it should be a historical marker. I loved it when I was a child and when I go back to visit the whale is a important place to stop.

6. Jacqueline S - November 27, 2010

Thanks for postin this. I plan on driving from Louisiana with my husband to see it lit up.

7. crocodile lile - November 29, 2010

This is REALLY COOL. Thanx for sharing.

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