Today marked the opening of the souvenir shack at the historic Blue Whale, just off Route 66 in Catoosa, Okla. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, or for special occasions or sizable tour groups.
The stand sells postcards (many of them decades old), T-shirts, magnets, coozies, Catoosa creme soda, and even Blue Whale bottled water.
The reopening of the Blue Whale souvenir shack caps weeks of cleanup and reconstruction by dedicated volunteers with the Catoosa Arts & Tourism Society. But the work is not finished by a long shot.
As British tourists frolicked in and around the Blue Whale (including Billy Connolly and his film crew later that day), key Catoosa Tourism & Arts Society volunteer Ron Edwards told about other plans this summer:
— Within weeks, the souvenir stand will be fully renovated and enclosed so it can be air-conditioned. This will allow visitors to take a respite from Oklahoma’s notorious heat as they shop for souvenirs.
— The souvenir stand will be equipped to handle credit-card purchases, and already is partially.
— The Blue Whale soon will be established as a free Wi-Fi hot spot for those with laptops and mobile devices. Edwards has called it “Blue-Fi.”
— The Blue Whale’s official website launched Friday, and an online store will be operational later this year.
— Catoosa Arts & Tourism Society is recognized as a nonprofit in Oklahoma and is working on its federal nonprofit status. This will make it eligible for many grants.
— Free concerts on the grounds will be organized.
— The Blue Whale volunteers also will set up movie nights for children. The 2006 Disney-Pixar movie “Cars” was cited as an example.
“We want to get a whole new generation to have a good memory of the Blue Whale,” Edwards said.
In the long term, projects include:
— Repairing the west dock that extends into the pond.
— Building a full trail around the pond, including a floating walkway on the east side. This would allow visitors to expand their photo opportunities.
— Renovating and rebuilding the nearby Ark so it can serve as a museum to the history of the Blue Whale, the Ark, and their creators, Hugh and Zelta Davis.