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Tourist season begins at Blue Whale … and more May 7, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Preservation.
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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.

It’s an ambitious set of plans. But having seen what’s been accomplished¬†this year, nothing for this group seems impossible.

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