Wednesday, March 24, 2010

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

First, let me give you a little insight into the Group Tour Market for the travel industry and let you know what it is that I'm doing in Oklahoma City. Bank Travel Clubs (usually for customers 55 and older) are an important segment of the group tour market. Heritage Clubs International is an organization of bank club travel directors that meets annually to learn about a new destination and to hear from suppliers (Convention and Visitor Bureau reps like me, or attractions, hotels, etc.). The host city and state use the opportunity to showcase the wonderful tourism offerings available in their area.

From the Heritage Clubs website:
A Heritage Club is a targeted marketing solution for community banks interested in building new relationships, solidifying existing relationships, and building core deposits, the cornerstone on which banks are funded.

A Heritage Club program offers qualifying bank customers special benefits, special attention and a reason to keep their money invested in their local community.
So I am in OKC meeting with bank club travel directors, trying to entice them to visit North Platte. Heritage Clubs have recognized that the essence of marketing is relationship building, so they have scheduled plenty of time to allow friendships to develop not only among the directors themselves, but between the directors and the suppliers.

One of these special occasions happened last night as we were treated to an evening at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Greeting us outside the museum is the statue entitled "Welcome Sundown" by Hollis Williford.
However, the real greeting came as we entered the front doors, where the entire staff and volunteer docents greeted us like royalty.
The first museum exhibit that you see is an 18 foot tall sculpture of James Earle Fraser's "The End of The Trail". If you go to the museum, be sure to ask a docent to tell you the fascinating story of the creation of this sculpture and how it ended up in Oklahoma City!
At the entry to the gallery section of the museum is the "Canyon Princess", sculpted by Gerald Balciar out of a single block of marble blasted out of a mountain in Colorado. It is magnificent. Remember, these pictures can only give you the merest of hints of these incredible exhibits. You really do have to visit and see for yourself! Also, because of the nature of our visit, we zoomed through the museum in less than an hour, when really you could spend DAYS!!
Between the Canyon Princess and the picture below of the entrance to the American Rodeo Gallery, there are NO PICTURES allowed! You can only imagine the superb exhibits I cannot show you here in the half-dozen or so amazing galleries between the two, including the Art of the American West Gallery, the Native American Gallery and the Western Performers Gallery. Again.... you've got to schedule your own visit.
All of the exhibits in the museum are superbly done. The gallery just before the Rodeo Gallery is the Western Performers, and if you are a western movie buff at all, it is worth seeing. Paintings, photographs, memorabilia, it's all there from all of the great western performers.
The Museum of the Frontier West showcases the history of the settlement of the west, from the mountain men and Native Americans to the exploits of the military.
There is a wonderful statue of my favorite cowboy, Ronald Reagan. It truly brings him to life. RIP President Reagan.
Prosperity Junction is a circa 1900 Western cattle town at dusk. Were we all dressed in period clothing, you could have believed that it was the end of a long yet satisfying work day on the frontier as the town settled in to enjoy the cool of the evening.
This is a larger than life sized rendition of Frederick Remington's "Coming Through The Rye" that can be found in the sculpture garden in the courtyard of the museum. There is a smaller version in one of the interior galleries, but this one is spectacular in its outdoor setting.
James Earle Fraser's sculpture of Lincoln in quiet meditation during the early days of the Civil War is the final piece we were able to see before we enjoyed the fine dinner served to us by the museum.
Wait, did I say that was the last? Well I should have counted in the photo op just a little further down the hall.
Oklahoma knows how to do its bar-be-ques! Delicious ribs, brisket, beans and potato salad were served buffet style in the spacious hall.
Did I say spacious? I wasn't exaggerating, as you can see. The artwork is five of Wilson Hurley's panoramic murals of the American West. Each scene measures 18 x 46 feet! It truly takes a spacious room to showcase these amazing paintings.
It is so wonderful to visit a place where not only the travel and tourism people think it's special, but the community does as well. We were greeted by Oklahoma's Lieutenant Governor Jeri Askins, a native Oklahoman who loves her state!
Here I have got to give kudos to Aaron Martin who is the Director of Tourism Marketing for the museum. He opened the evenings program with the most moving rendition of The Star Spangled Banner that I have ever heard! I don't know if you will get the opportunity to be mesmerized by his wonderful voice if you schedule a visit, but if you ever have the chance to hear him sing, by all means, do it!
And then it was time for the entertainment. We were serenaded by the Centennial Rodeo Opry which is a project of the Opry Heritage Foundation of Oklahoma. They can be found at the Historic Stockyards City with live performances every Saturday night. You all already know how much I love live music, and these guys are GREAT!
The highlight of the evening was the concert performance by Wanda Jackson, the rock and roll hall of famer who is considered the First Lady of Rockabilly and America's first female rock and roll singer. She toured with Elvis Presley in the mid 1950's, and it was none other than Elvis himself who encouraged her to branch out into rock and roll from her country roots. American music is much the richer because she did.
And now, it's time for me to finish getting ready and go down to breakfast at 7:30 AM!!! What are they thinking? Anyway, got to finish my hotel coffee and get to work. Thanks for stopping by.

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