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Opinion: With OKC arts fest, later date is better than none at all

Food row at the 2019 Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City's Bicentennial Park. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
Food row at the 2019 Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City's Bicentennial Park. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City didn’t get to enjoy the Festival of the Arts last year — the COVID-19 pandemic saw to that. Thus, it’s good to hear that the festival is set to return in 2021.

Organizers announced this week that the six-day event is planned for June 22-27. That’s about two months later than usual, but the goal is to allow more time for vaccine distribution and for organizers to figure out how to set things up in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Peter Dolese, who heads the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, acknowledged that the festival is “a rite of spring” but that it also is “a rite of Oklahoma City.” He's right. The first Festival of the Arts was held 55 years ago, and the only other cancellation came in 1995 following the Oklahoma City bombing. The event returned the next year and went like gangbusters until COVID struck.

“I don’t know how to describe how weird it feels,” Dolese said of the June date. “But at the same time, it’s such a tradition and it’s so important for that event to go on. I think we really need to have it, and I’m thrilled that we’re actually entertaining having the event, even in June.” Amen. Better late than not at all.

Land Run monument gets the heave-ho

Officials at Oklahoma City Community College recently removed an Oklahoma Land Run monument that for years had been outside the main building of the campus. According to reports, the monument, which included the inscription “May the spirit of the pioneers always be with us,” had come under criticism on social media and letters to the school newspaper. One administrator said the decision to remove the monument was a “no brainer” because it depicted “cruelty and oppression.” Really? The slab featured settlers on bicycles, horseback and in wagons racing to stake their claim on April 22, 1889. That date and this event were once celebrated in Oklahoma. No longer, apparently. This particular monument is now in storage. Will the magnificent Land Run monument along the Oklahoma River be the next to go?

Gridlock sending one U.S. senator packing

Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Portman of Ohio has had his fill of the gridlock in Washington, D.C. Portman, who has spent three decades in Washington as a member of Congress or in the executive branch, announced this week that he will not seek a third Senate term in 2022. He noted that he sponsored or co-sponsored 82 bills that were signed by former President Trump and 68 that were signed by former President Barack Obama. However, “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left,” Portman said, “and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.” And, it's one that is unlikely to improve much in the years to come.

Vivid example of divide on school choice

A resolution introduced in the U.S. Senate declared this as National School Choice Week. It was an innocuous enough resolution, congratulating students of all sorts for their work and contributions and encouraging parents to learn more about education options available to them. Yet only one Democratic member of the Senate added her name to the resolution — Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. The other 22 were Republicans, including Jim Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, chairman of the Congressional School Choice Caucus, said parents and students need to be empowered “to choose what’s right for their future and break every barrier to success because when our children succeed, America succeeds.” It’s a message that should resonate on both sides of the aisle, but unfortunately does not and hasn’t for a long time.

Owen Canfield III

Owen Canfield has written editorials for The Oklahoman since 2003. Prior to that, he spent 19 years with The Associated Press in Oklahoma City. He is a 1981 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Lori, have four children. Read more ›