By Kelsey Wagner
Originally Published in the Ponca City News Weekend Edition, pg. 5, August 17, 2019
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the art proposed for the Grain Elevator. Closed in 1959, the Robin Hood Grain Elevator sits just west of downtown, a towering and ominous relic from the past, a daily reminder of loss and of days gone by. Ponca City has had its fair share of loss. It was only ten years ago, in February of 2009 when it was announced that Ponca City would lose 750 jobs at a major area employer, another exodus of high-paying jobs after an already tumultuous decade of closings and mergers. Ponca City has been, up until the early 2000s, a town primarily defined by a single employer and a solitary industry.
But today, Ponca City has changed. Ponca City is no longer...
a one-industry town. It is a town filled with innovative industries and diverse manufacturing plants. It is filled with courageous entrepreneurs and risk-taking start-ups. It is a city filled with pro-business and pro-growth resource agencies that are available everywhere you look. This is evident by the plethora of new businesses that have emerged all over Ponca City that are growing and thriving, but nowhere is it more evident than in downtown Ponca City.
In just the last three years, new businesses have sprung up all over downtown. Vortex Alley Brewing, Back Alley Brewers, The Doodle Academy, The Boomarang Diner, The Grand Café, The Grand Cigar & Lounge, Anderson & Co Salon and Spa, The Gamemaster’s Guild, and Whimsy, just to name a few.
There has also been a significant amount of downtown investment in the last three years. New, renovated office space is now available all over downtown. Richard and Debbie Winterrowd’s Eastin Property building has been meticulously renovated floor by floor and offers beautiful views of downtown. Kevin and Tracy Emmons have purchased five downtown buildings, with many undergoing extensive renovations and investment. There are also now two brand new downtown housing options. City Central, which features a coworking space, conference center, on-site coffee shop and commercial office space also opened this year, a 1.2-million-dollar investment in downtown Ponca City thanks to a PCDA and EDA grant partnership. The City of Ponca City continues investing in downtown, and in recent years installed new lights and sidewalks, was a major donor for the Vet Plaza and also provided valuable resources and guidance during the creation of the Grand Arts District.
All this change, all this new investment in just a few short years.
Art has also sprung up all over downtown in the form of signal box wraps, murals and guerilla “art in the alley” projects. Whether you are aware of it, or not, downtown Ponca City is in the midst of a renaissance, an awakening, an economic resurgence, and it is all because Ponca City has changed, it has adapted, but more than that, the people of Ponca City have changed.
We aren’t who we were before. We’re different. We’re stronger, more resilient. We adapt more quickly to change; we’ve learned from our mistakes. We don’t view our history as something holding us back, we’ve shed the weight of that history and are moving into a bright new future. Those who don’t understand say we don’t know Ponca City, but we say we ARE Ponca City. We’ve made big changes, big investments, big decisions. We feel the wind at our backs and the warmth of a new day on our face. We take big risks; we support each other, and we wake up every single day and work from dusk until dawn because we love this town and we love its people, and we know its best days are ahead, not behind. We are young, old, conservative and liberal, but the thread that binds us all together is our love for this city and our unified vision of what Ponca City can become. We choose every day to look forward, not back.
You see, this isn’t about a Grain Elevator, or a butterfly. It’s so much bigger than that. While the Grain Elevator project is ambitious and exciting, it is just one small piece of a much larger and more complex design. You see the very fabric of Ponca City, a once solid and flat color, has now morphed into a fabric with a mixture of many colors. Like the art of Rick Sinnett, Ponca City, now more than ever before, is a bright, vibrant and diverse mixture of people who are beautifully intertwined and forever connected by their love and dedication to their city.
Who is funding the Project?
The Ponca City Grain Elevator Mural Project, in conjunction with the John McNeese, the city of Ponca City, Ponca City Main Street and other private donors is a joint public/private partnership to further enhance downtown's vibrant image, and to also provide a positive economic impact to downtown businesses.
Phase 1, 100% Complete!