A small crowd of owners and employees from local businesses and downtown merchant shops gathered outside a red brick building on East Hobson Tuesday afternoon. Will Berry, owner of DC Bass Construction, caught the attention of the others and began addressing the crowd. The topic? How to turn downtown Sapulpa into a Christmas destination.
“So you’ve seen all these things that these other towns have been doing. We’ve been to Jenks and we’ve been to Rhema. Those things are great, but what can we do here in Sapulpa to bring people downtown?” The crowd stood, nodding their heads, patiently awaiting an answer. “Well the closest thing that we have is Paragon Pipe,” he said, referring to the millions of lights on display every year down Hwy 117 that takes months to set up. “What if we could start taking that traffic and drawing it to downtown Sapulpa?” Berry asked.
“Have any of you ever been to Roosevelt’s during Christmastime?” Instantly people began chattering. Most of them knew about the Tulsa restaurant that had made a major splash on social media with its amazing Christmas decor; it dominates social media circles every season. The place is packed for weeks at a time during the holiday season.
“Now, imagine that down Dewey Ave from Main Street to the courthouse. Only about 1% of people can see something on a sheet of paper. So we thought, ‘we’re going to have to build something out to show you guys what we’re talking about.’” Berry then led the crowd into the nearby building and showed them a proof of concept of what he and his group were proposing: essentially an open-air tunnel of sorts that was crammed with Christmas decorations along the inside ceiling. “This is about 1/6th of a completed section,” he explained. The completed structure would extend from the sidewalk about 8 feet on each side of the street, taking up the parallel parking and the first lane of traffic. Each section would have a theme for its decorations. “This one is ‘elf,’ as you can see,” he said. “But there will be about ten themes. Santa, snowmen, gingerbread, nativity, etc.” As the guests stood with their necks craned, looking at the lights and decorations, they seemed hopeful about the ideas, but of course, there were questions. Berry assured them that they hadn’t been taking this lightly.
“We’ve been working on this for about 8 months,” Berry continued. “There was a lot we had to do before we could bring this to you guys. We’re at the heart of Route 66. We wanted to let the City lead the pack. [City Manager] Joan [Riley] has helped us and is letting Tawni [Vickers] work with us. We had to go to ODOT, we had to talk to the fire department…”
Almost immediately, someone asked. “Who’s going to pay for this?”
“I didn’t bring you here to ask for your money,” Berry said. “We’re going to go after some big corporate sponsors, but we also want to provide tiers so that if a small business wants to donate $10,000, they can do that over three years, which is a lot easier to do than asking for ten grand all at once.”
The Christmas Chute, as they’re calling it, will be 800 feet long and is estimated to cost between $750,000 – $800,000; all of which will be raised by private donations. Berry says the chute will be something that will turn Sapulpa into a destination and will be something that can be used every year. “There will be ongoing costs for maintenance, but also, we’re hoping to continue to add to it each year, because we’re sure people are going to have something new to add.”
Berry and the other members of “The Chute Committee” also said that they’d be working with the Chamber and Sapulpa Main Street in order to organize events that will get people off the Chute and into the businesses.
Despite the lack of airflow in the building, people continued to mill around, asking questions, looking at the structure, peering at the decor, and trying to envision downtown Sapulpa coming alive with this new idea of the Christmas Chute.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Johnny Brown, who owns Brown Insurance Agency and GiGi’s Popcorn. “It’s just what I’ve been saying we need to do—do things to bring people down here to see the potential of downtown Sapulpa. That’s all they need to see, is the potential, and they won’t want to leave.”