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The Minds Steering Oklahoma's Political Think Tanks



In the battle for Oklahoma’s political hearts and minds, David Blatt and Michael Carnuccio helm the rival political think tanks commonly portrayed as liberal versus conservative juggernauts ... they both really hate that.




Carnuccio, who heads the shrink-government, free-market Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, grates at the label. It too easily equates with Republican partisanship. After all, this is a state where blank campaign signs could be pre-printed with the slogan, “the conservative candidate – (insert name here)” and sell wildly.

They’re both right to complain about the ready-mix media label.

In Carnuccio’s case, consider the council’s October “hit piece” on Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. At least, that’s how the governor described it. She winged off a two-page email to the council’s board members – Carnuccio’s bosses – complaining about it. The scrap was over Fallin’s pending chairmanship of the National Governors Association. She serves on the executive committee in the company of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a national political light with presidential candidate prospects.

“Unfortunately,” she wrote, “OCPA staff seems intent on continuing to demagogue the NGA (National Governors Association) and my leadership within the organization as a ‘big-government lobbying organization’ without presenting the real facts that it serves as an effective advocacy group on behalf of our nation’s governors and state primacy.”

For the council to oppose a self-described conservative Republican governor belies its casual classification as a front group for the party. Despite Fallin’s influential attempt, the council’s board didn’t back off its judgment: The governors association and others like it are “trade associations” to grow the size of government and Oklahoma elected officials should drop out of all of them, Carnuccio says. The council’s mission runs deeper than party lines.

Blatt’s Oklahoma Policy Institute emerged only five years ago, but quickly earned its “liberal” sticker. Its positions against income tax cuts, pro more funding for education and a wide range of government services did that. But in 2010, OK Policy joined Republicans in opposing a big-government, pro-education state question. The proposal would have forced legislators to match the regional funding average of K-12 schools of surrounding states in three years. Despite OK Policy’s strong support for more education spending, the $1.7 billion that the measure would have added to schools would have starved other vital programs.

“We work really hard to avoid being labeled and to show how our positions are rooted in some core principles and values,
not rooted in an ideology or party platform.”  - David Blattd

Blatt’s explanation of setting up OK Policy as an informational, independent policy group applies equally well to the council. “We work really hard to avoid being labeled and to show how our positions are rooted in some core principles and values, not rooted in an ideology or party platform,” he said.

For leading two think tanks with mostly opposite goals, the men share a remarkable number of life coincidences.

Both began their lives outside Oklahoma. Blatt was born in Montreal to a double-minority family: Jews in predominantly Christian Canada, and English speakers in a politically contentious, French-majority province – Quebec.

Carnuccio was born at Methodist Hospital in south Philadelphia, the same place his parents and older brother and sister were born. Both were raised by English-teaching moms, who later delved into teaching it as a second language. Blatt excelled at English. Carnuccio survived it, but took to math.

Their familiar moorings were uprooted when they were both 13. Blatt’s father, an English-only-speaking accountant, foresaw

a dearth of employment opportunities. The family moved far out west to Calgary, Alberta province – the Canadian Bible Belt, oil capital and home to cattle barons. The Carnuccios moved to Mustang for Blatt’s father to manage the Dana Corporation manufacturing plant, which made chassis for Ford Motor Co.

They share other coincidental connections, but work style isn’t one of them.

OK Policy operates from the 10th floor of Tulsa’s Sun Building, a worn relic touted for its affordable leases. Papers pile up on the desks and work tables in Blatt’s office like layers of black-and-white cheese slices in a buffet of policy points that visitors can sidle up to in a pink plastic chair. The headquarters’ main entrance opens onto the break room and its coffee pot.

Carnuccio works from a renovated two-story mansion four blocks from the Capitol. The nicely stained wood grain of his executive desk is easily appreciated because it’s clutterless. A deep leather couch nearby beckons for more casual talk.

The difference is due to the age and influence of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. It’s celebrating 20 years in existence, growing from a state-focused start-up to a powerful player on the national level of public policy research groups.  This September it will host a national convention of free-market think tanks. It expects about 1,000 people at the Cox Convention Center.

The council’s biggest annual event, the Citizenship Award Dinner, involves giving out scholarships, but its list of speakers over the years is a major contributor to the council being labeled conservative. Much like Fox News, with its habit of employing presidential nominees as commentators, who all happen to be Republican, the event’s speakers have included Republican stars like vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich.

It’s true that the state’s “conservative” Republican elected officials align more closely with the council’s political views, but the council is an independent policy advocate, Carnuccio says. He views the council’s mission as an uphill battle even in a red state. The more society depends on free market solutions and trims back government, the more prosperity.

“Because it’s not Republican or Democrat, it’s government,” he says. “There are two views: You break down to whether you believe that a bigger government is better for creating the society that you want, or you believe that empowering the individual  is the better way. We believe the more limits on government, the more power an individual has, and society is better.”

He points to Republican Party control of national government from 2000 to 2006.

“You had Republican control of the Senate, the House and White House. And the approach was, “Well, we’re going to do our things, but we’re still going to do it through government. Compassionate conservatism, but through big government.”

During that time, annual deficits shot up from as little as $250 billion, topping out at $1 trillion by the time President Obama was inaugurated. A free market think tank is going to oppose growing government, no matter who’s doing it, he says.

Meanwhile, the state’s political liberals flock to OK Policy’s work like moths to a flame. But Blatt echoes Carnuccio’s claims – his organization’s focus is on issues and facts, not partisanship.
“We hear from a wide range of people that OK Policy is critical to public debate and decision-making in Oklahoma. Our work is needed and progressives appreciate us as being a progressive voice, but many Republicans, as well, want to hear a range of voices.

“I think most people, including elected officials, don’t think that either side or either party has a monopoly on the right answers. The fact is we can provide the voice for the other side of the debate on a lot of issues.” 


 

Take Your Pick

If there’s anything both the Council of Public Affairs and the OK Policy Institute want for Oklahoma, it’s prosperity. They just have different ways of thinking about how we should get there.

OK Policy – Oklahoma’s government is a strong partner for better schools, up-to-date infrastructure and a healthier population. “This goal of shrinking government to where you can drown it in a bathtub won’t work,” Director David Blatt says. “Oklahomans may not want to be Massachusetts, but we don’t want to be Bangladesh, either.”

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs  – Limited government, individual liberty and a free-market economy. “Our challenge is not in the issues, it’s how you want to get there,” President Michael Carnuccio says. “Do you want bigger government, or do you want to empower your people?”

 

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Calendar

September 2019

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Art Moments 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Enjoy a variety of 10-minute spotlight talks throughout the galleries to introduce different works in the Museum’s temporary exhibitions or permanent...

Cost: Free with Museum admisison

Where:
National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Join us at September's Lift Session for an inside look at Oklahoma's expanding local food and agriculture economy. The event will feature panelists Erick Worrell from Ghost, speaking on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Vanessa House Beer Co.
118 NW 8th Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405-475-3782
Contact Name: Kristin Alsup
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Art Awakening 2019 is our sixth annual art show highlighting the artistic talents of persons living with mental illness and addiction. The event is family-friendly, free to attend and open to...

Cost: FREE

Where:
NorthCare
2617 General Pershing Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
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Sponsor: NorthCare
Telephone: 405-858-2706
Contact Name: Kaitlynn Wilkinson
Website »

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Aging doesn’t have to mean getting old, slowing down, or dealing with falls. Aging should come with the dignity and independence of a life well lived. The risk of falling as we age is...

Cost: Free

Where:
FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
7415 N May Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
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Sponsor: FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405-400-8909
Contact Name: Sean
Website »

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Join us Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. when Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Justin Echols helps to kick off the 19th season of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s acclaimed...

Cost: Free

Where:
USAO Ballroom
1727 W. Alabama Ave.
Chickasha, OK  73018
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Sponsor: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405-574-1310
Contact Name: Katie Davis
Website »

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EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

As seen on America's Got Talent, this comedic adventure, written by opera-veteran Matthew Lord with music arranged by award-winning composer Craig Bohmler, has been said to be the closest...

Cost: $35-$40

Where:
OCCC Visual and Performing Arts Center
7777 South May Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
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Sponsor: BancFirst

More information

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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Join us for a night of music under the Ferris Wheel lights. Enjoy live music from Saint Loretto, Flock of Pigs, and Sophia Massad. Come hungry: Taco Nation, Wicked Hangry, Cook'n It...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
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More information

The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

With Special Guest Joe Robinson “If you like guitar playing, it simply doesn’t get any better than Tommy.” – Jason Isbell Tommy Emmanuel has achieved enough musical...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Hudiburg Chevrolet Cneter
6000 Prosper Blvd
Midwest City, OK  73110
View map »


Sponsor: Emporium Presents
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

The Hennessey Wine & Chocolate Festival has become legendary in Oklahoma, drawing thousands of wine and chocolate connoisseurs. Spend the afternoon in the beautiful Hennessey Memorial...

Cost: $15

Where:
Memorial Park
204 N Main St
Hennessey, OK  73742
View map »


Sponsor: Hennessey United
Telephone: 580-484-1682
Contact Name: Angela Bruner
Website »

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We're poppin' champagne on the patio this Saturday and raffling off a bottle of Perrier-Jouet valued at $300! Come pre-party with us and DJ Catherine Ouellette from 6pm-10pm -...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »

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Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
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Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
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Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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