Enid is ‘And,’ not ‘Or’

The longtime home of Vance Air Force Base is also an axis of arts and culture in northwest Oklahoma.

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Since the days of Enid Army Air Field in 1941, Team Vance has graduated more than 30,000 American and allied military pilots.
Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force/David Poe

Many times, people say something is this or that. Enid, however, embraces the conjunction and while mixing different traditions.

Enid is a military city because of Vance Air Force Base and a cultural hub of northwest Oklahoma. Symbolizing this symbiosis is the recent FLY Film Festival, begun in 2014. Director Christopher Sneed says the acronym for Films Like Yours also acknowledges Vance’s vitality, engendered since 1941.

“The Air Force base is a confirmation of what we’re doing,” he says. “With our festival, we involve all the arts: musicians playing, artists creating trophies, activities at the Enid Symphony Center.”

Stoking much of Enid’s cultural engine is Park Avenue Thrift. Since October 2007, the store has donated $2.34 million to arts and charitable groups, says Paula Nightengale, co-founder and director with David Hume.

When the pair, friends for 30 years, retired, “we didn’t want to start a traditional ministry,” Hume says. “It’s our belief in what’s going on in Enid: broad community, quality of life, the arts and education. We want to help organizations that continually have their funding cut by the state.”

Before Park and FLY came the Enid Symphony, founded in 1906 and Oklahoma’s longest continuing civic orchestra. For decades, it showcased Phillips University’s faculty and students, says Douglas Newell, artistic director and conductor since 1983.

Phillips closed in 1998, but the symphony had evolved into a professional company, attracting emerging soloists and composers. The European-style acoustics in Joan L. Allen Symphony Hall, a masterpiece itself, allows Newell to land finalists from the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Downtown Enid hosts many community events.

Newell could have moved to bigger orchestras, but “if you reinvent yourself every seven years, you’ll be happy, and this orchestra and city have given me that opportunity,” he says. “We bring in new programs, such as the father-son piano duo, Donald and Barron Ryan [Oct. 21-22]. We’ve worked with other organizations in northwest Oklahoma to have a reciprocal agreement called the ArtsPass. Plus, my wife and I have raised four children in a healthy environment.”

Vision, people, quality of life and pride are why Col. Darrell F. Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, raves about Enid.

“It’s a treat living here,” says Judy, on his third assignment at Vance. “It’s a super connection. The city has always been supportive of Vance.”

He cites agreements with Enid’s municipal airport, Woodring: joint-use hangars, diverting flights when traffic is heavy at Vance, runway extenions and using Woodring’s fields for instrument training.

“We call it Enid, America, because it represents what the country’s about: patriotism, work ethic and support,” Judy says. “They make us feel welcome.”

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