Q&A with QuikTrip co-founder Burt Holmes

The legendary businessman gets real about the challenges of entrepreneurship, and his proudest achievements.



Burt Holmes might be best known for QuikTrip Corp., the convenience/gasoline retailer that he established 60 years ago with friend and fellow Tulsan, the late Chester Cadieux. But he is much more. The direct but sincere approach Holmes takes toward business and life has made him the man he is today. A mentor, businessman, art collector, father of five and grandfather of nine, he lives life one day at a time fueled by his passions and a dedicated work ethic.

Holmes is a third-generation Tulsan, whose father, Dan Holmes, owned Dan P. Holmes and Associates insurance company. Burt joined the family business right out of college, but at the age of 31, started his own insurance company, which would become the Holmes Organisation. At age 65, he left the business, but continued to operate Leaders Life Insurance Co. until he sold it in October 2016.

 



Where did you go to school/university? Why?

I went to the University of Tulsa and got a marketing degree in 1954. I grew up in the Tulsa public school system and went to Eliot, Wilson and
Rogers. Then I came to TU on a basketball scholarship in the fall of 1950. I thought I was going to be a great athlete, but I found out after the first year that all I lacked being able to play Division I level was talent. I got as far as I could get with hard work.

What was one of your most defining moments?

I seldom think of defining moments. I think there were several that helped me understand things. One was figuring out that I could not be an athlete so I needed to do something else. Then I got married a year later — that was a defining moment. I think a defining moment as it has worked out is when I ran into Chester Cadieux in downtown Tulsa and told him about my idea for QuikTrip.

Did you know Chester before the QuikTrip venture?

Yes, I knew him in the seventh grade at Wilson Junior High School.

What age do you feel right now and why?

Well, I’m 86 right now. Aging is a process that goes very slow for most people, and it has gone very slow for me. Other people say it goes very fast, but I’ve aged very slowly, and this is truly the first year that I’ve felt the effects of aging. People say, oh, you’re very vigorous at 86. Yes, but not as vigorous as I was at 76, 66 or 56. The difference is your energy level. My energy level has gone down at a very slow rate.

How would your friends describe you?

I would say probably most of them agree that I’m straightforward. I tend not to dance around issues. My way of doing things — some people like it and some people do not like it.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Oh, probably many people would be surprised to know that I collect art. I have a full-size dromedary camel sculpted in wood for which I built a room onto my house.

Do you take any annual art trips or explorations?

Mary Lee Townsend (his partner of 21 years) and I go to Maastricht in Holland every year for the biggest arts and antiques fair in the world. Under one roof, there’s $3 billion worth of art, antiques, silver and jewelry for sale. It’s the biggest show on Earth, and we’ve gone for 12 years.

If you could witness any event of the past, present or future, what would it be?

I would like to witness the event of our president stepping down and not being president anymore.

What was a “worst time” and how did you pull through it?

I had a period of time back in the ’80s when I had a mountain of debt and I got a divorce. At the same time, I was speculating on a lot of land, we had a depression in Oklahoma and I could not pay what I owed. That depression also caused people not to be able to pay my insurance agency the money they owed me, so three things happened simultaneously over a two- or three-year period. It was a very difficult time in my life.

So what brought you through that?

I convinced the people to whom I owed money that if they would just leave me alone my insurance agency business and another business I had would be able to take care of them over a period of time, and it did. I was very fortunate that it worked that way, but it took 14 years to work through the problems that were created in that two- or three-year period.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing. Regardless of how bad things are, I do not lose any sleep. I do not worry about things that I cannot do anything about. That has helped me through a lot of things.

How do you measure success?

I don’t get into measurements or superlatives. I just get up every day and do what I do on a regular basis.

What is a favorite TU memory?

I’ve had several. When I was chairman of the board, the original campus plan was put in place, which has been executed over a period of time mostly intact. It has changed the university. Also, when I was chairman of the board, we hired Tubby Smith (men’s basketball coach) and Vince Westbrook (men’s tennis coach), and both of those choices were very good for the university. Those things have been important to me. And, of course, starting QuikTrip has become very important to me.

That very first QT location — did it feel like a special moment when it opened?

No. Chester thought we would have three stores, and I thought we’d have 10. But then we began to evolve and grow organically. It has become a very, very large important company to the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma. QuikTrip now has more than 770 stores and 22,000 employees around the country.

It sounds like you’re pretty happy with Tulsa’s progression and where it is now.

Absolutely. It has been tremendous over the past 10 years. It has had its ups and downs from the day Tulsa started here. The ups and downs have been tied to a variety of things, but the past 10 years has just been wonderful for this town, and it’s a much better place to live in now than it was before.

What have been the most significant changes you’ve experienced in Tulsa?

The Gathering Place is immense. It is a huge, significant change, and I’m so happy that George (Kaiser) has been here with us, or we would not have it. It will help change this city and make it an even better place to live.

Do you ever attend the First Friday Art Crawl downtown, and do you have a favorite gallery?

Almost every time. I’m involved in 108 Contemporary, and that is a favorite gallery of mine in the Tulsa Arts District.

What would you say is your title besides your QuikTrip identity and other roles you’ve had in organizations?

I hate the word “retired.” I do not consider myself retired because I still do a lot of different things. I don’t think I need a title. Titles don’t mean a great deal to me. I’m involved at the Tulsa Botanic Garden and the University of Tulsa, which are primary interests of mine at this time. I’ve been involved peripherally in a bunch of things through the years. I do not consider the things I’ve done and am doing as giving back. I consider those things as just doing what’s right and what is of interest to me.

Was the concept of QuikTrip based on a dream of yours?

No. My wife and I went to Dallas two years after I graduated from the University of Tulsa to go to a football game, and I saw the 7-Elevens down there and I got to thinking, we don’t have those in Tulsa. It was about that simple.

What advice would you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Let me just say this: Any young entrepreneur should not quit their day job. The difference between an entrepreneur and a normal human being is an entrepreneur does things; normal human beings sit around and talk about doing things. That is the big difference. There are more people that talk about it than do it. I’m helping some young guys right now, and my first piece of advice to them is, “Don’t quit your day job until we get this further down the line so we know you’ll have a chance at winning.”

Do you do a lot of business mentoring?

I’m doing a lot of that with a lot of young people and have been for many, many years. I enjoy doing that.

How often do you stop by a QuikTrip in your daily routine?

Oh, just as needed. These days, when I go to QuikTrip, I’m a spectator. I like their hot dogs.

 

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September 2019

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McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
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Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
Telephone: 918-595-7339
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Disney On Ice presents Mickey’s Search Party is Coming to Tulsa, OK, September 26 - 29 Bringing the Magic Closer to Fans than Ever Before TULSA, OK — Create unforgettable...

Cost: $15, $20, $30, $35, $40, $45

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Cost: $75

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Cost: $15

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Lewis Project Space
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Cost: $15

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


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free and open to the community

Where:
Woodland Hills Mall
7021 S Memorial Dr.
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Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

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Living Arts of Tulsa
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Cost: $15

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Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd
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Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Sponsor: Asbury United Methodist Church
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Contact Name: Ruth Winn
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Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd
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Contact Name: Ruth Winn
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Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
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Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
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Cost: TBA

Where:
Mike Fretz Event Center
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Telephone: 918-663-5820
Contact Name: Morgan Sikes
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Featuring more than seventy 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...

Cost: $15

Where:
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415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Woodland Hills Mall is excited to host Beauty Week, which is a unique way for the people in Tulsa to experience all the beauty that Woodland Hills Mall has to offer.  Participating retailers...

Cost: Free and open to the community

Where:
Woodland Hills Mall
7021 S Memorial Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »


Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

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Cost: Adults $5/Kids Free

Where:
13th & Guthrie Ave
1222 S. Guthrie Ave

Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
Telephone: 918-583-2082
Contact Name: Tonya Boone
Website »

More information

Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
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View map »

More information

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Cost: TBA

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11545 E 43rd St
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Sponsor: Day Build & Design
Telephone: 918-663-5820
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Greenwood Cultural Center
322 N. Greenwood Avenue
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Sponsor: Rooms With A Heart Inc.
Telephone: 918-277-2114
Contact Name: Gina Johnson
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More information

The Evening of Giving is a fundraising gala held in late September and presented by the HBA Remodelers Council to raise funds to support local charities. This year's beneficiary is Revitalizing...

Cost: TBA

Where:
Mike Fretz Event Center
11545 E 43rd St
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74146
View map »


Telephone: 918-663-5820
Contact Name: Morgan Sikes
Website »

More information

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Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15 Bistro / $10 General Admission

Where:
Lynn Riggs Theatre at OKEQ
621 East 4th Street
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: OKEQ and Pat Hobbs
Telephone: 918-637-25866
Contact Name: Pat Hobbs
Website »

More information

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Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-928-2663
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: Free and open to the community

Where:
Woodland Hills Mall
7021 S Memorial Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »


Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

Featuring more than seventy 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...

Cost: $15

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


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Experience the sites, sounds and smells of Greece!  The best lil stop in OPA!homa - just off route 66. Live music, dancing, kids zone, Greek food and drink, delectable baked goods, Greek...

Cost: Adults $5/Kids Free

Where:
13th & Guthrie Ave
1222 S. Guthrie Ave

Tulsa, OK  74119
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
Telephone: 918-583-2082
Contact Name: Tonya Boone
Website »

More information

Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »

More information

Get moved with Tulsa Ballet! Experience incredible works from the most in-demand choreographers in the world at Creations in Studio K. Tickets start at $25. Read all about the exciting pieces...

Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
Website »

More information

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Cost: 15-20

Where:
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110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
Website »

More information

Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography!"Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's “Alice's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
Website »

More information

In our 4-week Beginning Fencing class, you'll learn about the history of Olympic fencing, the three fencing weapons – foil, saber and epee – and the general rules for each of the specific...

Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-928-2663
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: $10

Where:
ONEOK FIELD
201 N Elgin Ave
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 405-234-7095
Contact Name: Astrid Rodriguez
Website »

More information

Join us for the St. Jude Walk/Run during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, to raise money for the kids of St. Jude, where families never receive a bill for anything. Let's end...

Cost: 5K - $20; 1 mile - $10; Ages 5 and under – Free

Where:
ONEOK Field
201 N Elgin Ave
Tulsa, OK, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: St. Jude
Telephone: 915-841-9154
Contact Name: Adrian Ordonez
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy 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...

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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Woodland Hills Mall is excited to host Beauty Week, which is a unique way for the people in Tulsa to experience all the beauty that Woodland Hills Mall has to offer.  Participating retailers...

Cost: Free and open to the community

Where:
Woodland Hills Mall
7021 S Memorial Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

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Celebrate the vital role eastern Oklahoma plays in the amazing Monarch butterfly migration! Join us for great activities and presentations including educational activities and crafts, tagging and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Turkey Mountain
6850 S Elwood Ave
Tulsa, OK  74132
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Sponsor: river parks
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
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The Home Remodeling Showcase is the premier showcase of newly remodeled homes in Tulsa and the surrounding areas.  Presented by the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater...

Cost: 10

Where:
Spread throughout Metro Tulsa
, OK


Sponsor: Pella Windows of Oklahoma
Telephone: 918-663-5820
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Experience the sites, sounds and smells of Greece!  The best lil stop in OPA!homa - just off route 66. Live music, dancing, kids zone, Greek food and drink, delectable baked goods, Greek...

Cost: Adults $5/Kids Free

Where:
13th & Guthrie Ave
1222 S. Guthrie Ave

Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
Telephone: 918-583-2082
Contact Name: Tonya Boone
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Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Central Park Community Center
1500 South Main Street
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-259-8437
Contact Name: Central Park Community Center

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Join us for our second annual Food Truck Frenzy on September 21, from 4-8 p.m., and taste a variety of delicious cuisines from food trucks located in our riverfront backyard. Families can enjoy...

Cost: Adults $17.95, Children 3yrs-12yrs $13.95 Military and Seniors(62+) $13.95

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz Medrano
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Fundraising concert featuring popular Christian rock band Sanctus Real benefiting Circle of Care's three programs: state-wide foster care, transitional living for single mothers with children...

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Venue 68
6910 S. 101st E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74134
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Sponsor: Circle of Care
Telephone: 405-215-1400
Contact Name: Sarah Steffes
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Benefiting the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Broken Arrow Cosplay contest and silent auction. Fan made 1966 Batmobile on display. Food provided by Charlies Chicken, Panera and drinks...

Cost: $10, 12 and under FREE

Where:
1400 W. Washington St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-406-9341
Contact Name: Sean Henry
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Circle of Care and popular Christian Rock band Sanctus Real are teaming up on September 21, 2019, to raise funds for Circle of Care’s three nonprofit programs. Band member...

Cost: Tickets start at $20

Where:
Asbury United Methodist Church's Venue 68
6910 S. 101 E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74133
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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Get moved with Tulsa Ballet! Experience incredible works from the most in-demand choreographers in the world at Creations in Studio K. Tickets start at $25. Read all about the exciting pieces...

Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography! "Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography!"Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's “Alice's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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Whether you prefer Borg nanoprobes to Midichlorians, the Justice League to the Avengers, or Terminators to Daleks, don't let anyone force you into boldly going where no one has gone...

Cost: $8.00 ($4.00 for children under 12)

Where:
pH Community House
306 S Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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In our 4-week Beginning Fencing class, you'll learn about the history of Olympic fencing, the three fencing weapons – foil, saber and epee – and the general rules for each of the specific...

Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-928-2663
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Where:
Veterans Park
1811 S Boulder Park Dr
Tulsa, OK
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Get wined and dined at the first annual Tulsa Beer & Wine Festival. Stroll through our landscape gardens and treat your taste buds to exquisite food pairings with local and national craft...

Cost: TBD

Where:
Gathering Place Great Lawn
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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What's New


Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Sept. 15

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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Branjae on the sixth sense, the street light and empowerment

A Q&A with the singer/songwriter, who just released a new single: “Street Light.”

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Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Sept. 8

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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Cosplay, celebs and plenty of pop culture

TulsaPeople intern visits for the first time the annual Wizard World Tulsa comic-con

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3.03: Order Up -- Johnna Hayes

A conversation with Johnna Hayes, operating partner of 3 Sirens Restaurant Group.

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