The reimagined Discoveryland Ranch offers Oklahoma-style weddings! », with story endings | Tulsa World Magazine
The story of “Oklahoma!” the musical, based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play “Green Grow the Lilacs,” is familiar enough to most people who have spent a lot of time in the state of Oklahoma.
Two parts, Laurey and Curly, have been nice to each other for quite a while, and then the romance starts to cool off a bit. Then there’s drama for good measure. But just when all hope seems lost, love comes back strong to win the day.
In a kind of poetic symmetry, it seems a similar turn of fortune is playing out for Discoveryland – the Sand Springs location that was once known as “The National Outdoor Home for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!'”
For 36 years, beginning in the mid-1970s, audiences from around the world came to Discoveryland’s outdoor amphitheater to be transported to pre-statehood Oklahoma to see the love of the farmer’s wife and of the cowboy triumph over evil – or at least as close to evil as rural Claremore could get 116 years ago.
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And they did it in that unique Oklahoma environment, where the bugs in the trees sometimes sang as loudly as the performers on stage and the scorching summer sun that melted traditional Discoveryland sundaes at 5 p.m. had cooled off on a fairly warm summer evening. at show time at 8 a.m.
But alas, the love story got cold. The ratings began to dwindle. The last performance was in 2011, a year of record heat across the Sooner State that made outdoor events of any kind unbearable.
“The last show was kind of in the middle of summer,” said Jason Shipman, who along with his wife, Kayla Shipman, now owns the renowned Discoveryland Ranch property. “The weather was scorching and attendance was down.
“Financially, they had been struggling for quite a while, and it was just kind of the nail in the coffin,” he said.
And there’s the drama, just like it was when Jud Fry crashed Laurey and Curly’s marriage, forcing Curly into a fight that Curly alone walked away from.
Territory officials ruled that Jud’s death by Curly’s hand was a justifiable homicide. There would be no trial.
Laurey and Curly would begin their new life together as a married couple surrounded by hope and happiness.
Like the musical, the Shipmans think Discoveryland Ranch will have a storybook ending. The couple purchased the property in late 2019 and now operate it as a wedding, event and entertainment venue 5 miles west of Oklahoma 97 on 41st Street.
“It was in terrible disrepair,” Jason Shipman said. “We transported 25 dump trucks full of waste.”
Of the total 525 acres, only 35 to 40 acres have been developed so far, he said.
“We are in the process of restoring the amphitheater and the picnic pavilion,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to be done in the amphitheater.”
An event center is just under 5,000 square feet.
Shipman said they’ve booked about 10 weddings for this year, “and the rental fee allows full use of all the facilities we have,” including the new timber-frame pavilion.
“It’s very photogenic and there’s plenty of space to spread out,” he said.
“Furthermore, I think we are very profitable compared to other sites in the region. It’s a kind of canvas that people can paint however they want.
“I think the wedding ‘barn look’ is a bit over the top, so maybe it’s more the ‘Texas Hill Country’ look.”
Shipman, who grew up in Prattville, owns Riverwood Custom Homes. Kayla Shipman is a veterinarian at McKinney Animal Hospital in Sand Springs.
But the Discoveryland adventure is an entirely joint project for the couple, who have been married for 22 years.
“My wife is a good dreamer, and I’m the type to get things done,” Jason Shipman said.
Although the couple have booked quite a few weddings and corporate or private events, reinventing the site as a venue for entertainment isn’t out of the question either, he said.
“We’ve been contacted by several concert promoters, and that might be a good thing, but we’re going to take it slow because we want to get it right,” Shipman said.
“We are asked almost every day about ‘Oklahoma!’ We will do everything we can to get things moving. It won’t be a full summer, but maybe we can do something.
Whatever they do, however, they are looking for happy endings.
“We’re heavily invested in the Sand Springs community,” Shipman said, “so we wanted to make it something we’re proud of.”