In front of a few hundred people, dignitaries and guests — and under a wind-whipped banquet tent and a handful of outdoor heaters — Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby welcomed everyone to the latest installment of the Chickasaw Country vision.
"It's good to be back in Sulphur," he said. "We opened the Artesian Hotel earlier this year, and now we hope that these new places become part of a cultural quadrangle here in Sulphur for the Chickasaw Nation."
The "quadrangle" to which Anoatubby was referring was the unveiling of the new welcome center, ARTesian Gallery and studios, and Bedré Café right next to the Artesian Hotel.
"Twenty years ago, we had a vision of what the Chickasaw Nation could be like, and now, I'm proud to say, that vision of Chickasaw Country is looking great, especially with the opening of these wonderful new places."
After these words, and a short walk across the Artesian plaza, a symbolic ribbon was cut to signify the official opening of the three new venues.
Chickasaw Visitor Center
The new visitor center can now officially welcome people to Chickasaw Country in Sulphur. Directly across the street from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the visitor center offers any and all information someone might need to know about Chickasaw Country. It also acts as a somewhat "unofficial" entry into the CNRA.
"This visitor center is part of our long-range plan to help promote tourism in this area," Anoatubby said. "We believe this will be an excellent venue to welcome guests to the area and encourage them to discover the natural beauty, history and hospitality of Chickasaw Country."
The Chickasaw Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in the winter, and 8 am. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
ARTesian Gallery and Studio
Chickasaw and local artists will be on display year-round at the ARTesian Gallery and Studio, across the street from the Artesian Hotel.
Up to five art studios and a pottery studio are available for artists to rent and work in, as well as a classroom, complete with smart board and ample space and equipment.
Classes will be offered for all ages and difficulties from local and nationally known artists.
Chickasaw textile artist Margaret Roach Wheeler will also have a studio space with a variety of looms for weaving workshops and classes.
For information regarding art classes or current displays, contact the ARTesian Gallery and Studio at (580) 622-8040.
Tucked into the southwest corner of the Artesian Hotel retail space, the Bedré Café serves as a one-of-a-kind coffee bar, candy store, sandwich shop and confectionary.
For those familiar with the Bedré brand of fine chocolates, some familiar sights of chocolate bars, candies and trinkets will be available, as well as some items specific to the café, including Bedré chocolate soda.
Bedré Café is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
The venues opened Thursday are yet another addition to the ever-growing Chickasaw Country, which still has major plans for growth and tourism in southern Oklahoma.