Bristow Chamber and Bristow Historical Society At Odds

Special City Council Meeting Thursday 8/31 to Discuss and Address Lease

I just read the statement from the Bristow Chamber of Commerce on Facebook. As most of you likely know, both the Bristow Chamber and the Bristow Historical Society (and its museum) share the space in the Depot, leasing said space from the City of Bristow.

The statement from the Chamber concludes that should the Historical Society fail to vacate their space for the 3 months tied to the Christmas Unwrapped event, that the Chamber will suffer significant financial difficulties and likely would just dissolve the organization. Sadly, also mentioned was the likelihood of all the Chamber events being cancelled should the Chamber fold up its tent. Also, sadly, the City is put in the awkward position of acting as referee.

Both of these fine organizations have and do much for the City of Bristow and its citizens – and visitors. It is such a shame that this dispute has apparently boiled over publicly. That should NOT be the case. For the good of all, we MUST find a solution that will meet the needs of both parties and the City as a whole.

A special meeting of the City Council had been scheduled for this evening at 7:00pm. The meeting date has now been changed to Thursday, August 31st. Here is the agenda for the meeting: SPECIAL MEETING AGENDA 

Over the coming several days, BristowBuzz will be reaching out to both parties to better understand the challenges and will report back to you as soon as we can (and attend the meeting Thursday). In the meantime, here is the statement from the Bristow Chamber in its entirety:

“The Bristow Chamber of Commerce is and always will be a supporter of Bristow. When we were asked by the Mayor to come up with a plan to fill the hole left by Polar Express, we stepped up to the challenge and worked diligently, along with our sponsors and community partners, to develop “Christmas Unwrapped.” In seven weeks we made impossible possible and “Christmas Unwrapped” was nothing short of a miracle.

During that same period of time, the city approached the Chamber of Commerce and asked us to move back into the depot. Both the Chamber and the Historical Society were looking for homes. In a show of community coordination, our then president offered to share the depot with the Historical Society. The Chamber and Historical Society have always had a good working relationship and the Chamber did not anticipate that to change. The Chamber drew up a lease that was accepted by the City. This lease included the Historical Society as co-tenants. Presidents of both boards agreed that the Chamber, who had made financial obligations in order to host “Christmas Unwrapped,” would be able to utilize the entire depot for the holiday months, for a minimum of three years. The Chamber made it clear that our hope is to be successful and to continue to run “Christmas Unwrapped” indefinitely.

As preparations began for “Christmas Unwrapped” 2017 it became clear that the Historical Society would not honor their original agreement. In response to the Historical Society’s desire to continue their museum undisturbed, the Chamber attempted to negotiate the use of the depot despite not having any legal or ethical obligations to do so. These good faith efforts included the Chamber offering to switch rooms in the depot to the Chamber offering to pay the Historical Society for the temporary take down, storage, and reestablishing the display of museum artifacts. Furthermore, the Chamber also offered to assist the Historical Society in relocating to an offsite location during “Christmas Unwrapped.”
In addition to these efforts, one of Bristow’s local businesses offered to host in their facility a temporary museum for the Historical Society. This business took the additional steps of offering a fundraising event as well as a generous cash donation. This business’s offer to remedy the situation was met with the same response as the Chamber received from the Historical Society: No.
The Chamber and community of Bristow invested hundreds of hours and a significant amount of money to conduct “Christmas Unwrapped.” The production was a success in every measure. “Christmas Unwrapped” brought numerous people to Bristow and with the recent closings of the Christmas Train at Dry Gulch and the Polar Express in Stillwater, Christmas Unwrapped has the opportunity to attract even more tourists to Bristow.

It is not – and never will be – the Chamber’s intention to obstruct the Historical Society or cause discourse. The Chamber is only following through on the commitments made to the City of Bristow, the sponsors of Christmas Unwrapped and to the citizens of this town. The Chamber remains dedicated to servicing Bristow, generating economic and tourist opportunities, and also operating a historical event in the form of “Christmas Unwrapped.”

If the Chamber is not allowed access to the entire depot, as per agreement by both parties, we will be unable to host “Christmas Unwrapped” and will have no choice but to pay back our sponsors, sell the tram, re-pay the tram loan and dissolve the Chamber. The Chamber would no longer be able to provide the citizens of Bristow with events such as: Patriotism in the Park, Pumpkins in the Park, Route 66 Car Show, New Year’s Eve ball drop, the Chamber Banquet, and of course, “Christmas Unwrapped.”

On an even bigger scale, the loss of the Chamber of Commerce at this critical juncture in time (Airport Expansion, Freeway Expansion, Hospital Development) will be detrimental to the economic development of Bristow and the future sustainability of our economy.

As owners of the depot, the City is responsible for the ultimate decision on space utilization. The Chamber is grateful for the support of the City of Bristow, City Council members and citizens. It is our hope that we will be able to work with the Historical Society in the future.

The Chamber is grateful for the community of Bristow’s support and will ultimately leave its future up to the City of Bristow. It is the Chamber’s sincere hope to continue working with the businesses and citizens of Bristow as well as with the Historical Society, with these efforts all geared towards the future and success of Bristow.”

Here is a link to their page:

Here is the posting from the Bristow Historical Society today regarding the matter:

In an attempt to not create division in the community, we have not included, on our Facebook page, the negotiations between the Bristow Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bristow Historical Society regarding the usage of space at the depot during Christmas Unwrapped. We feel that we are very close to a solution that would allow the museum to operate and Christmas Unwrapped to be a success this Christmas season. However, a vote tonight to terminate the lease currently covering the two parties and the city would require a new location to be found for the museum. If you have any questions, feel free to message us or call us at (918) 367-5161.

And here is a link to their page:

As an aside, we read the early comments on the Chamber’s post and sure were proud of the Bristowans looking to understand and awaiting more information to appraise the situation and form an opinion. Well done!