Tour Your Town Like A Travel Writer!

Cocktails in the State Room at the Atherton Hotel.

Story and Photos by Ammie Bryant, Editor

In late July, I was invited by the Visit Stillwater Team to join them as they hosted two travel writers visiting Stillwater on a familiarization (or FAM) trip. I joined Kylie Vincent and Cara Gray of Visit Stillwater along with Tammilee Tillison of Spokane, Washington and Nedra McDaniel from Cincinnati, Ohio on an adventure in Stillwater. It was so much fun to share the amazing community we have with our visitors as well as to experience a few things that I have never experienced during the sixteen years I’ve called Stillwater home.

The Hideaway Special
The Hideaway Special.

Our day began with lunch at one of my favorite places, The Original Hideaway. I’ve been to The Hideaway many times through the years and while I have my favorites, I had never tried the Hideaway Special. It features 10 slices–each with a different topping, which vary depending on the fresh toppings available and who’s creating the pizza. The large is VERY large–the four of us couldn’t finish it!

The tap room at Iron Monk
The tap room at Iron Monk.

Next, we visited Iron Monk Brewery for a tour and tasting. Co-owner, Dave Monks led the tour, followed by a tasting featuring the Milk Stout that started it all as well as their current most popular brew, Stilly Wheat. Monks also poured the Payne County Imperial IPA as well as one of the newer, lighter brews, the Land Run 100 IPA  which was created especially for the Land Run 100 bike race held in Stillwater each spring. There are also several small batch formulas that are only served during tastings in the taproom, like the Chocolate Habanero Stout.

A visit to Stillwater is not complete without a look at our community’s story, therefore our next two stops were Gallagher Iba Heritage Hall and the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History, both of which are open free to the public during regular hours of operation.

At Heritage Hall we learned about Oklahoma State University’s rich athletic history and traditions. While I know many people enjoy seeing all the bling of past championship trophies, I enjoyed viewing the stories of the great coaches and athletes who paved the way to 51 NCAA national titles,  like Coaches Ed Gallagher, Henry Iba, Art Griffith, and John Smith as well as the legendary players like Bob Kurland, Barry Sanders, and Big Country Bryant Reeves. Our visit to Heritage Hall laid the foundation for an appreciation of the Cowboy athletics atmosphere which we would all be experiencing the next day. More on that later.

Next on our stop was the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History where our travel writers learned more about our community, including Stillwater’s role in Oklahoma’s history and how the university has helped to shape our town through the years.

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The Pecan Ball is a dessert tradition at the Ranchers Club.

Afterwards, we adjourned to The Ranchers Club located in the beautifully renovated Atherton Hotel at the OSU Student Union. The meal and the service were impeccable, which is to be expected because of OSU’s outstanding Hotel and Restaurant Management program. But what I really delighted in was a Ranchers Club tradition I never knew about. Thankfully, the Atherton’s Marketing Manager, Monica Casey, joined us for dinner and told us about the long-standing dessert tradition, the Pecan Ball, a very large scoop of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate, then rolled in chopped pecans, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Ask for multiple spoons though, our table of five diners could not finish it!

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The State Room at the Atherton Hotel.

After dinner and dessert, we retired to the elegant State Room where a full service bar provided the libations that put the perfect finishing touch on our day. We recommend the Stateroom Limeade–it’s delicious! We didn’t stay up too late enjoying our cocktails though, because we had an early morning appointment at Boone Pickens Stadium for Cowboy Football 101!

Whether you are a football expert or mildly interested in the game, this experience has something to appeal to everyone. The program is provided specifically for women, but when my husband and brother-in-law found out that I would be attending they were jealous–and with good reason!

When participants arrive at the West End Zone entrance of Boone Pickens Stadium, they are greeted by the energetic dynamo that is Mac Butler, Director of Football Operations. Here Mac meets KOCO's Markie Martin.
When participants arrive at the West End Zone entrance of Boone Pickens Stadium, they are greeted by the energetic dynamo that is Mac Butler, Director of Football Operations. Here Mac meets KOCO’s Markie Martin.

This was the eleventh year of Cowboy Football 101. When participants arrive at the West End Zone entrance of Boone Pickens Stadium, they are greeted by the energetic dynamo that is Mac Butler, Director of Football Operations. After registering, we were ushered through the weight training room to pick up our credentials and swag, before arriving in the Team Meeting Room. The room is huge and the chairs are built to accommodate the imposing build of a football player. I fell in love with the leather seats which were far more comfortable than anything I have at home.

Coach Butler set the tone for the day–one of excitement and festivity. He informed us emphatically that the day was about having fun and backed it up with the day’s theme song: “House Party” by Sam Hunt. He introduced staff and players then showed the 2015 Highlight Video. If that doesn’t get you fired up for some Cowboy Football, I don’t know what will. Next up was the Mother of Current Players Panel featuring several moms and their current cowboy football players answering questions and sharing football-related memories of their sons’.

Sherman E. Smith Indoor Training Center was the location of the workouts.
Sherman E. Smith Indoor Training Center was the location of the workouts.

 

Then the real fun began. Participants were sent to the Sherman E. Smith Indoor Training Center where we participated in a team stretch and workout directed by coaches and current players. Everyone was asked to participate in the stretch but the workouts themselves were optional. Women of all ages participated  from groups of girlfriends and multi-generational families to new students and alumni. The Coaches and players were awesome with all the ladies. You could tell they were having just as much fun as the women. It was truly a bucket-list activity for me. I could see why so many return year after year to participate. 

Cowboy Football 101 includes a 45 minute workout with the coaches and players.
Cowboy Football 101 includes a 45 minute workout with the coaches and players.
barbara-houck-in-the-locker-room
Barbara Houck and her Cowboy Football 101 swag in the Cowboys’ locker room.

 

After the workout was over participants dined with the athletes at the Training Table, the athletic dining facility in Boone Pickens Stadium. There we were treated to healthy, delicious fare and encouraged to re-hydrate for the afternoon’s activities.

The afternoon included individual position meetings followed by a tour of the facilities with presentations  on athletic training and physical therapy as well as a visit to the locker room.  Then participants returned to the Team Meeting Room where NFL Referee Clay Martin talked about his experiences as a referee.

 

The final presentation was a first for Cowboy Football 101 and a highlight of the day: a Q&A with Cowboy Legends. Left to right: Donovan Woods (2004-07), Josh Fields (2001-03), Mark Moore (AP All American 1983-86), and Rusty Hilger (1981-1984).
The final presentation was a first for Cowboy Football 101 and a highlight of the day: a Q&A with Cowboy Legends. Left to right: Donovan Woods (2004-07), Josh Fields (2001-03), Mark Moore (AP All American 1983-86), and Rusty Hilger (1981-1984).

The final presentation was a first for Cowboy Football 101 and a highlight of the day:  a Q&A with Cowboy Legends, Rusty Hilger (1981-1984), Mark Moore (AP All American 1983-86), Josh Fields (2001-03), and Donovan Woods (2004-07).  Rusty Hilger offered a particularly stirring speech which Josh Fields said he “had only heard Coach Miles give that kind of speech once” during his time at OSU.  Fields went on to say, “I’m ready to strap on my pads–I’m fired up.” The Legends Panel closed the day with a standing ovation from participants in appreciation of the insight and memories the panelists shared. Then, we all stood and sang the alma mater…Ever you’ll find us, loyal and true.

Playing and learning more about football was on both of the travel writers’ bucket lists (Tamilee’s Tips and Adventure Mom). It was a big part of what drew them to Stillwater to begin with but they will return to Stillwater because of the people.  At one point during the day, the football players were asked, “What makes Stillwater home?” The answer was unanimous, “the people of Stillwater.”  Tammilee plans to return this fall with her husband to attend a Cowboy Football game and experience more of that special something that Hilger reminded participants only we have here in Stillwater. Orange. Power.  It’s a big part of what makes Stillwater America’s Friendliest College Town.

The Classy Cowboy creed was demonstrated by everyone we met throughout Cowboy Football 101. It’s a big part of what makes Oklahoma State such a special place.