The state of Oklahoma hasn't traditionally been known as a tourist hot spot. Smack in the middle of "flyover country," Oklahoma is plagued by many misconceptions about itself and its people. With a few notable exceptions such as our football team and the horror of the Oklahoma City bombing, many outside know very little about Oklahoma and rely on stereotypical portrayals in movies and television. So let's set the record straight.
Here are the top misconceptions about Oklahoma:
Everyone Drives a Pickup and Wears a Cowboy Hat
If you ever see Oklahoma portrayed on film or television, for example, the recent TNT series "Saving Grace," it seems as if the residents are always driving a pickup truck and wearing a cowboy hat. Yes, trucks are popular vehicles in Oklahoma, and there's no doubt we have more people that consider themselves "cowboys" than many states.
But some might be surprised to learn that there's a good deal of stylistic diversity in Oklahoma. Head downtown, to Automobile Alley or to Bricktown for plenty of the contemporary. Check out the Paseo Arts District or the Plaza District. There's variety, to say the least, of culture, fashions, architecture and even choice of transportation.
Culture... What Culture?
This may be the easiest of all to refute, particularly with the incredible growth in Oklahoma City in recent years. If you believe the stereotype, Oklahoma's idea of culture is rodeo or, at best, a trip to a movie theater. While many love those things, there's certainly more to us.
Just head downtown and you can see world-class orchestra from the OKC Philharmonic, incredible grace at Oklahoma City Ballet or Broadway-caliber productions at the Civic Center Music Hall. There's the Museum of Art, numerous festivals and much, much more. We may not be the world's artistic capital, but Oklahoma has more than the basics covered.
Everyone in Oklahoma Lives on a Farm
"Twister," one of the top movies filmed in Oklahoma, is a prime offender in this stereotype. Don't you know? The state must be made up of only small towns and farm land. Well, not quite. Of Oklahoma's roughly 3 and a half million residents, two-thirds of them live in an urban area, a percentage well above many states. In addition, the state's two primary metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, both rank in the top 50 cities nationwide in population.
This is by no means meant to diminish the value of farming or farmers in Oklahoma, of course. It just goes to show we're more multi-faceted than the stereotype.
Not a Day Passes Without a Tornado... or Fifty
Speaking of "Twister," that movie really created a false impression. Yes, Oklahoma ranks as one of the highest for natural disaster risk, and we've certainly had our share of tragic and destructive storms. But I've met people who honestly believe not a day passes without worry of a funnel overhead in Oklahoma, and if you watched the movie, you'd think one can't even finish a meal without an F5 popping up.
The truth is that many states, including Florida and Texas, have similar or higher numbers of tornadoes, and the majority of those happen in a small stretch of the year between March and June. Generally, Oklahomans are careful and take safety precautions, so it's not as if tornadoes are on our minds all day.
It's Only Flat Land and Red Dirt in Oklahoma
As with many misconceptions, this one's based on an exaggerated truth. The central part of the state has flat lands and red dirt in good supply. Watching many movies or television shows set in Oklahoma, though, one can almost feel the dust on the face.
But Oklahoma is not only a fairly sizable state, it's a diverse one as far as terrain. Many are surprised to learn that with our many lakes, we have more shoreline than the East and Gulf Coasts combined. And several areas such as Northeast Oklahoma are green and lush with plenty of hills. In the metro, head to a place like Lake Hefner, and you'll see some beautiful vistas.
Everyone Lives and Breathes Football in Oklahoma
Yes, you know the stereotype. Maybe more than any other state except possibly Texas, Oklahoma is known as a place where high school and college football reign supreme, often overshadowing everything else...