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By Darla Welchel

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Have you ever wanted to meet an otter? Or better yet, swim with one? Very soon, you will be able to without leaving Oklahoma.

Tiger Safari has always prized itself on being one of the largest interactive exotic zoos in central Oklahoma, but things are going to get all wet with the installation of the all new Otter Encounter Pool.

The Otter Encounter Pool will let guest interact with some of natures most amicable creatures - the otters, said park owner and operator Bill Meadows.

“During this incredible experience, you will literally swim with Asian otters and get up close and personal with some of the center’s resident animals,” Meadows said. “You mesmerize people when you do interactive exhibits. It gets people to listen to us better about animal welfare and husbandry. You’ll also find out more about the amazing work that is carried out by this non-profit animal facility dedicated to making dreams come true for sick and traumatized children.”

During a guest’s swim, they will be in the pool with a group of playful otters who are equally fascinated by humans, he said.

“Laugh, splash and have a whole lot of fun as you encounter these magical creatures like never before and gain an amazing insight into the species. You’ll also meet, feed and directly interact with a variety of other incredible creatures including a kangaroo, armadillo, porcupine, African ground hornbill and more,” Meadows said.

In addition to the otters, some of Meadows larger creatures will be using the pool, hence the need for the shallow end. Guest will be able to watch as the park’s tigers take the plunge in the encounter pool, he said.

Meadows met with pool designer David McLeary of Blue Haven Pools last month to hash out what the encounter will look like, McLeary said. Initial plans suggest the encounter will be a 60 X 25 foot pool complete with a shallow area for easy access.

McLeary said that it will take him a few weeks to complete the designs, which will have acrylic viewing windows on one side and stadium seating on the other. He also expects that once construction starts, it will take roughly 12 weeks to complete the encounter at Tiger Safari located at 963 County Street in Tuttle.

Newest baby in town

Tiger Safari is also pleased to announce the birth of the newest member in their exotic family; an adorable Snow Tiger, who has yet to be named, Meadows said. The snowy white fur-ball with distinct grey stripes was born in mid-May and has already been delighting guests at the park.

“I haven’t named him yet, because I want to get to know him, get to know his personality,” he said.

The proud parents are also residents at the wildlife zoological attraction - Sabadra and Ojos. This snow tiger is one of only 25 to be born in captivity in the world, Meadows said.

The little guy is being cared for by Tiger Safari staff and being bottle fed as his mother didn’t show any interest in him, he said.

“Animal parents are like real parents, you get some good ones and some not so good,” he said.

Ticket prices for regular park entrance are $10 a person, with booked group rates of $7 each with groups of 20 or more, Meadows said. And for those looking to become regular members, there are season passes for $200 per family. For more information about Tiger Safari, visit them at


Thursday, 17 July 2014 15:17

Convenience store featured in Indy film

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By Darla Welchel

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Sometimes it’s who you know that opens doors for you. And in the case of small business owner, Collin Teague, a friend of a friend of his mother’s landed his drive thru convenience store a spot in an upcoming Indy Film.

The Oasis just opened its doors on May 1 of this year, and already, it is going to be a star.

Writer, producer and director George Adams is making a film about a young orphan in search of a miracle. Although the title of the film is called Emerald, Texas, Adams wanted to film part of his movie in Oklahoma. 

When he mentioned to “the friend” that he was searching for a convenience store location for a scene, Teague’s store in Blanchard came up. One thing led to another, and on Sunday, July 6, the cast and crew descended on Blanchard to begin filming at the Oasis Drive-Thru.

“My mom had a friend who knew the director, and he mentioned he needed a convenience store for his movie,” the 26 year-old Teague said. “Adams said he didn’t want us to close the store, and that they would move out of the way when regular customers came in.” 

Fortunately, Sunday mornings are the unique store’s slowest time, Teague said. Oasis Drive-Thru only caters to drive up customers selling beverages, beer, tobacco products, snacks, fountain drinks, deli/grill items and snow cones. No one except employees enter the store.

“We have large windows for customers to see what we have, and we run and get it for them, so they don’t have to leave their cars,” he said. “When I was in high school, I worked at Dave’s Cave in Chickasha (another drive-thru store), and I loved the concept.”

Teague, who along with his business partner brother, James, 21, said they are the only two employees right now. They work very long hard hours and having the film crew was a nice diversion, he said. Teague is also partnered with his mother, Cindi, but as she lives in Edmond, she does not work the drive thru.

“At one time during the filming, there were about 15 people in our 1,000 square foot store,” Teague said. “It was a little hectic, but it all worked out wonderfully as we are slower on Sunday.”

And his younger brother actually filled in as an extra – but as a biker rider, not an employee. In fact, a couple of community members also got to fill in as extras, he said.

The Oasis Drive-Thru didn’t get paid to be used as a film location, but they will get mentioned in the credits, Teague said. The filming only took about three hours and then it was business as usual for the hard-working brothers.

The Oasis Drive-Thru is located at 216 W Veterans Memorial Highway across the highway from the Burrito Grill. To find out more about the movie and filming in Blanchard visit The Oasis Drive-Thru on Facebook or

The drive-thru convenience store is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.


Thursday, 17 July 2014 15:14

OKC Improv holds workshop at library

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By Max Terrell

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Teens had a chance to stretch their acting chops when the Newcastle Public Library hosted the group OKC Improv Friday, July 11. 

The group consisting of four performers held a workshop and did performances for the teens. The group had many of the kids come and perform with them or had the students remaining in the crowd give out suggestions to act out. 

While many of the young teens in the audience were nervous about performing in front of their peers, some got up on the stage and performed with the group. All the while,  OKC Improv gave quick tips and advice to the teen performers to not only improve on their skills as improvers but to also ease the minds of the nervous ones.

The improv group was founded in 2009 by producers Marcy Fleming, Buck Vrazel, Clint Vrazel, and Eric Webb. The four have many years of combined experience and perform at various theaters and clubs in Oklahoma City.

They have also set a focus on education performing for many teens teaching 200 classes and have held workshops for over 1000 people. 

Their performances are heavily inspired on audience participation. This seemed to work well for the teens as many who seemed shy for most of the performances broke out of their shell later on in the workshop. There were a few students who jumped right into the action and performed without hesitation expanding upon their creativity. 

OSU Extension Services will hold the “Recipe Modification” program Thursday, July 17, at 2 p.m.

Coming up: 

The Summer Reading Program event finale “Eureka! I Got it!” 

The fun starts at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 23. 



Thursday, 17 July 2014 15:10

Practicing Good Health

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By Darla Welchel

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They aren’t exactly the new kid’s on the block – HPI Tri-City Clinic opened its door in August of 2013 – but the multi-faceted healthcare provider was officially welcomed into the Tri-City community last Wednesday. 

Healthcare Partners Investment, located at 300 NW 32nd St., held its Grand Opening during a Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting ceremony in which it served lunch to community and business members alike, said HPI Office Manager Kendra Clonts. 

“We are so excited to be in Newcastle and the Tri-City community,” she said. “All our patients are great, and we want to be their ‘go to’ place for all their medical needs.”

HPI began when OSSO (Oklahoma Sports Science and Orthopedics) Healthcare Network decided to branch out into family practice, said HPI family practitioner Dr. Megan Hanner. It is `affiliated with Community Hospital.

To date the clinic offers a full family practice with Jeramiah Walker, APRN-CNP, a board certified family practitioner, joining Dr. Hanner Monday through Fridays.

Other HPI staff members are Dr. Ryan Nelson and Dr. Sean O’Brian – both orthopedics specialist – Dr. Michael Alvis, a spine neurosurgeon and, most recently, cardiologist Dr. Bryan Cogar, Clonts said. Also on staff is Kevin Mason a PC-C in orthopedics and Physical Therapist David Haynes with Consano PT. 

Unlike Dr. Hanner and Walker, the specialists are only available certain days of the week, she said. Dr. Nelson sees patients on Monday mornings, whereas Dr. O’Brian is available on Wednesday afternoons, and Dr. Alvis on Thursday mornings. Dr. Cogar, the newest member of the team, only sees patients the last Thursday of each month. However, Consano Physical Therapy is open every day of the week. 

“We have very respectable physicians,” Clonts said. “We are looking into getting other specialists as well; we want to bring in more specialist to the community, so they don’t have to travel to the city for their medical needs.” 

HPI accepts most insurances and Medicare and Medicaid, but for a complete list, contact the clinic at 387-3323.

Thursday, 17 July 2014 15:08

Morgan continues to pursue dream

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Newcastle’s rising star Kylie Morgan has continued to follow her dream of becoming a country music star and finding great success in her young career.

The young musician has kept herself busy the last few months constantly playing shows. Her most recent performance took place at Riverwind Casino on July 3, which just happened to be her 19th birthday. 

Morgan had her first big break about two years ago when she landed a spot on the E! Network’s television show “Opening Act”. The show allowed her to open for country artists Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. Not only did she open for a massive concert on her episode, but she also received invaluable lessons from vocal coach Nick Cooper.

The biggest benefit for the then 17 year old singer may have been the publicity she received while the show aired.

Morgan devoted much of her time in the Country music world in Nashville where many, if not all, country artists have had to make their name.

“I have been going to Nashville to play at least one show a month,” Morgan said. “I’ve also been writing songs, and I have been offered a publishing deal out there.”

While Morgan has focused on her song-writing and performances, she still has her eyes set on what she considers to be important, she said. 

Morgan, through her music, has tried to impact the lives of others with various projects and songs. She has been a supporter of anti-bullying and has a new project developing in California called Band Together to Stop Bullying. 

Her fight against bullying started when she was writing songs in Nashville, she said. Morgan wrote a song called Phoebe in an attempt to send her anti-bullying message. The song is written for the memory of Phoebe Prince who immigrated to America from Ireland. Prince would later commit suicide after being bullied at her new school. Morgan was the same age as Prince. Just 15 years old; inspiring Morgan to campaign against bullying.

The young singer has also had to deal with emotional hardships along the way. During the tornados  that hit Oklahoma in 2013, Kylie lost her house in the storm. After losing her home, she said that it gave her a new perspective on life. She channeled that into her music, she said. 

Morgan says that she always tries to put true and raw emotion into every song she writes . 

Morgan not only uses her music to fight bullying but she says her goal to be a role model for young fans, she said. 

“I think the biggest thing I want to achieve is to be a role model for anyone and everyone I can,” Morgan said. “It’s one of my number one goals. Honestly, now I think about my decisions not only for me, but for the ones looking up to me.”

Currently Morgan is an independent musician, which makes her successes even more impressive. She has managed to climb up the ranks of the country music world even after the split with her label and keeps her mind on continuing to make a difference for people.


Thursday, 10 July 2014 19:44

Splashing away the heat

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By Darla Welchel

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Now that summer has finally decided to rear its scorching head, people – children in particular – are seeking ways to stay cool while having a blast.

Of course there is always swimming, but the latest trend is Splash Pads. A splash pad or spray pool is a recreation area, often in a public park, for water play that has little or no standing water. This is said to eliminate the need for lifeguards or other supervision, as there is little risk of drowning.

Until three years ago, most people in and around Newcastle had to travel to one of the city parks to enjoy the fun and cooling effects of a splash park. Today, they only have to travel to Blanchard, just west of Lion’s Park. 

The City of Blanchard decided to build the unique recreational area and it has been in full use ever since they opened the summer of 2012, said Parks and Recreational Director Chris Wittenbach. The splash park is open from Memorial Day weekend until after Labor Day; the hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and open until 9 p.m. on Friday Saturday. 

Wittenbach said the water supply is on a four-minute cycle, but all the children have to due to reactivate it is to touch the button on top of the red activator pole. As you can imagine, when the splash pad is full of children, the water never stops. 

The park is free to the public and the City of Blanchard maintains and supplies the water, he said. There are two pavilions at the splash park that can be rented for a nominal hourly fee, Wittenbach said. Contact the city for questions about rental fees.

There are park rules such as all children must be supervised by an adult and NO RUNNNG – this one is ignored a lot. For a complete list of rules, which are posted on the park entrance, check out the parks webpage at

Other cooling stations

Splash Pads are a hit with both children and parents alike. Here is a brief list of just a few closest to Tri-City, as well as some pools.

Andrews Park; 201 W Daws, Norman

Colonial Estastes Park; 1641 E Lindsey, Norman

Shannon Springs Park open 9-9; California and 12th, Chickasha (also has a public pool)

WashitaValley Park, open 9-9; 1427 Henderson, Chickasha

City of Mustang Aquatics Center, 1201 N Mustang Rd, Mustang

Apple Valley Park; 321 SW 39th St., OKC

Taylor Park; 1113 SW 70th St., OKC

Sellers Park; South Villa Ave., OKC

Youngs Park 2145 SW 46th St., OKC

Reed Park Sprayground; 1217 N May Ave., OKC

For a complete listing Google Spray Parks in Oklahoma City.

Thursday, 10 July 2014 19:17

Library continues Summer Series

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By Darla Welchel

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You won’t want to miss one exciting moment of  The Newcastle Public Library’s July summer reading program. There are just a little over four weeks left of exciting fun designed for all ages.

Check out all these fun activities and programs beginning tomorrow:

Sparks of improvisation

With the art of improvisation, OKC Improv professionals bring a performance and a guided improve acting workshop from 2-3 p.m.  on Friday, July 11 for all teens. Even if your career goals aren’t acting, you’ll have fun, and improve skills in: brainstorming, creative thinking, decision-making, team development, and observation.

Teen Saturday Matinee

Teens can keep cool with a FREE movie, popcorn, and drink at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 12. Our movie will have a PG-13 rating. Call or come by the Newcastle library for movie title and ticket.

Cool off with healthy snack ideas at the library

The library is battling the heat of summer with the program “Hot Snacks to Cool You Off,” at 2 p.m. Monday, July 14.

Melissa Church of Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services will be at the library to show children ages 6 to 11 several delicious and easy-to-prepare snacks to help keep cool during the summer.

She’ll also share examples of creative ways to add physical activities to the schedule during the summer. Space for the program is limited to 25 participants, so registration in advance is required.

Story time looks at the science of sound

Experience the science of sound during story time, set for 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 16. The interactive story time is for ages one to five and their caregiver. It will focus on a variety of interesting sounds. It will include rhymes, stories and other activities. Registration is not required to attend.

Tommy Terrific’s Wacky Magic of Science Show

Kids will roll in the aisle as they answer Tommy Terrific’s silly antics with sidesplitting giggles. From 2-3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 16, Tommy and his crazy, long-necked, purple, big-beaked puppet delight parents and children alike as they explore the magic of science with a sense of humor unmatched by any other. Tommy Terrific brings a unique blend of laugh-out-loud comedy coupled with illusion and puppetry, all combined with an educational approach that is all about having fun with books. 

Make recipes healthier with food workshop

Spice up the kitchen with help from the Newcastle Public Library and McClain County OSU Extension Service and the program “Recipe Modification,” at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 17, at the library, 705 NW 10th St.

Mickey Simpson, Extension Educator, will give advice on creating nutritious and delicious meals. By changing just one or two ingredients in a recipe, chefs can reduce sodium, sugar and fat in their family’s diet. The program is for ages 18 and up and registration is not required to attend.

Teen weather and air workshop

Teens are invited to a creative and educational program on “Weather and Polluted Air,” at 1 p.m. Friday, July 18. Madison Stirland, representing the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, will present the program, and teens will take on several activities and experiments that demonstrate how weather and air pollutants affect the quality of the air.

Registration is required in advance to attend the program.

Decorate a unique garden rock 

The Library is giving local residents ideas to spruce up the look of their gardens during the program “My Garden Rocks,” at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 19. Participants will paint their own one-of-a-kind garden rock to take home and put in their own garden. All supplies will be provided by the library.

This program is for adults ages 18 and older, and registration is required in advance to attend.

For more information about any of these programs, visit the library, call 387-5076 or go online to


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By Darla Welchel


Rescuing animals and finding them both foster and “fur” ever homes is just half the battle for the Friends of the Shelter Foundation members, said foundation member Farah Payton-Snider.

After these animals are rescued, they need to be fed, just for starters, she said. And at this current date, the Foundation’s food stores have run dry.

In order to replenish its stores, the Friends of the Shelter Foundation (which supports Newcastle Animal Shelter) are holding a Pet Food Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 12 in front of the Atwoods at 1719 24th Ave SW, Norman at the corner of Hwy 9 and 24th Ave. SW.

The foundation is in desperate need of puppy and dog food, she said. They have more puppies than dogs in foster care right now and the bulk of the expense falls on the foster parents.

“This is peak puppy season, and the need is great,” she said.

Currently a kind-hearted individual found herself the unexpected foster parent of a mother dog and her eight puppies, Payton-Snider said. She is a single mother and the cost of feeding the now 8-week old shepherd-mix puppies is very costly.

“We would love to help her, but our coffers are empty,” she said. “We get more and more dogs and puppies every day and we haven’t the food to feed them.”

Unfortunately, without the help from generous supporters, the cost of taking care of these abandoned four-legged babies falls to the foster parents.

The foundation is asking for grain-free pet foods such as 4-Health or Taste of the Wild, Payton-Snider said. This request is due to the fact that so many animals have food allergies. Atwoods sells both of these brands, but if someone didn’t want to buy the food, the Foundation is also accepting cash donations.

“We will have a few of our foster dogs at the event as well, such as Dolly’s remaining pups: Reba, Hank, Buck, Elvis and Patsy,” she said.

In case you didn’t notice, the lab/healer mix pups have all been named after famous Country singers.

The Friends of the Shelter works closely with the Newcastle Animal Shelter and try to rescue as many dogs as it has foster families, she said. The foundation would also love to rescue more cats and kittens, but at the time, they do not have any cat foster families – volunteers, the foundation is in desperate seeking.

Animals in foster care through Friends of the Shelter are available for adoption; applications can be found on the foundation’s website at, as well as applications for volunteers.

All animals up for adoption have been spayed or neutered, are current on all vaccinations, have been treated for heartworm, fleas and ticks, she said.

“The cost to adopt a puppy under a year is $100 and for an adult dog, it is $75,” Payton-Snider said. “This is to cover their medical expenses.”

People can also go directly to the Newcastle Animal Shelter to rescue a dog or cat for $25, but these animals have not received any medical attention, said City Manager Nick Nazar. The shelter is currently without an animal control officer, but will be filling that position soon.

“We have interviewed for the animal control position, and as soon as the officer is available, he will start work,” Nazar said.

If someone wanted to search for a lost pet or are looking to adopt one of the city’s sheltered animals, they should contact dispatch at 387-5525, he said.

Anyone wishing to adopt a pet, volunteer or donate to the Friends of the Shelter Foundation should contact them through its website, Payton-Snider said.

Friday, 27 June 2014 18:16

Concert causes cancer awareness

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Story written by Max Terrell and posted to the website by Ryan Croft.

Relay for Life helped cancer awareness and research in Blanchard during the city’s summer concert series.

Holly Gardner partnered with the City of Blanchard to coordinate the event during one of the concerts in hopes to attract more attention to allow more people to hear the message about cancer, she said.

Gardner, the daughter of a cancer survivor, was contacted by a member of the American Cancer Society to help coordinate the event.

“I coordinate things with the Blanchard Parks Department this year,” she said. “The summer concert series landed around the same time and the park is a perfect place. So, we all work together and that’s how it’s put together.”

During the concert, the Relay For Life team talked to families about cancer and the research to fight the disease, while accepting donations to help fund cancer research.

The team raised around $10,000 for the ACS during the event, Gardner said.

She also made a conscious effort to inform the children about cancer.

“It’s really good for awareness, even if it’s not strictly about raising money,” Gardner said. “There are so many kids out here that have no idea what the word leukemia is. I teach tumbling and a little girl I knew had fallen ill. When the doctor said it [was leukemia], she had no idea what it was. Stuff like this makes a kid aware.”

Gardner, like many others, has one goal in the fight against cancer - to one day find a cure, she said.

Friday, 27 June 2014 18:13

Celebrate July 4th with a furry friend

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Story written by Max Terrell and posted to the website by Ryan Croft.

Newcastle's furry friends will join in the Independence Day festivities Saturday, June 28 at Veteran's Park.

People of all ages are welcome to the family event that offers food, live entertainment, games, and lots of fun from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a fireworks display at night. This year, Friends of the Shelter Foundation [FSF] will have a booth to raise money for shelter pets.

The booth will have a variety of games, glow toys, and raffles, all available by donation.

Farah Payton-Snider helped start FSF as a means to help stray animals find good homes.

"I'm a huge animal lover," Payton-Snider said. "I wanted to be able to help all the animals and I saw a need in our community."

According to research done by the Humane Society there is a staggering difference in the number of animals being adopted and how many animals are being put into shelters every year.

An estimated six-to-eight million pets enter shelters every year, while only three-to-four million are adopted and the other two million are euthanized.

Payton-Snider wants to help the rural animals surrounding Newcastle and hopes people will realize the issues of animal over population one day.

The shelter animals will not be in attendance this year in order to keep them from being scared of the fireworks display. Shelter pets will have their pictures available for viewing at the shelter's booth.

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