Okie-Tex Star Party History

How Okie-Tex came to fruition:

The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club became heavily involved in the production and operation of the Texas Star Party "TSP" in the early 80's. The TSP was organized and operated, primarily by the SW Region clubs in Dallas and Houston, and in 1984, the Okcy club transferred their Astronomical League membership from the Mid States Region to the SW Region so that we could share in this daunting task of putting on this national star party. From this alliance, we made a ton of friends and acquaintances from the Texas area, so in the summer of 1984, Mike Dennis, being club President at the time, proposed the idea of having a star party in Oklahoma during the Sept./Oct. new moon time frame. The Lake Murray area, near Ardmore, OK, was selected as the site, since it was about 100 miles from both the Okla. City and Dallas/Ft. Worth metro-plexes, and offered some pretty dark skies and all the lodging, supplies, fuel and food amenities, were relatively nearby. The name, "Okie-Tex" was selected as a tribute to the collaboration of the 2 states' efforts to maximize their avocation of amateur astronomy.

The 1st "Okie-Tex was held on Oct 20-22, 1984, at "Elephant Camp", on the NW side of Lake Murray. We had about 75 attendees, with a swap meet, a vendor and, of course, a really severe thunderstorm, the 1st night. I did mention this was a star party, didn't I? The consensus of the group was that a Fall star party in this area was a really good thing, and the OKCAC would continue to have an "Okie-Tex Star Party" in the Fall time frame, as a complement to the "Texas Star Party", and most importantly, another good reason to get together with friends and enjoy their hobby.

In 1985, we moved the star party to "Group Camp 3", on the SE side of Lake Murray. This location was actually on a tree-lined peninsula, into the lake, and had a bath house, dining hall, with a complete kitchen, a covered outdoor pavilion, about a dozen bunk houses, and a good sized baseball field area for setting up scopes and camping around its perimeter. But most importantly, it was considerably darker than "Elephant Camp" and almost a mile from the nearest major roadway, so that passing traffic would not interfere with observing, in the slightest. We were "off and running" and the "Okie-Tex Star Party" became a national event from this location for the next 15 years.

In 1988 and in 1998, to celebrate the 5th and 15th anniversaries of the "Okie-Tex", we moved these two star parties to the site of the TSP at Prude Ranch. There had been much clamoring in our hobby to hold a Fall star party from this glorious observing site, so the OKCAC did just that, twice. It was a real treat.

Unfortunately, OTSP 1998 was nicknamed "Soakie-Tex" because it rained and rained and rained all day, all night, alllllllll week.

By the spring and summer of 1998, before the Okie-Tex Star Party for that year, searching for a new site for the event was already in progress. [BW: “Attendees were beginning to complain about the light dome from Ardmore, commenting that they didn't need to spend hard earned money or vacation time viewing light pollution at a star party when they could stay home and still see light pollution. Some were driving quite respectable distances to attend. It was clear the writing was on the wall, and the writing said it was time to move.”] It was decided that the Lake Murray site was not large enough to accommodate the star party, and the light dome from Ardmore was really interfering with observations and astro-photography/imaging. [BW: “Two OKCAC officers were employed by the Oklahoma Tourism Department and were already inspecting and dark testing various state parks for the possible re-location of OTSP. Every state park had been investigated, and every park had failed to meet the criteria needed for a star party. The exception was the Black Mesa State Park located west of Boise City. The idea of Black Mesa State Park was not met with any enthusiasm at all due to the unfamiliarity of the park, its facilities, and the area in general combined with the driving distance from Oklahoma City.”]

At the urging of Bill Wilburn, who had firsthand knowledge of the dark skies in the Black Mesa area, OKCAC officers; Steve Adkins-President, Kyle Carr-V. President, Rick Harris-Sec/Treas, Kevin Davis-Obs Coord, and Bill Wilburn-Newsletter Editor made the trip to Black Mesa State Park on Friday evening July 24, 1998 to check out the park and dark test the sky. The sky passed with flying colors, the park was barely marginal.

Virtually no one was familiar with anything in the area, and the next day Rick Harris went for a drive and stumbled upon Camp Billy Joe. He returned to the group at Black Mesa State Park and reported what he discovered, the group followed him back to the camp for a look-see, contacts were made and plans for Okie-Tex 1999 at Camp Billy Joe began. They were able to reach an agreement with the camp to hold an annual fall event. They located food providers, port-a-potties, a big tent, etc, and the "Okie-Tex Star Party” had found a new, and much better home, from then on.

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