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Stillwater’s serious about fun

A small town that thinks big, Stillwater boasts a surprising number of megaevents and facilities, as well as a decidedly fun-loving outlook on life.
“Stillwater is the quintessential college town,” said Cristy Morrison, executive director of the Stillwater CVB. “Since Oklahoma State University’s (OSU’s) 22,000 students make up almost half of our population, the town has a young, eclectic feel with amenities and entertainment that meeting planners love.”

Groups with leisure time in this north central Oklahoma city can listen to local Red Dirt music — a blend of rock and country created there — at campus bars like the well-known Eskimo Joe’s, or join 20,000 other adventurous souls at the world’s largest Calf Fry Festival. Held each spring at Stillwater’s Tumbleweed Dance Hall, this two-day event celebrates what is known as cowboy caviar, the deep-fried calf testicle.

Oklahoma State’s 22,000 students constitute one-half of Stillwater’s population.

When it’s time to get down to business, OSU provides Stillwater with several of its largest meeting facilities.

“There is 32,000 square feet of meeting space at the recently renovated Oklahoma State Student Union,” said Morrison. Meetings can also be held at the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center, with 18,742 square feet of meeting space, and the 28,000-square-foot Wes Watkins Conference Center.

“Many of the groups who meet at OSU facilities, like the 200-member Oklahoma City Managers Association, stay at the university’s historic Atherton Hotel,” Morrison said. “The 81-room property just underwent a $6 million renovation.

“We’ve also had several hotels open in the past year, almost doubling our hotel inventory and bringing our room count to 1,210.”

Stillwater’s newest hotels include the 121-room Holiday Inn and Suites, with 1,400 square feet of meeting space, and the 77-room Cimarron Hotel and Suites, with 4,245 square feet of meeting space.

Although Stillwater’s average meeting numbers 500, the city also hosts large agricultural events, like the upcoming Heart of America Southwestern Brown Swiss Show at the 85,650-square-foot Payne County Expo Center.

“We also partner with OSU for youth athletic programs that can have participation in the thousands,” Morrison said. “Each May, we work together to host the Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games, the largest amateur athletic event in the state, which is attended by more than 10,000 people and fills every dorm and every hotel in the city.

“These multiday events create a win-win situation for both Stillwater and OSU,” said Morrison. “Whole families tend to come, which provides economic benefits for the city and can be a recruiting tool for the university once they see all it has to offer.”

There’s no doubt OSU inspires allegiance in its alumni. Each fall, 35,000 people gather for what the university claims is the nation’s largest homecoming, a weeklong celebration complete with parades, pep rallies and the OSU Cowboys’ homecoming football game.

“Oklahoma State University graduates from across the country have been known to plan meetings around homecoming week in order to attend the festivities,” said Morrison.

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Next in the Oklahoma Meeting Guide >> Midwest City shows its meddle