If Oklahoma City airport officials have their way, Oklahoma’s favorite son will soon be jettisoned into the Sunset.

          Yes, airport bureaucrats trying to justify their salaries and media experts paid with public funds have decided to “rebrand” Will Rogers World Airport.

          No, the most welcoming person in Oklahoma history – “I never met a man I didn’t like” – doesn’t have the flash and dash necessary for his airport to soar through the 21st century.

          Curiously, Will Rogers(’) World – the very name could be spun into a theme celebrating the state – is the only one of three airports under the airport board where rebranding is deemed necessary.

          Wiley Post? Nope. The pioneer aviator with whom Rogers was riding when their plane crashed in Alaska will get to keep his name on his airport.

          C.E. Page? No. No offense to the Page family, but I think they’ll agree that C.E. lacks the name recognition of Will Rogers.

          The rebranding momentum surfaced after the airport surveyed 6,000 people last October for their opinions on the airport. At that time Director of Airports Jeff Mulder said, “We’re looking forward to an upgrade that puts our very best foot forward for visitors and residents alike.”

          Seems that only 20% of survey respondents refer to Will Rogers World Airport by name. Does that mean it needs a new name?

          My guess is that, since Will Rogers World is the only major commercial airport in OKC, most folks just refer to it as “the airport.”

          This isn’t the Metromess where differentiating DFW and Love Field can be crucial for catching flights or picking up pals or Houston, with Bush and Hobby, or Chi-town with O’Hare and Midway or – well, you get the picture.

          In Oklahoma City, if you’re headed to “the airport,” you’re heading to Will Rogers. Folks probably know its name; it’s just not necessary. It will still be “the airport” regardless of what high-priced rebranding airport officials concoct and try to jam down people’s throats with an expensive advertising campaign.

          Reporting last month for KFOR, Hunter Elyse caught up with Bart Taylor, creative curator at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. Taylor reminded people: “Will was an early pusher of aviation. Pilots today even say that the early part of Will pushing aviation is why we have passengers, you know, riding in planes today.”

          Rogers flew whenever he had the opportunity. Such reminders must be necessary when Elyse finds it necessary to report that the airport is “named after a famous Oklahoma entertainer.” You think?

          Mulder served as airport director in Tulsa from 2005 to 2016. You would hope that, Midwestern though his background is, he might have visited Claremore just up the road and learned about Rogers’ love of flying.

          Maybe he is well aware of this but considers that and Rogers’ status as irrelevant to a clever, modernish new name – that will likely be reduced to “the airport” in local discourse.

          In an official statement last month, Stacey Hamm, in charge of Public Information and Marketing, said the rebranding comes in conjunction with updating the airport website. I guess such changes could not be handled with the same old tired name of one of Oklahoma’s most famous native sons.

          Hamm explained: “The rebranding is NOT just a name change. It consist of  – colors, font, messaging, logo or wordmark, and how all these elements work together to create a positive image for the airport, not only locally, but nationally and internationally.”

          Wow! Colors and fonts and messaging! Oh, my! Be still, my beating heart.

          But, what could be a more “positive image for the airport” than the most relentlessly positive person in Oklahoma’s history? I guess our Ropin’ Fool is just too old-fashioned, too backward for this day and age.

          Hamm’s statement assured, “The airport is a big part of our community, whether you fly once or twice a week, once a year, or do not fly at all. Airport staff value the opinions of our customers and the residents of OKC which is why we wanted their feedback.”

          It might be too late for any Save Will Rogers feedback, however, as Hamm promised, “I plan on rolling out the new brand either late spring or early summer. The website will roll out to the general public late summer or early fall.”

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

          After this was posted by The Oklahoma Observer, I added the afterthought that the “rebranding” might be a ploy to purge the name of an avowed and proud Democrat (“I don’t belong to any organized party.…”) from the public arena.

Where there was a Will

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