When Walmart closed its doors and left town two years ago, Perry’s economic prospects might have looked gloomy due to the loss of sales tax revenue. But the northern Oklahoma community of just over 5,100 residents is recovering just fine. And with recent good economic news, plus an anticipated resumption of activities as the threat of the pandemic lessens, 2021 promises to be a year of hope.
As an indication, the city’s signature event – the 16th Cherokee Strip Celebration – has been added to the list of civic events this year, scheduled for Sept. 18. The celebration that commemorates the Cherokee Strip land run of 1893 is one of the oldest observances in Oklahoma. Planned activities include a rodeo, parade, 5K/10K run and pancake breakfast.
Walmart’s exodus knocked a $300,000 hole in the city’s budget, says Perry mayor Bill Streller. But he says the Noble County seat appears to be recovering. City manager Larry Pannell agrees that while Perry hasn’t totally recovered, sales tax collections last year were up over the year before, despite the pandemic. Along with that, merchants are emphasizing a “shop local” theme, and residents are being encouraged to shop online for items they can’t find locally, giving the city valuable use tax revenue from online sales.
In April, Jerr-Dan, a major manufacturer of towing and rescue equipment, announced a contract with Truck Source of Perry to upfit its towing and recovery vehicles. Richard Crow, owner of Truck Source and Farm Source – a company that upfits farm vehicles with Crownline truck beds – says the operations are expected to add 25 to 45 jobs.
Pannell says that Perry’s largest employer, the former Ditch Witch company that manufactures trenching equipment, was acquired two years ago by Toro and soon will add a manufacturing line from a plant in California that closed.
Many Oklahomans are already familiar with Perry, located about 45 miles south of the Kansas border. More than 66,000 children and about 9,000 teachers have visited the Cherokee Strip Museum, operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society, for its living history program at the Rose Hill Schoolhouse on the museum grounds, says Diana Simon, the museum’s manager. The museum also has a new, working blacksmith shop.
The landmark features exhibits about the land run of 1893, early homesteading, agriculture and town life, including a general store, dress shop and doctor offices from Noble County’s early years.
Also drawing numerous visitors is Perry’s downtown town square, several restaurants and the Wrestling Monument Park, located downtown and honoring Perry High School’s incredibly successful wrestling program. Perry Maroons wrestling teams have claimed 43 state championships – a national record – and 176 individual championships over the years.
Main Street of Perry Executive director Connie Smith says that activity has begun picking up thanks to the easing of restrictions on public gatherings. The city’s long-standing Spring Car Show, sponsored by the Perry Chamber of Commerce, was revived in April after a one-year hiatus, and the Main Street organization’s Mingle on Main is ticketed for June 5, July 3 and Aug. 7, says Smith. Mingle on Main offers food truck vendors, a farmers market, games, fitness classes and other events, says Smith. “Something different each month.”
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT PERRY:
Main Street of Perry
Cherokee Strip Museum
2617 W. Fir Ave.
BMAC Baseball Park