Sometimes movies leave a lasting impression on you. For me, the mid-1990s produced some of the greatest films that I still watch with the same enthusiasm as a new release. Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, and one especially close to me….Twister. Why? If you knew elementary school Jeff, one of my big interests was weather. I’d sit in front of the weather channel for hours at a time watching national weather reports. I dressed up as a weather man for career day in 3rd grade. In college, I would give a weekly weather report to my fraternity brothers pretending I was in front of a green screen. So, you can say I earned my weather nerd card. I still remember in May of 1996, Dad, Danny Volek, Andrew and I saw Twister at the Irving AMC. It was amazing, and helped to pique my interest even more in weather. Some of my Baylor friends loved it too, and we would watch it annually, quoting the same lines over and over again. Its crazy to think that 20 years have gone by since that time, but its true. In honor of that, my Irving buddy Andy Muskrat, who amazingly likes Twister and can quote it even better than me, came up to Tulsa on Sunday evening for a pilgrimage to the epicenter of Twister-lore- the tiny town of Wakita, OK.
|Andy in Wakita, which is surrounded by wheat fields.|
Any Twister fan knows the city of Wakita. Set high in central Oklahoma about 20 miles south of Kansas, the town was a key part of the movie as the place where an F5 tornado as Dusty would say looks to “hit Wakita head on”. The cool part is that it wasn’t just a made up Hollywood town- we could go and visit the actual place they filmed it. Even cooler is the fact a Twister Movie Museum still operates there 20 years after the movie was completed.
Andy and I hit the road around 8:30 on Monday after he had made reservations at the Twister Museum with a nice lady named Linda Wade for a private tour (its normally closed on Mondays). We took 412 west to 35N, then exited and turned left at Blackwell. It was about 30 miles to go west on Highway 11 so, being the Twister geeks we are, we started playing the Twister soundtrack, composed by Mark Mancina, which totally fit the bucolic driving view around Northern Oklahoma. We saw lots of farm equipment and combines on the side of the road, kind of wishing we would have to dodge some in the air if a tornado were to pop up among the surrounding wheat fields.
We arrived to Wakita at 11 am and drove through the town. At a population of a little over 400, it seemed smaller. The main street was just 5 or 6 blocks long, flanked with streets of houses on the right, and large wheat silos on the left. It wasn’t hard to find the museum, which turned out to be where the directors and executive producers (Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Speilberg) had made their offices during the shoot.
|Entrance to the Twister The Movie Museum. Wakita, OK|
|Andy chats with Linda about Bill Paxton's popularity with the||Wakita locals.|
|Jeff playing Twister pinball, donated by Bill Paxton.|
After the museum tour was complete and we got all the pictures we desired, we walked a few blocks to a couple of other important filming locations. Anyone who has seen Twister remembers the sweeping scene of the Wakita water tour as the crew leaves town to chase another tornado. Its still there, and got some pics near it. According to Linda, they wanted to paint over the town’s name for the movie, but it would cost $10,000 to repaint it, so they just left the name on there. The rest is history.
Another key place on the tour was Aunt Meg’s house…..or at least where it used to be, for we all know the tornado that hit Wakita left Aunt Meg’s “car in a tree around the corner”. The lot where her house stood is still there on Elm Street
|Street where crew parked to eat at Aunt Meg's.|
|The yard and former house location.|
Touring a town is tiring. It was time for lunch. What better place to assuage our hunger than at a place on Main Street called the Twister Café? Actually, we only had 2 options- the Twister Café or the grocery store, which had a special on fried chicken. We chose the former. After a 2 block walk, we arrived at the cash only Twister Café for some really delicious bacon and cheese burgers.
|Bacon burger with waffle fries- Twister Cafe special|
There were a total of 7 people inside a small, wooden building with a husband and wife running the place. We ate quietly but soundly, as the burgers did not disappoint- the buns were buttered and grilled to give it that great crisp taste. Also, it was great listening to small town folk talk about dogs, gossip and all else that comes with living in small town Oklahoma.The community board in the restaurant spoke volumes. Town events (the Twister 20th Anniversary block party is May 14th), items for sale, and one sign that read "The only similarity between Obama and God is that neither have a birth certificate." Yes, we were still in the reddest state in the US.
|Andy and me with Dorothy I|
We had done enough F-5 damage for one day in our visit, we packed up our museum shirts, postcards and gifts and headed back to the big city. Wakita seems a world away from Tulsa, even though its only a little over 2 hours. I’m thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Twister in the spot it was filmed, and for chance to get away for a bit from the bustle of everyday life. On May 14th, I'll be watching Twister again at my house to celebrate this cool movie as an Oklahoma institution. Make it a great day!