Article: QuikTrip celebrates the big 5-0

By | September 21, 2008

For 50 years, QuikTrip has been a great place to work.

Still, sometimes you’ve just got to chase your dreams.

On Saturday at RiverWest Festival Park, the QuikTrip Corp. threw itself a 50th birthday party in the form of a free eight-plus-hour concert that culminated with performances by Leon Russell and Hanson.

However, Uche Onwugbufor was glad to be on the bill earlier in the day. You see, as recently as February, you would have found the Wichita resident working for QuikTrip.

Onwugbufor worked as a manager for the organization for almost 20 years until retiring earlier this year to pursue what at one time seemed like a very unlikely musical career.

“It was time to move on and try different things,” he said Saturday.

Born in England, Onwugbufor has lived in the United States since he was in second grade. He was no childhood musical prodigy, though.

He said that he had a guitar for a long time that basically “became furniture” until about nine years ago when he became inspired to pick it up again.

Onwugbufor had written some lyrics about what he was experiencing in his personal life and quickly found that he had a lot to say.

Still, he said probably about three years went by until he began to play in public. Now, he is optimistic about the future for him and his band, The Crash.

He said that the type of music he plays and writes seems to strike a chord that cuts across demographic boundaries

“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” he said.

That attitude is reflected in his musical slogan “The Return of Good Music.”

Another band that played during Saturday’s concert could use the slogan “The Re-creation of Great Music.”

Pat Ross plays bass for Rattle and Hum Kansas City, a U2 tribute band that takes its name from the Irish supergroup’s 1988 film and accompanying CD release.

Like Onwugbufor, Ross has a QuikTrip connection. Unlike Onwugbufor, he has not quit his day job and has no plans to do so.

A Kansas City-area supervisor who oversees 14 stores, the 47-year-old Ross said he was a music major in college who quit playing for about 10 years. He eventually drifted back into the indie rock scene. Then he heard a few years ago that Rattle and Hum was searching for a bassist.

While the road to stardom for Onwugbufor and Ross may turn out to have passed through QuikTrip, the company did its part to provide a good audience for their Saturday performances.

Tulsa-area stores handed out 40,000 free tickets to the company’s 10-act anniversary festival.

With the headliners and the evening-ending fireworks yet to come, company officials estimated the crowd on the west bank of the river was 15,000 to 18,000 and growing.

“For QuikTrip, this is nothing but ‘Thank you, Tulsa,’ ” said company spokesman Mike Thornbrugh. “It looks like it’s turning out great.”

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Photo:Cory Young Tulsa World