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TULSA TRADITION: The birth of Cry Baby Hill

Cry Baby Hill.jpg
Posted at 4:14 PM, Jun 07, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Tough, the three-day cycling festival in downtown Tulsa, kicks off June 7.

It has become a tradition for racers and spectators every year. However, the event that draws the rowdiest crowd is a Sunday side-show of sorts called “Cry Baby Hill.”

“It’s Tulsa’s version of Mardi Gras,” said co-founder Josh Gifford (sic). “It is a lawless effort for the love of cycling.”

It wasn’t always like that.

In its infancy, Cry Baby Hill, began with a small group of misfits that single-handedly grew into a full-fledged block party through word of mouth.

It’s only fitting that a booze-fest of skimpy clothes, costumes and cowbells for pestering would be co-created by a man who would only commit to the interview if 2 News called him Josh Gifford.

That’s not his name. It’s another co-founder’s name.

Today, organizers estimate thousands converge near 13th and S. Riverside to party and heckle the cyclists along the steepest hill on the route.

When did it start?

Tulsa’s biggest party started in the second year of Tulsa Tough.

Gifford and his friends played music and sold $5 burger combos in front of a friend’s house. It slowly grew each year.

Twelve years ago, one of them had an idea.

“A friend of ours went to Burning Man and came back and said, ‘we need to build a stage,’ so once we built a stage, it leveled up real quick,” said Gifford.

The community caught on. Back in the early days, spectators would stand in the streets until the racers were coming.

“The crowd would just part like the sea,” said Gifford. “There really has never been anything like it.”

When the crowds grew bigger, safety became an issue—especially one year when a woman stumbled out in front of a pace car.

“We ran out to help her and she ran off into the crowd,” he said. “I guess she’s OK—we hope you’re ok.”

What about now?

Barriers are set up and crowd control is monitored by those in referee outfits, whistles and, sometimes, wigs.

Cry Baby Hill is a very unofficial event for Tulsa Tough.

Aside from providing barriers, some security and water—that’s the only official thing about it.

“They disavow any of our antics,” Gifford said.

Why is it cry baby?

The name Cry Baby Hill is not just about a steep hill.

A lot of partygoers bring dolls to the event. It’s because the original clan brought a baby doll to one of the first events to taunt the cyclists.

What do neighbors think?

Neighbors have grown to embrace the revelry.

Cheryl Kincannon just moved to the neighborhood in January of this year. It is her first time to see it and she is excited.

“Well, I know I have walked up and down it with the Doberman grandpups; it is a steep, steep, hill,” she said. “I can’t wait to watch the bike riders.”

Kincannon’s homeowner’s association has a tent for watching and her next-door neighbor throws a party.

“He has a huge shindig all day long, so we plan to get lots of things to eat,” she said.

She said she’s been warned and prepared—if that’s even possible.

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