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An OKC community celebrates the arrival of spring with an interesting ritual

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Mike and Marilyn Gushwa, and Steve and Kim Iraggi, who are involved in the planning of the Ski Island sock burning ceremony, pose for a photo, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Mike and Marilyn Gushwa, and Steve and Kim Iraggi, who are involved in the planning of the Ski Island sock burning ceremony, pose for a photo, Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

It’s the time of year for no shoes, no shirt and no problems.

True, leather boots are still in style for manly footwear. But many Oklahomans see the onset of spring as the perfect time to shed shoes and socks in favor of flip-flops and sandals.

Now, Ski Island residents take the concept and set it aflame. The inaugural Ski Island Sock Burning Bash is 5 p.m. Saturday in the neighborhood’s Picnic Island, located in northwest Oklahoma City just west of Lake Hefner.

“The tradition of burning your socks at the first sign of spring is a maritime ritual for many, especially on the East Coast,” said Cordell Jordan, Ski Island Lake Club communications chairman. “I thought this was a perfect tradition for us in Ski Island, so why not bring it to Oklahoma?”

Sock burning, according to folklore, goes back to ancient sailors, Jordan said. They wore the same socks all winter. By spring, they were so disgusting, the only civilized thing to do was cleanse them with fire.

This rite of passage ushering in flip-flop season also is another way for the community to come together.

“As lake people, we were looking for an event to bring our neighbors together to welcome the springtime weather,” said Marilyn Gushwa, Ski Island social committee chairwoman. “This event is for Ski Island residents to get reacquainted with their neighbors who have all been holed up in their houses all winter.”

Going barefoot is not just a lifestyle, Gushwa said, but a way of life — one that resonates to her core.

“There’s no other feeling like the lake, with the wind in your hair and the sun on your back,” she said. “We visit our neighbors by boat. Every day from spring into early fall, we all do a ‘Ski Island Wave’ as we pass by in our boats or see a boater go by as we sit out by our docks with no shoes on.”

And Jordan said the “no shoes” rule also extends to “no shirt” — at least for men.

“There are few neighborhoods where you walk into your neighbor’s backyard in bare feet and shirtless and they invite you in for a drink,” Jordan said. “Most areas, you might get a call to the police, but not here. Sometimes I run up to the E-Z Mart at the corner and forget I don’t have the proper clothing on. But it really is a way of life.”

The Sock Burning Bash also includes an island crawfish and crab boil and jazz and contemporary music. Right now, organizers said all Ski Island residents are welcome. If this year’s event is a success, next year, organizers might open it up to all metro sock-shunners.

“At Ski Island, we look out for each other and enjoy island living and the island lifestyle landlocked right here in the city,” Jordan said. “At the sock burning, my feet will be the stark-white ones probably getting sunburned.”

Print headline: On fire, Ski Island sock shunners come together to welcome spring.

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