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Okmulgee in the News

Chamber Planning Three Days of Fun Activities, Music and Great Barbecue

The Pecan Festival returns to downtown Okmulgee June 8 through June 10, and lots of fun activities are being planned.

Pecan Festival Committee Co-chairmen Shannon Prescott and Clint Wilson say plans call for favorites from last year to return, along with new features this year.

“Of course, the carnival will be here, along with food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, musical entertainment, and the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned barbecue competition,” says Prescott. “But we’re bringing some new things to this year’s event.”

“The festival opens Thursday evening with popular KOTV Meteorologist Travis Meyer,” says Wilson. “He will be broadcasting from the Festival. Thursday evening is also Wristband Night at the carnival where those who purchased wristbands can ride until the carnival closes at 11 p.m. And hometown favorite Brent Giddens will be entertaining at a street dance, so we’re inviting everyone to bring their lawn chairs and dancing shoes and come and join the fun.”

Prescott and Wilson go on to say renown stunt rider Cody Elkins is returning and will be performing Friday and Saturday. He will be available for autographs and photos, and fans can buy his T-shirts as well.
Saturday will be an entire day of fun activities. The morning begins with the return of the turtle races, and youngsters will also want to bring their pets downtown for the Pet Parade, which is new this year.

“The Lions Club will be operating the turtle races and the Rotary Club is sponsoring the Pet Parade,” explains Prescott. “We are delighted these organizations are partnering with us this year!”
The Lions Club is also bringing the Oklahoma Lions Service Foundation’s mobile health unit. In addition to offering a variety of medical screenings, the unit offers vision screenings for kids. It will be available all three days of the festival.

A 5K fun run is in the works also. It will begin Saturday morning at the YMCA and end on 7th Street near the Orpheum. Wilson says once the details are finalized, registration forms will be available at the Chamber office and on the Chamber’s website - www.okmulgeechamber.org.

A new feature to this year’s Pecan Festival is the pecan cooking contest. Sponsored by Bill and Danna Martin, owners of Tree Top Pecans, the competition is open to anyone. There are two divisions for competing: the Junior division which is open to students up to the 12th grade; and the Adult division which is open to anyone 18 years old and out of high school. The winner in each category will receive $100. Second and third place winners will receive a ribbon and gift certificate. Competition rules and regulations are also available at the Chamber office and on the website.

Another new feature is the 6x6 Art Show sponsored by Okmulgee Main Street’s Design Committee. “The theme this year is simply ‘pecans,’” says Design Committee Chairperson Julie Roberds. “We are encouraging artists to use their imaginations and design anything pecan-related.” The canvasses can be purchased for $6 each at the Main Street office at 100 E. 6th. The completed entries must be returned to the Main Street office no later than end of business Friday, June 2.

Also returning this year is the Ribs & Roll Barbecue Competition, but this year’s event is a two-day competition. Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, participants will compete for prize money and points. First day of the competition is Saturday, June 9, and the second day is Sunday, June 10. Although the competitors’ entries are strictly for judging, several of the competitors have agreed to cook for Tasters’ Kits that will be for sale Saturday.

A new feature to the competition is Barbecue 101. Some of the award-winning cooks will be holding short, informal sessions where they will share their expertise in barbecuing and grilling. “These sessions are designed for the backyard barbecue chef who simply wants to improve his or her skills,” explains Wilson. There is no cost for the Barbecue 101 sessions.

Okmulgee’s Fraternal Order of Police are sponsoring a “Kids Safety Zone” where they will have a Police cruiser and fire truck on hand for kids to see. Police officers and fire fighters will be on hand to visit with the kids too.
What is sure to be a popular event in the safety zone is a dunk tank sponsored by the FOP. Police officer Tim Harkrider says local celebrities and community leaders have agreed to sit in the tank while festival goers pay to try to dunk them.

Friday and Saturday evenings offer two bands each night who will entertain festival goers. Prescott and Wilson say people can sit and listen, or dance the evening away. They point out there is no cost for the concerts, which will take place in the parking lot at 7th and Morton, just east of the Orpheum.
Wilson and Prescott point out that due to the Council House renovation project, the arts and crafts vendors, and the Chamber’s booth are all being moved out onto the streets. Arts and crafts vendors will be on Grand Ave. between 6th and 7th Streets, while the food trucks, the beer garden and tent will be on Morton Ave. between 6th and 7th Streets. Chamber Executive Director Kay Rabbitt-Brower says the Chamber is still accepting applications for arts and crafts vendors and entries for the barbecue competition.
“The fee to have a booth in the arts and crafts area is $100,” says Rabbitt-Brower. “We have a special rate of $75 for Chamber members, also.”

The Chamber booth will be located in front of the Arlington Building on 6th Street between Morton and Grand Avenues.

“The Chamber will be selling the official Pecan Festival T-shirts, Koozies, and bottled water, along with serving as the source of information about the festival,” explains Prescott. “We will also be serving barbecue sandwiches complete with chips and a soft drink in the Chamber’s food truck.”

“We are still working to finalize some details, but we want the community to know we’ve been working hard to make sure this is a fun event,” says Wilson. “We are proud of Okmulgee and want both residents and visitors to feel the sense of ‘community’ Okmulgee offers.”

Wilson and Prescott want to remind everyone there is still time to sign up to volunteer during the Pecan Festival. “This is certainly a volunteer-driven event, and we have a lot of fun opportunities for anyone wanting to volunteer,” says Prescott.

Anyone with questions about the Pecan Festival is encouraged to contact the Chamber of Commerce at 918-756-6172 or drop by the office at 112 N. Morton. Information, vendor applications, and barbecue entry forms can be found on the Chamber’s website at www.okmulgeechamber.org.

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Pictured left to right: Lion Brenda Thompson, Clint Wilson, Anthony Nieto, and President Lion R.C. Morrow.  (Photo by Dean Craig).

By Dean Craig Okmulgee Lion

I had heard an old adage years ago that says, "the harder I work, the luckier I get". Friday I got a call from Lion Rusty Milroy checking on a program space for the upcoming Pecan Festival, but the earliest time available was the first Tuesday in June. However, checking my e-mails a little later, I found a last-minute cancellation for Tuesday's program. So, as fate would have it, or luck if you prefer, not to worry because a program awaits in the wings.

Tuesday's Lions Club meeting brought us two members of the Pecan Festival committee in the persons of Clint Wilson, Chamber of Commerce Board President, and Anthony Nieto, Okmulgee Times General Manager. Both expressed pleasure that the Pecan Festival had been reinstated last year after about a 10 year hiatus. And this year's line-up provides a little bit of everything for all ages, so there will not be the need to sit around the Council House because of boredom. First of all, the Council House is cordoned off for repairs, so don't even think about feeding the squirrels. And secondly, speaking of feeding, all kinds of food vendors have already signed up to be here to tempt your palate.

Thursday evening kicks off with Channel 6 meteorologist Travis Meyer doing the weather from downtown, and the carnival opening with unlimited rides with the purchase of the special bracelet. OSUIT is sponsoring a pecan pie bake-off and any other pecan desserts, judged by a Tulsa World employee and a Merritt's Bakery employee. Pecan pie from Coleman's will be available. The Lions Club will again be sponsoring the turtle race with cash prizes, and the Rotary Club will sponsor the Pet Parade. Cody Elkins, motorcycle stunt rider, will be back as well as Brent Giddens and other musicians. The BBQ cook-off will be Friday and Saturday, and it is sanctioned as a regional qualifier for points in the Kansas City BBQ championship contest. Tasting kits will be available on Saturday. And, of course, the 5K run will be held again. So, why sit at home and sweat when you can come downtown and sweat?

The Oklahoma Lions Mobile Health Screening Unit will be here Friday and Saturday, providing eight health tests that would normally cost about $300, but is FREE! Tests include blood pressure, body mass index, lung function, visual acuity, bone density, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and glaucoma. The Spot Vision Camera is another tool that will be available (target age is 6 months to 6 years) and it tests for myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (blurred vision), anisometropic (unequal refractive power), strabismus (eye misalignment), amblyopia (lazy eye), and anisocoria (unequal pupil size). The parents will be given a print-out of the results. This testing is also FREE, compliments of the Okmulgee Lions Club.

We appreciate the response of Clint Wilson and Anthony Nieto to fill this void and to give an overview of the upcoming Pecan Festival on June 8-10, and what it will hopefully mean to the community.

On a related note, the 100-year celebration commemorative glass was won by Lion Rusty Milroy, as the 11th name drawn. The names drawn, but not present, were: Donna Thomas, James Thompson (ineligible, previous winner), Tim Walker, Dolph Hayden, Richard Larabee, Philip Wright, Andrew Balint, Alicia Dudley, Christie Baldridge, and Dr. James Ward. We are still looking for a few more good men and women to share in service to this community. "WE SERVE".
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A host of dedicated Okmulgee Lions spent some "extracurricular activity" time to feed approximately 75 senior students and teachers Wednesday morning. The Lions began arriving around 6 a.m. at the Okmulgee Community Center to prepare for what they are known for---pancake day. This was the Lions' way of giving tribute to the Senior Class of 2017 for their contribution to our community and to say "Godspeed" toward your future, in keeping with the Lions' motto: "WE SERVE".
(Photo provided)

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President Elect Darryl Raley visits with his guest speaker, Tom Pope of Sapulpa. Tom is a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, which is a group of devoted men and women that attend funerals, welcome home and send-off events for military personnel, first responders and honorably discharged veterans. The organization began in 2005 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and is now a nationwide network with around 150,000 members. Although recognized for their motorcycles, Tom stresses you don’t have to ride to be involved; all that is required is the desire to show respect to those that serve us. The group holds no formal meetings and has no dues. Communication is done through state and national websites. Tom also stressed that they only attend services and events if invited and that they are not a protest or counter-protest organization. For more information, you can visit their website: patriotguard.org.

...Agents with the Consumer Protection Unit in Elk City today

OKLAHOMA CITY – Agents with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s Consumer Protection Unit are in Elk City today to visit with home and business owners who were impacted by severe weather this week.

Attorney General Hunter said severe weather events bring out fraudulent activity and caution Oklahomans to be aware of potential fraud.

“Having a physical presence with agents on the ground, we will be able to warn individuals in person, which will hopefully raise more awareness about potential fraud,” Hunter said. “It is unfortunate, but scammers wait for significant weather events to prey upon individuals.

“I encourage individuals to seek out agents to get information on how to avoid potential scams. Additionally, individuals or companies that come to the state looking to defraud Oklahomans, need to be made aware that my office will prosecute for any crimes committed.

“My thoughts and prayers remain with those who were affected by severe weather. With storm season continuing in the state, I encourage Oklahomans to have a plan in place to keep their families safe.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit offers the following tips to avoid contractor fraud:

Ask for referrals from people you trust and for references from contractors;
Avoid fly-by-night companies and use local companies established in the community;
Obtain written estimates from multiple contractors;
Ensure roofers are registered with the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board by calling (405) 521-6550 or check the online database at http://cib.ok.gov/are-they-licensed;
Be cautious of door-to-door solicitation, contractors who ask for a substantial up-front payment or request cash payment, use high pressure or aggressive sales tactics or resist the use of a written contract;
Do not give out bank account information, social security or driver’s license numbers;

If contractors identify themselves with a federal or state government agency, ask for credentials and call the agency they claim to be with.

For more information or to report a complaint, individuals are encouraged to contact the Consumer Protection Unit by phone at (405) 521-2029, email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the consumer protection website and fill out an online complaint form, here.

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A severe thunderstorm warning remains in effect until 10 p.m. for southwestern parts of Okmulgee and Okfuskee counties. Severe thunderstorms were located along a line extending from near Slick to near Okmulgee State Park, moving northeast at 45 mph. Beware of 70 mph wind gusts and quarter size hail that radar has indicated and hail damage to vehicles is expected plus considerable tree damage. Wind damage is also likely to mobile homes, roofs, and outbuildings.

Locations in or near the path include Okmulgee, Okemah, Henryetta, Morris, Weleetka, Dewar, Schulter and Okmulgee State Park

The Okmulgee County Emergency Management Director Timothy Craighton cautions the public to take precautionary and preparedness actions by being aware,” said Craighton. “To be weather aware, is to listen to the weather on the radio or TV and signing up to get alerts throughout the county to be notified of bad weather through our CodeRed.

To enroll, visit the Okmulgee City website at http://www.okmulgeeonline.com. Click on the Residents Tab, then the Emergency Notification System tab and next click CodeRED.
Be sure to save 866-419-5000 in your phone's contact list so you can recognize when a call is from emergency notification.

Craighton said, “the heavy rains is going to be the main issue tonight into tomorrow. Do not drive into flooded Waters, remember, ‘turn around don't drown’ and stay alert. If there's a tornado warning, going to the center most part of your house and protecting yourself with blankets and pillows is still the safest thing to do if you do not have a storm shelter.”

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Pictured left to right: Trooper Brian Costanza, Terry Costanza, and Program Chairman Lion R.C. Morrow. (Photos by Dean Craig)

By Dean Craig Okmulgee Lion

Tuesday's Lions Club meeting was a long-awaited program by local OHP Trooper Brian Costanza, who talked about his role in bringing multiple-killer, Michael Dale Vance, Jr., to justice.  When Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin gave her State of the State Address, she publicly recognized Trooper Costanza and the six other officers who were involved in bringing this fugitive down.  Trooper Costanza was named Oklahoma Trooper of the Year, won the Southern Region Trooper of the Year in Phoenix (there are four regions), and got a trip to Philadelphia for the National Award, which was awarded to an Oregon Trooper, who was shot 12 times, with five bullets piercing his body.  Regardless, Trooper Costanza is still #1 in our hearts.

Costanza was born in Tulsa but lived in the Twin Hills area, and graduated from Morris in 1996.  He always knew from a young age that he wanted to be a trooper.  He holds a degree in criminal justice from East Central University and worked for the Okmulgee Police Department for about a year before being selected to attend the OHP Academy.  He stated that other than marrying his wife Terry, this was the best decision he ever made.  Upon graduating from the patrol academy, he was originally assigned to Washington and Nowata Counties, then Creek County, and then to Okmulgee County for the last 10 plus years.

Recounting the final night of the week-long manhunt, Trooper Costanza stated that there had been several false-alarm sightings of Vance in various places.  However, when a positive sighting of Vance in Western Oklahoma was announced, Costanza said he immediately began the three and a half hour trip to the area around Hammon.  As Team Leader of the Tactical Team, he felt he needed to be there even though he hadn't been requested.  He had previously shared all the week-long events leading up to this fatal night, even discussions with fellow troopers on what to do if they engaged Vance.  Needless to say, Costanza was surrounded by fellow troopers who had the right mind-set, the proper training, and the burning desire to get this guy "off the road" before he killed more people, possibly fellow troopers.

When Trooper Costanza arrived in the area, the chatter on the radio from the helicopter and troopers on the ground indicated that Vance was going east on Road 830, exactly where Costanza was located.  Spotting the pickup Vance was driving, Costanza joined the chase as the lead vehicle.  Because of the drought condition of the dirt road they were on, the trooper said the dust was worse than driving in a deluge of rain.  His only thought was, "God, don't let me crash".

He emphatically stated that God had His hand on this event because Vance turned south (to a paved road) rather than north to another dirt road.  A road block was set up on this south road and Costanza knew he had to engage Vance before he got to the road block where fellow officers were, and knowing Vance would not hesitate to fire at them.  Reaching for his bullet-proof vest and his M4 rifle, Costanza found it impossible to get his vest on, so, grabbing his rifle, he fired through the windshield, forcing Vance to stop his vehicle and exit, using the vehicle as a shield, all while continuing to fire at the troopers following.  But Costanza put Vance down, probably saving more lives at the hand of Vance.

I'm reminded of Luke 4:10 that says, "For it is written, He shall give His Angels charge over you, to keep you".  I have already alluded to the song by Alabama (in a previous article) that says, "Oh, I believe there are Angels among us, sent down to us from Someone up above".  And we are so thankful that no one else was harmed.  Thank you, ALL law enforcement for all you do to keep us safe.

On a related note, Lion David Fetgatter won the 100-year celebration glass as the 11th name drawn.  The previous 10 names drawn, but not present, were: Barrett Corsini, Philip Wright, ShaVon McClanathan, Renee Dove, Mike Keaton, Richard Larabee, Jim McClendon, Lacey Azbell, Brenda Thompson, and Jon Giddings.  We are still looking for a few more men and women to put their name in the "hat".  Come join us.  "WE SERVE".

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Monday, May 15 is the last day applications can be submitted for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's popular Controlled Hunts program.

For $5, sportsmen can put their name in the running for this special slate of unique-to-Oklahoma draw hunts for deer, elk, antelope and turkey. Some of the available hunts are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Others include hunts on Department or other government-owned or managed lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.

The online application process must be completed through the Wildlife Department's website at wildlifedepartment.com. Applicants whose names are not selected for 2016 earn preference points toward future years' drawings.

Applications are offered online through a secure process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, and a print-out confirmation page is available for sportsmen to document their submitted application.

Log on to http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/controlledhunts.htm for complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing chances of being selected as well as a full listing of available hunts for elk, deer, antelope and turkey.

APPLY HERE

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Pictured left to right: Skylene Willingham, Braydon Hunter, and Program Chairman Lion Craig Brydges. (Photo by Dean Craig).

By Dean Craig Okmulgee Lion

WOW!  And double WOW!!  What a powerful teaching experience was given to us Lions by Braydon Hunter, Okmulgee High School senior who has earned his way to the speech National Finals in Alabama in June (17).  Lion Craig Brydges was the program chairman and a retired teacher of 36 years, a former Speech and Drama teacher for OHS, who had four students go to Nationals, one of whom won a National Championship.  He introduced present OHS Speech teacher, Skylene Willingham, who introduced Braydon Hunter to the club.

In her introduction, Willingham stated that Hunter had come to her and wanted to be in competitive speech, his first year.  And the rarity of it all, no one accomplishes the goals that Hunter had, and in his first year.  And all this was accomplished by competing against all schools with no class divisions, including schools like Booker T. Washington, Sapulpa, and others.  What is so amazing is that nearly all of the competing speech coaches would come up to her and ask, "where did you find this kid"?

Hunter was born in Idabel but the family moved to Okmulgee shortly thereafter, but his beginning school experience was met with disastrous results by being expelled from kindergarten for his disruptive behavior.  Again being expelled from the third grade, he returned to Idabel to live with his grandmother to complete the school year.  Somewhere along the way, he "got it" and now is a straight A student, participates in sports, with no behavior problems.

Hunter writes poetry and wanted to do a poetry speech but was told that poetry was not a category, so he would need to just do a speech, however, did incorporate some poetry in his speech.  What a powerful and impactful 8-10 minute speech he gave, one that was prone to bring tears to your eyes.  He declared that he was a ghetto child, which is not a black thing but a ghetto thing.  He referred to the movie "Slum Dog Millionaire" and of the increase in poverty among minorities, with 22,000 children dying each day around the world due to poverty.  His way out was that he found wisdom.  As a result, he will be attending college at Cameron University (Lawton) on scholarship, the first in his family to attend college.

After his very moving speech, Hunter had time for a questions/answer session.  My question was what happened to change this behavioral-problem child into this now straight A model student?  His answer was, "when I made my mother cry" because she thought I would turn out to be a criminal, and when a teacher told him that she believed in him and that he could be successful at whatever he wanted to do.  I cannot help but "editorialize" on the fact that a teacher was just doing her job but performed a miracle.  Two occupations that are among some of the lower-paid jobs but require the highest "callings" are teachers and preachers.  One prepares our students for the "game of life", and the other prepares us for eternal life.  In Japan, some of the highest paid jobs are teachers, because they realize the value of education.  And lest anyone thinks the cost of education is high, try ignorance.

In summation, this young man is needing to raise approximately $3,600 for the eight days in Alabama for the national competition.  So, if you have some spare funds that you could give, what a marvelous investment it will be to this young man and to this community.

On a related note, the 100-year celebration glass was won by Lion Thomas Taylor, whose name was drawn last week but he was not present.  The eight names drawn, but not present, were: Renee Dove, Jon Giddings, Barrett Corsini, ShaVon McClanathan, Philip Wright, Jill Moore, Alicia Dudley, and David Fetgatter.  We're still looking for a few more good men and women to enter their names in the drawing.  "WE SERVE". 

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Pictured left to right: Program Chairman Lion Kyle Powell, Rose Washington, and President Lion R.C. Morrow. (Photo by Dean Craig with excerpts by Samuel Hardiman, Tulsa World)

By Dean Craig Okmulgee Lion

When is it permissible to begin a story with....and a good time was had by all....rather than at the end of the story? Well, sir, it just happened Tuesday when the Lions and guests began assembling for the program by Rose Washington, executive director of the Tulsa Economic Development Corp. As everyone began arriving, it rapidly became a "meet and greet" session with all the hand-shaking and hugging going on, and the excitement building in quickly becoming a "who's who in Okmulgee". These guests were even inspiring to the Lions, and the meeting outdid all the social interaction of a local bean dinner or even the Lions semi-annual pancake dinner.

Guests in attendance were: Margaret Hess, Julie Roberds, and Larry Killibrew, Green Country Technology Center; Luke, Aaron, and Paul Abbott, Covington Aircraft Engines; Dr. Bob Klabenes, OADC; Terry Bemis, Paige Hayden, and Terry Costanza, First National Bank; Keith Estes, First National Bank, Henryetta; and Lion Jim Vaughn's daughter, Sherri. Luke Abbott won the $2.00 bingo prize, but don't think for a moment that the mean ole' Tail Twister would let him keep it--not a chance, even though we usually don't fine guests. Of course, we can always make exceptions.

Washington began her program by explaining her roots of being born in Pickens, Mississippi, and raised by her grandmother, a former sharecropper, who raised 13 children in a house her grandmother built. Even though her grandmother only had a third grade education, she was full of common sense and sage advice in instilling into Washington that she could do anything she wanted to do. And Washington recounted a number of these wise sayings that her grandmother shared with her, which reminded me of a wise saying that I heard by an elderly black lady--"son, if the mountain was flat, you couldn't climb it". Hmmm!

"She is why I am", Washington said of the woman who died when she was 22. The grandmother was a strong proponent of education, as was Washington, who earned an MBA, and later was an adjunct professor at a University. She met a Tulsan in Los Angeles, when she was teaching at USC (eight years), whom she married, and he later wanted to come back to Tulsa, and that's how she came to be in Tulsa. And she has been a catalyst for economic development in the region for 15 years, helping connect businesses with funding they otherwise wouldn't get through the non-profit she has run since late-2001.

Washington's work and reputation have propelled her to a position that only one other Tulsan has held; chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's board of directors. She was appointed to the position in January. Her role at the Fed gives the central bank's leaders a perspective that augments what economic data show and gives northeastern Oklahoma a voice at the table with key policymakers in Kansas City and in Washington, D.C.

After the meeting, Heather Sumner (Mainstreet) and Margaret Hess (Green Country Technology Center) met with Washington about similar things going on in Okmulgee that Tulsa is doing, which can benefit both communities. And it appears that Okmulgee has developed a good resource in Rose Washington. And the Lions Club continues to reach out to the community for a few more good men and women so that we can continue to be a valuable resource. "WE SERVE".
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