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Yesterday I stopped by the Arkansas State Fair… first to thank Harrison Welcome Center manager, Leesha Miller and her husband for working the Arkansas Parks and Tourism booth in the Hall of Industry and second to stroll down memory lane along the Midway.

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Leesha is one of 14 managers of Welcome Centers along the borders of our state.  These centers greet thousands of visitors to Arkansas each day providing information, printed materials and directions to all the wonders of our Natural State.  Leesha is particularly excited because her beautiful new Harrison Welcome Center will have an official grand opening November 2, 2018 … just a couple of weeks away.  My personal thanks to all of the staff at Arkansas Welcome Centers.  You make us proud!

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Okay … back to the Midway … so many memories.

When I was a child, my parents always took us to the State Fair. We rode the rides, tried our skills at the ring toss and enjoyed greasy burgers and sticky taffy.  We usually went to the rodeo but always walked through the animal barns …  I fondly remember this even more than the rides because this is where my dad taught me the importance of farming, agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

Sure, it’s fun to play on the Midway … however, to walk the cattle and pig barns,  is to better understand the fundamentals of our Arkansas history and economy.

After all, Agriculture is our Number one industry.

But don’t forget … Tourism is #2 at over $7 Billion.

And,  at the Arkansas State Fair there is a blending of both.

 

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With this full rainbow sighting, we knew we had hit the motherlode.

And, sure enough, we had … hitting the Rockies when the Aspen color was at it’s peak.  Just like rich veins of gold and copper, the iridescent brilliance laced itself through the forest beckoning us to explore every trail, road and vista.  Had we been panning for gold, we could not have been more richly rewarded.

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Daughter, Donna and Son in Law, John

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Patti and Jim

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In some areas, many of the trees were beginning to lose their leaves.  Even at that, there is something really beautiful about the huge clusters of white bark trees … especially if the colors subtly appear as though an artist has dabbed his brush randomly onto the tree tops.

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To make things even more comfortable and relaxing, each day after mining for gold and retail treasures, we returned to this modest (give me a break) home located between Breckenridge and Frisco, Co.   As John would say ” this is Patti and Donna’s idea of roughing it“.

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For many years we ventured to Colorado for family snow skiing.  Now we go to enjoy cooler, drier weather in the Summer and Fall.  This time we truly did hit the jackpot with the most beautiful Fall Colors we have ever experienced.

September is not a bad time to tour the Rockies!

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For years Patti and I have intended to visit the Little Portion Hermitage near Berryville. Well yesterday we did just that … and what a special treat it was. This Catholic Community of Brothers and Sisters of Charity live a monastic life of prayer, service to the poor and the neighboring communities.

In my role as Arkansas Tourism Director, I was the keynote speaker at the Berryville Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet.  Following the dinner, a spirited … and I do mean spirited … woman named Viola, cornered Patti asking “where is that tourism guy?” From the moment I met her she was a bundle of energy backed up with a bundle of printed cards and information on the Hermitage and it’s 40th anniversary celebration happening over the next few days.

Below are a few pictures from our visit. The first picture includes monastic community founders, Viola and John Michael Talbot. Viola has an idea for Tourism. She suggested a Road Trip Trail including the Little Portion Hermitage, Saint Elizabeth Bell Tower entry Church in Eureka Springs and the Passion Play. I think this is worthy of discussion.

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This past weekend was a wonderful example of an Arkansas Discovery Road Trip.  You will hear lots more about road trips on our web site:  Arkansas.com

Randy and Gayla Wolfinbarger, owners of the Inn of the Ozarks,  made the weekend even more special. Breakfast at the Inn was great.

Finally, I must mention that we stopped to check out our new Arkansas Welcome Center in Harrison, Arkansas.  This building is beautiful, functional and loaded with friendly staff and info …  all there to make your Arkansas experience the best possible.

For further info regarding the Hermitage … services, bakery, tours, etc. go to littleportion.org

 

2018 Gridiron production a phenomenal success.

Last night with our friends Nancy and Steve, Patti and I attended the 2018 Gridiron performance at the beautiful Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  The performance was awesome … what with humorous and pointed political musical scripts and a cast of characters representing familiar State, National and International leaders, an hour and a half literally flew by.  Circuit Judge Mary McGowan was the producer … well done Judge.  Craig Wilson was an amazing President Trump, Janis Kovalscik had the audience cheering with her representation  of Sarah Huckabee Sanders singing “Stand by this man” and our neighbor Judy Trice singing “I’m Still Here” hit a home run portraying Nancy Pelosi.

Yes … a great night in a packed house!  Now, the reality check … the Rep announced earlier this year that the theatre is closing due to financial struggles.  Last night was a reminder of how good it has been and how blessed we are to have the Repertory Theatre all these years. 

It’s not too late to SAVE THE REP … BUT IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US.

Founding Director, Cliff Baker reminded us last night that many have stepped up to contribute and great progress is being made toward  reopening and financial stability. There are some major donors but the long term success depends on the broader community support … a few dollars donated now and then the purchase of season tickets once reopened.  This certainly has gotten my attention … Patti and I commit to do our part.  I encourage each of you to do the same.  Thank you and Long Live the Rep!

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In the photo above, one can see world leaders and Presidential Press Secretary singing “Stand by this Man”.  My thanks to all of the 75 performers and volunteers.

I have visited Batesville several times in the past two months … once for a speaking event, once for a Regional meeting and last week for a Parks and Tourism Commission meeting.  This energetic city of just over 10,000 is a real winner.  With a strong economy, an excellent educational system, an active downtown with great restaurants, an amazingly restored Melba Theater and maybe the finest community aquatics center in any Arkansas city … Batesville has got it going on. Mayor Rick Elumbaugh  has led the charge with vision and city resources but he is quick to remind us that this positive momentum would not be happening without motivated citizens.

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Interior of the Melba Theater in downtown Batesville.  This was a community effort with volunteers reupholstering the 400 seats … lots of “hands on”.

Following the Commission meeting we went for lunch at Natalie’s.  Wow! some of the best home made sandwiches, salads and personal service. Top left picture in the group above.  

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Above and below are pictures of the awesome Jacksonport State Park Visitor Center.  From the outside, the contemporary glass and steel structure represents a riverboat from the past.  Inside is the historic museum and 360 degree views of the river and natural surroundings.  Personally, I think this will be one of the signature State Park Visitor Centers in the state.

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While I am wrapping up, I would be remiss if I did not remind you that Arkansas has 52 state parks.  If you are up for a rewarding road exercise … that’s just one state park a week to see all of them in a single year.  Happy Trails!

For more information, go to:  Arkansas.com

Black and white photography captivates me.  I am not that accomplished but thoroughly enjoy creative moments when black and white seems to fit the objective.

In particular the photo of Horseshoe Canyon on the Colorado River or falling snow in a wooded forest or an Historic Train engine. The shot of my granddaughter on a cold winter campout is a favorite as well.

I have mostly taken color shots during some 50 plus years.  However, expect to see more of my black and white in the future.

Enjoy and comment if you wish.  Oh, one other point … you can click on the small pictures and they should zoom in for a larger/closer view.

Finally, there is one picture I did not take … the old picture of me when I was a young president of the National Office Products Association way back in the 1980’s.

 

Aspen trees B&W

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The photo above is obviously not black and white.  However, this photo on the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Arkansas is one of my all time favorites.  In fact the colorless winter scene is only slightly enhanced by the curtain of always green bamboo along the river’s edge.  This will soon be a large photo blowup hanging on my office wall in the Arkansas Tourism Office.

Patti and I are blessed to have had such wonderful fathers.  Though both are gone, we take a moment on this special day to remember and be grateful.  Both men were loving, hard working Christian role models … as community leaders and as family leaders.  Our world is better because of them.   

Happy Fathers’s Day to Dalton and to Joe.  

With much love and thanks,

Patti and Jim

 

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