October 6, 2010 Edition

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H.T. Moore of Paragould (from left) and Frank Wilson and Charles Snapp, both of Walnut Ridge, discuss the sculpture that will be placed at the Walnut Ridge Airport to memorialize the Beatles landing at the airport in September of 1964.

Beatles sculpture first
phase of tourism project

Gretchen Hunt

During a Chamber of Commerce quarterly meeting on Thursday, the Lawrence County Tourism Committee unveiled plans for two attractions along Rock and Roll Highway 67, including a sculpture to memorialize the Beatles' September 1964 visit to the Walnut Ridge Airport.

The sculpture, which is a life-size replica of the Abbey Road album cover, will be located at the airport and is almost completely funded, according to committee members.

The group also announced plans for a guitar walk, to be located along Highway 67 in downtown Walnut Ridge.

T his project will focus on the rock and roll stars, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Fats Domino, who played at clubs along Highway 67 in the 1950s.

Dr. Brett Cooper, chair of the committee, said the idea is to give people traveling the Rock and Roll Highway a reason to stop and spend some of their tourism dollars in Lawrence County.

"Tourism is economic development," Cooper said. "The fact is when folks drive through, they stop and eat and get fuel. Every dollar spent in a community turns over about five times."

According to tourism officials, Lawrence County had $12.9 million in tourism revenue last year, a number committee members hope to see rise in the coming years.

Cooper said while the area cannot produce a tourist attraction at the level of Six Flags or Disney World, the committee decided to take a hard look at what the county has and work on developing it.

"We are building on something that has been handed to us," he said. "The Rock and Roll Highway refers to a period of history that means a lot to a lot of folks. If we don't develop it, it's just a quaint road sign."

Cooper said his committee, which consists of Charles and Jackie Snapp, Vickie Mitchell, Danny West and Sue Gibson, has been energetic and visionary.

"They have put hours and hours of creative effort into this," he said.

Beatles visit unique to WR

Charles Snapp told Chamber members that when the tourism committee began making plans for how to tap into the potential Rock and Roll Highway traffic, they decided very quickly to capitalize on one of Walnut Ridge's claims to fame - being the Beatles' only stop in Arkansas.

Because of that, the committee is working with the local high school art departments to create a painting of the aircraft on the ground in front of the terminal building, along with footprints to replicate the Beatles' steps from their plane.

"We will be encouraging everyone to walk in their steps," West said.

The footprints will also lead to the sculpture, which will be individual cutouts of the Beatles in front of an etched brushed aluminum background to replicate the Abbey Road album cover.

Committee members unveiled a model of the sculpture. They eventually plan to display the model at the proposed guitar walk to link the two attractions together.

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