April 20, 2011 Edition

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Dedication set for
Beatles sculpture

The Liverpool Legends will perform at the unveiling of the Beatles sculpture at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport in September.
The Beatles are coming back to Walnut Ridge! Plans have been set for a September unveiling of the Beatles sculpture that is to be erected at Walnut Ridge Regional Airport, and some special guests have committed to be a part of the ceremony.

The Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band from Branson, have committed to headline the event, which will be held Sept. 18 at the airport.

"We continue to be amazed at the response we are getting to the Beatles sculpture, as well as our planned guitar plaza downtown. The Liverpool Legends actually contacted us after seeing a story about our plans on a Springfield, Mo., TV station," said Charles Snapp, a member of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee, which is planning the project.

The tribute band is operated by Louise Harrison, sister of late Beatles member George Harrison, and she also plans to take part in the unveiling.

"Louise will turn 80 years old shortly before our event, so we are going to make her birthday celebration a part of our dedication ceremony," Snapp said. "The timing of all this has worked out remarkably well."

Sept. 18 is also the anniversary date for the Beatles' landing at the airport in 1964. The band flew into Walnut Ridge en route to a weekend vacation in southern Missouri and then returned two days later to fly out.

The tourism committee is developing two tourist attractions to highlight Lawrence County's position on Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67, including the sculpture to commemorate the Beatles' surprise visit.

Dubbed "The British Invasion of the Rock 'n' Roll Highway," the sculpture will be eight feet tall and 20 feet wide. It is an artistic rendering of the Beatles' iconic Abbey Road album cover and is to be placed in a grassy area between the airport terminal and the Wings of Honor Museum.

"Everything is coming together for a big celebration at the airport on Sept. 18," said committee chairman Brett Cooper. "We are anticipating an event all of Northeast Arkansas will be proud of and will be talking about for a long time to come."

The committee has secured several key commitments for the ceremony. Television station KAIT-8 and radio station KASU, both in Jonesboro, have signed on as co-sponsors to help promote the dedication ceremony, and the committee says it hopes to attract other media sponsors, as well.

Additionally, JR and Michelle Rogers, owners of All-Star Music, are donating the use of a stage and sound equipment for the event.

Other musical acts are also being lined up, according to the committee. Those performers will be announced as the date for the dedication draws closer.

The event will be free of charge to attend and will begin in the early afternoon of Sept. 18, which is a Sunday. Performances will run for several hours and culminate with the unveiling of the sculpture that evening.

Sculpture fully funded

The Beatles sculpture has already been fully funded through local donations, and the committee has also raised $14,000 thus far toward a related attraction, a guitar plaza along Front Street in downtown Walnut Ridge. The group estimates it will take over $30,000 to complete the plaza.

The guitar plaza, which will be 100 feet long and shaped like a 1950s era electric guitar, will be lined with sculptures of rock 'n' roll performers, who once traveled and performed at venues along Highway 67. As with the Beatles project, the sculptures will be two-dimensional silhouettes made of metal.

"These two attractions are a lot of fun and will be exciting additions to our area, but they are ultimately aimed at economic development. That has been our underlying motivation all along," said Cooper. "We believe we're going to have two sites that, if properly promoted, will motivate folks to stop and spend some time here. Even if it's just a few hours, they will spend money here, boost our economy and maybe even spark some new businesses that we would all enjoy."

Snapp added, "We are confident these two attractions will pique the interest of music lovers of all types, bringing them to Lawrence County to share and experience our musical heritage. We are creating economic benefits through tourism and maintaining the historical significance the rockabilly era had on our community."

Stories to be filmed

Committee members are looking for people who are willing to reminisce about the Beatles' visit to Walnut Ridge.

A limited number of filmed interviews are being planned for this Saturday. Anyone who would like to be considered as a candidate to be interviewed is asked to submit a brief outline of their story.

"That weekend is a part of Lawrence County's musical heritage, and we're looking for stories that will paint a visual picture of that time in history," Snapp said.

The committee is also looking for photos and other memorabilia from that weekend or related to the Beatles. If the owner does not want to donate them for the permanent displays at the museum/airport area and Chamber of Commerce office, copies can be made.

Those who have items they would like to donate or who would like to share their story can contact Jackie Snapp at jsnapp2441@sbcglobal.net or Charles Snapp at snapp1@sbcglobal.net or by phone at their office at 886-2441.

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