September 21, 2011 Edition

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First phase of tourism
projects complete

Lousie Harrison (center), sister of George Harrison and owner of the Liverpool Legends out of Branson, visits with Danny West (right) who created the sculpture that was unveiled at Sunday's Beatles at the Ridge event in Walnut Ridge. Also visiting with Harrison are Fran Cavenaugh (foreground) and Jackie Snapp, who helped organize the event.
Submitted Photo ~ Lori Highfield

Gretchen Hunt

The first phase of the Lawrence County Tourism Committee's plans to capitalize on the designation of Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67 through Lawrence County was completed in a fun way on Sunday.

Local residents, as well as visitors from throughout the state and nation, descended on downtown Walnut Ridge for the Beatles at the Ridge event, which featured live music throughout the afternoon, culminating with a performance by the Liverpool Legends of Branson.

Following the Legends' performance, Louise Harrison cut the strap to reveal the etched metal sculpture created by Danny West of Walnut Ridge.

Committee members and others spurring on the revitalization of downtown Walnut Ridge, see the event as a beginning, not an ending.

"This event was what I hope will be a beginning of marking the musical heritage of Northeast Arkansas," Mayor Don House said. "There seems to be a growing desire for us to delve into that area of preservation and promotion."

Following Sunday's event, the sculpture was put into place Monday afternoon and evening at its permanent location in Beatles Park on the stretch of Southwest Second Street that was recently renamed Abbey Road.

The committee, still reeling from the success of Sunday's event, continues to look forward, according to chairman Brett Cooper.

"We are still on cloud nine about the way the Beatles at the Ridge turned out," he said. "We would have been delighted to see a crowd that large on a sunny day, so to have them turn out like that in rainy weather was almost unbelievable. What we see from the incredible response this weekend is that we have something that will bring tourists to Lawrence County, and where you have tourists you have the basis for economic development."

Charles Snapp, a member of the committee and one of the leading proponents for downtown revitalization, said Sunday's event was evidence of what can be accomplished with teamwork and dedication.

"Many thanks go to the Walnut Ridge Street Department, Police Chief Richy Thatcher and his team, Sheriff Jody Dotson and his team, along with Chief Frank Owens and the firemen, all of whom made this event possible from the working end of things,"

Snapp also expressed appreciation to Harrison and the Liverpool Legends, who donated their appearance, so that the event could remain free for the public.

"Of course our sponsors were a great help too," he said. "But most of all, we want to express a special thanks to the people who stuck out the weather and made Beatles at the Ridge a huge success."

And now, the movement continues. With a little less than $10,000 needed to fully fund the guitar plaza planned to honor the rock and roll and rockabilly legends who traveled Highway 67 in the 1950s and 60s, committee members hope to meet that goal by the end of the year.

"I hope the supporters will continue to be ardent in their efforts," House said. "I give everyone involved high praises."

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