September 25, 2013 Edition

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State Rep. James Ratliff (from left), Susan Johnson, Libby Allison and Jude Southerland Kessler discuss the upcoming 50th anniversary of The Beatles' visit to Walnut Ridge in 1964 during the Beatles at the Ridge festival on Saturday. Community members were encouraged to sign a petition created by Kessler to get Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to come to next year's festival.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Thousands attend
Beatles at the Ridge


Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The annual Beatles at the Ridge festival was held Friday night and Saturday in downtown Walnut Ridge with thousands in attendance.

"This year's event surpassed what we had hoped for. To think our flow-through crowd has been estimated to be near 17,000 attendees still seems like a dream to me," said Charles Snapp, chair of the Lawrence County Tourism Committee.

The festival began Friday night at 6 and refused to be dampened by the rain with hundreds attending throughout the evening.

Jude Southerland Kessler gave a presentation on the life of John Lennon that evening in The Venue to nearly 100 people. Snapp extended his thanks to Kessler for her help with the festival. "Jude Southerland Kessler has agreed to provide her support and help in making 2014 the event to attend."

The rain cleared and sunshine shown as festival staff, vendors and community organizations began to set up for the day's events Saturday morning. Countless fundraisers were held by many different groups across Lawrence County to coincide with the festival.

Beatles at the Ridge also provided a boost to several local businesses in town. Danny West, owner of Art and Culture Frozen Yogurt and The Dark Side, said, "I think everyone had a good day, and our local economy got a shot of energy which is one of the goals of the weekend. As we continue to refine and improve the festival, bigger and better things will happen."

Lorra Whitmire with the Downtown Walnut Ridge Organization said the festival has already exceeded her expectations. "When we started the Downtown Walnut Ridge Organization, we never imagined something as big as this festival has become. When we merged with the Chamber Tourism Committee, love for our community flourished and no project was too big, and from that Beatles at the Ridge was born."

The community reciprocated that love at the festival by volunteering time and money to keep it running.

"Without the time and support of a dedicated team, city and county officials and a couple of dozen hard core volunteers, such an event would not have been possible. My heartfelt appreciation to all who made this event run like a finely tuned machine," Snapp said.

"The best part is that we had no injuries, no significant problems, it was just good, clean family fun."

Jody Dotson, Lawrence County sheriff agreed, saying, "The festival went great and everyone did a great job. We had no issues of any kind."

One of the main attractions at the festival is the music lineup, this year's festival featured performances from Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, Government Radio Factory, Stan Perkins and many others. The festival's final performance was by Beatles tribute band BritBeat performing many classic Beatles' songs.

"The musical lineup was a big success again this year with one gifted entertainer after another taking the stage," said Brett Cooper, chair of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Plans have already begun for next year's festival set for the third weekend in September. Next year's festival will mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles visit to Walnut Ridge. Kessler has created a petition in an effort to get Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to come to the anniversary festival.

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