April 6, 2016 Edition

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The Smith family includes (from left): Mason, age 13; Travis; Anna Leigh, age 10; Annie; and Emma Claire, age 11.
Submitted Photo

Sr. class tour includes Hoxie/WR

Katie Smith
and John Bland

A senior class trip for a small Christian academy in McDonough, Ga., included two nights in Hoxie and visits to several attractions in Walnut Ridge. The visit to Walnut Ridge and Hoxie complemented the trip's theme, 'A Musical-Literary Tour of the South,' with visits to such local attractions as Beatles Park, the Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park and an explanation of the significance of Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67.

The hospitality of the in-laws of trip organizer Annie Smith was an added bonus that enhanced the trip tremendously.

Travis and Annie Smith, and their three children, Mason, Emma and Anna Leigh, along with 19 of Annie's students, one female adult sponsor and one male adult sponsor spent last Tuesday through Thursday as guests of Travis' mother, Mary Smith, and his grandmother, Anna West.

Annie teaches senior English, British Literature and AP Literature at New Creation Christian Academy in McDonough.

The students, with the exception of the Smiths' children, are seniors. They chose to come to this area to visit several chosen literary sights, museums, etc., along the way to and from McDonough. They had also heard many stories about the area from Annie, who grew up in Walnut Ridge.

"I had told them stories of growing up here," said Annie. "The students said we should go to Walnut Ridge."

"This was the destination," said Annie as the group ate breakfast last Wednesday morning at The Dark Side Coffee House, owned by Danny and Cara West, Travis' uncle and aunt. "We're having a great time," she added.

"I talked to my mother-in-law, who is the most hospitable person in the world," Annie said. "She said, 'Bring them.'"

To show their appreciation of their hosts, the students presented Mary Smith and Anna West with gift baskets containing assorted items, such as candles, lotion, shower gel, chocolate and gift cards. "This was their (the students) idea. I was so impressed, so proud of them," Annie said.

To show their appreciation of their hosts, the students presented Mary Smith and Anna West with gift baskets containing assorted items, such as candles, lotion, shower gel, chocolate and gift cards. "This was their (the students) idea. I was so impressed, so proud of them," Annie said.

Annie is the daughter of Talmadge and Bonita Graham, former Walnut Ridge residents who now live in Heber Springs. Annie attended the Walnut Ridge School from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Annie's husband, Travis, is the son of Greg and Mary Smith of Hoxie, but he only lived in Hoxie for the last year that Annie lived in Walnut Ridge. The two didn't meet until both were college students at Harding in Searcy.

Travis is an attorney and a preacher. He practices law with the firm of Foster, Foster and Smith in Jonesboro, Ga., which, in addition to McDonough, is just south of Atlanta.

The group planned this "crazy, impromptu senior trip" in just three weeks, Annie said. A previous idea of going to Boston on a trip was cost prohibitive, she added.

An overview of the trip itinerary is as follows:

On Monday morning, March 28, the group drove to Tupelo, Miss., where they visited the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

They spent Monday evening on The Square in Oxford, Miss., and visited Square Books.

Tuesday morning, they toured Rowen Oak, the home of author William Faulkner, and then drove to Memphis, where they ate lunch at The Rendezvous and then visited Sun Studios, where Elvis got his start and other famous musicians, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, recorded their music. They also visited Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid and took a walking tour of Memphis.

The group then drove to Hoxie, where they spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

On Wednesday morning Walnut Ridge Police Chief Chris Kirksey and other officers made a mock arrest of the group, pulling them over and ordering them off the bus. Mayor Charles Snapp welcomed them to town and told them about the Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park. The group then visited Beatles Park and had breakfast at The Dark Side Coffee House.

Wednesday lunch was in the Parachute Inn's Boeing 737 airplane dining room at the Walnut Ridge Airport, followed by a tour of the Wings of Honor Museum.

Wednesday night dinner consisted of a Mexican fiesta hosted by Mary Smith at her home.

On Thursday, the group planned to visit the Hemingway Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott and then return to Memphis for a tour of Elvis' home, Graceland, as well as a possible stop to the Peabody Hotel.

The trip concluded on Friday with visits to the Monroe County Museum, in Monroeville, Ala., with its exhibits featuring Harper Lee and Truman Capote and then to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, "The Great Gatsby," is one of her students' favorites, Annie Smith said.

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