September 20, 2017 Edition

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The Legendary Pacers closed out Friday night's Beatles at the Ridge activities with a tribute to Sonny Burgess, who died Aug. 18. Pictures of Burgess were posted at the corners of the stage.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Measurable benchmarks
give festival high marks

John Bland
Publisher

How does one measure the success of a festival? A "good crowd," a "big crowd" or "thousands" were present is often used to describe events, such as this past weekend's Beatles at the Ridge festival.

Those descriptions are apt, but below are a few more ways the two-day event was described.

The Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band from Branson, Mo., was again the grand finale of the festival.

During their performance, the crowd of concert-goers overflowed across the parking lot and streets, leaving only a gap of three-feet on Walnut Street.

On Friday night, a customer reported that KFC was running out of chicken or at least being challenged to keep up with the demand.

Men from Jumpstart Ministry were on the festival scene keeping trash emptied and picked up. "The festival site was clean all day long," reported an organizer. On Sunday, there was little or no evidence that a festival had taken place in downtown Walnut Ridge, other than the very full dumpsters.

Prior to the Liverpool Legends performance, emcee Terrance Ward, addressed the overflow crowd. He first asked the crowd to raise their hand if they came from outside of Lawrence County to attend the concert. Well over half of the crowd raised their hands.

Ward then asked who came from out of the state, and scatterings of hands were raised throughout the crowd. When asked who came from out of the country, it was determined that people were attending the concert from Norway, The Philippines and Liverpool, England.

"How do you like our Abbey Road," Ward asked the gentleman from Liverpool. His response to Ward was a "thumbs up."

Jude Southerland Kessler, who has written several books on the life of John Lennon, helped oversee the Authors and Artists Symposium on Friday. Between presentations, she told how Beatles at the Ridge had helped revitalize Walnut Ridge when it began seven years earlier.

Kessler then invited Mayor Charles Snapp to the microphone to share some good news the city and county had received earlier on Friday. An emotional Snapp announced that final approval for multi-million dollar disaster preparedness training facilities in Walnut Ridge and Imboden had been approved that day by the Arkansas State University Board of Trustees.

Snapp's announcement garnered a big applause from the audience, many of whom were there to hear stories from Bettie, one of the stewardesses who traveled with The Beatles during their 1964 U.S. tour. Bettie shared her recollections of The Beatles and their tour by way of a live video chat. Kessler interviewed Bettie, whose dry wit and humor delighted the crowd.

During the day Saturday, most booth vendors selling food, crafts and other items reported doing well with their sales. Concerts, contests and the car show were all well attended. Friends and former classmates met up throughout the weekend for reunions or informal gatherings.

While summer temperatures reached the high 80s or low 90s, conditions quickly cooled down in the shade and with sunset.

"Every one involved with the event should be very proud," exclaimed one festival attendee. Those sentiments were heard repeatedly throughout the weekend.

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