On September 19-20, 2014 my mom and I drove down to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas for a Beatles festival called "Beatles at the Ridge." Those of you who follow this blog and know the history of the Beatles 1964 are familiar with the reason why Walnut Ridge, Arkansas is part of Beatles history as it was the Walnut Ridge airport that the Beatles stopped at in 1964 on their way to and from Reed Pigman's ranch. It is really just a blip in Beatles history, but the town of Walnut Ridge has decided to make the most of their small Beatles connection for the sake of improving tourism to the region. A large metal sculpture of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road can be found in the town as well as a cute shop called "Imagine" that sells Beatles items. There is a 115-ft-long by 40-ft-wide guitar on the ground that is a replica of John Lennon's guitar in an area called the "Guitar Walk." All of this is well worth seeing if you are in the area. Once a year the town throws a big city-wide festival called "Beatles at the Ridge."
Beatles at the Ridge is not completely a Beatles convention. It is very Beatles centered and there are a lot of Beatles activities and things going on, but it is also a carnival-type fest for the town. There are booths and tents from area groups and organizations as well as activities that have nothing at all to do with the Fab 4 (such as a duck calling contest).
But if you are a Beatles fan (and I know that you are), there is plenty of Beatles fun. My wonderful author-friend, Jude Southerland Kessler was the chair of the first ever Beatles author symposium at this festival. She put together some of the BEST authors and speakers to talk about their books. There also was a Beatles photo display that was extremely good, an art display by Enoch Doyle Jeeter who drew pictures for each of the songs on the Meet the Beatles album and a display called "Meet the Covers" which showed album covers that were parodies of Beatles album. It was really fun to see!
When I arrived on Friday afternoon, the first thing I noticed was that the entire town of decked out in 1960's and Beatles theme. Every store-front window had things like peace signs or cartoon Beatles in the windows. There was a large cut out of the Yellow Submarine and the Cartoon Beatles and it made for a fun photo opportunity. It was really festive and put us in the mood for the weekend!
|My mom with the cartoon Beatles cut outs|
After looking around for a bit and getting our bearings, we made our way into the author's room and found our friends. Even though I had just seen everyone just a month earlier, it was great to see Chuck Gunderson, Lanea Staggs, Kit O'Tool, Jude and Rande Kessler and Anthony Robustelli again!
|My mom and I with Jude Southerland Kessler (I know I look terrible here! I had been driving all day and just blah!)|
On Friday night we heard a GREAT talk about the events of 1964 by Jude and Chuck. This multi-media presentation was just amazing. Both of these two authors are amazing speakers and they know their Beatles stuff! We stuck around and listened to a band perform for awhile, but we were super tired and decided to try to get some sleep.
|The Beatles statue looked REALLY cool at night!|
On Saturday, we were up bright and early for a full day of Beatles fun. At first we walked around outside and looked at the booths and venders. We saw that Danny Donuts, who we recognize from all of our years going to the Chicago Fest for Beatle Fans (even though he doesn't know us) was running a fun children's section. He had a bubble machine going and kids were jumping around to Beatles music. He had a parade later in the day, but we missed that. It looked like fun for the kids.
We had a full day of listening to the authors in the symposium because---well that is what I like to do. But before that, we went back into the Imagine shop and talked to Carrie Mae Snapp, who as you might recall was the girl who's father took the photos of the Beatles at the Walnut Ridge airport and she touched George's elbow. Well, she said to us, "do you want to see the pictures?" and she proceeded to pull out all of her photos from that day and tell the story to just my mom and I with more details than what I have heard before. It was so great!
Lanea Stagg did a brunch based on some of the recipes in her Recipe Records Cookbook that were really tasty. I recommend "Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey bread." Then we heard Kit O'Tool give two talks--one about the Abbey Road medley and another about the top Beatles sounds. Both of these were really fascinating and help me listen to Beatles music that I have heard forever in a new way. We also heard Anthony Robustelli's presentation where he stripped down Beatles music so that you just heard the harmonies or just the guitar. It was really some amazing stuff. If you like that sort of thing, I highly recommend listening to Anthony's radio program on Beatles a rama radio online on Sunday nights.
Then for something silly---we needed to eat, right? So mom and I went to a local diner that was serving Beatle burgers and Onion Ring-o's. We were laughing about that through the entire meal.
We came back to the site and got ready for the concert by Liverpool Legends (Louise Harrison's Beatles tribute band from Branson). But before that we had to listen to this country band that was really boring. I think they were called Rockabilly. I do not like country music. At all. I especially do not like country music about food. Yeah...these guys were tolerable for the first 20 minutes but then they went on and on. And they didn't even sing one single Beatles song or even Carl Perkins or someone like that. I was so bored!
Finally Liverpool Legends came on. They sounded great. As I have said before on this blog, I am not a big fan of Beatles tribute bands who like to act like they are really the Beatles. The whole dressing up in costumes with wigs and saying things like "this is a song from our first movie...." it just irritates me. So I disliked these guys trying to look and act like them, because let's face it---none of these tribute bands are guys in their 20's. They are not the Beatles. But I really enjoyed the music. They sounded really good and I was there to have a good time and enjoy some Beatles music. I do have to admit, the last costume the "George" guy wore was great!
|Check this out! George totally wore an outfit just like that!|
Next year is set to be even better than this years festival and there is hope for more Beatle fans to travel to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas for this event. So make plans now to be there! Here are some tips for you if you plan to go---
1. This is a FREE event. People were asking how much it cost and the answer is nothing!
2. Bring a lawn chair with you if you plan on staying for the concerts.
3. Walnut Ridge is located in a dry county. Yeah....that is a real thing in the United States in 2014. There are places were you cannot buy alcohol and this is one of them. So plan accordingly (whatever that means to you).
4. There are not really any hotels in Walnut Ridge. The closest town with hotels is Jonesboro, Arkansas. I stayed at a place called the Fairview inn and suits. It was cheap and clean, but old and little run down.