WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT)
48 years ago the Beatles passed through Walnut Ridge on a quick weekend trip to Missouri.
Now the city has embraced the time the Fab 4 were present and basing a celebration on the event that is designed to draw crowds and extra dollars for the city.
“I look forward to the out of town visitors who are going to come in and see our stuff; it’s going to be very exciting.” Says Sonic Manager Sherry Burnside.
And hopefully it will be profitable for local businesses. Because for the tourism business, getting people to visit your town and spend money in your town is the bottom line.
There have been those who think too much is being made over such a small, not really historic event. Charles Snapp, the event organizer said the winds are changing.
“A lot of nay-Sayers have come on board and they now share the vision.” Snapp said. “The point is, the obvious support that we have is shown by the businesses that have decorated their windows.”
All over Walnut Ridge, businesses have painted Beatles or Rock and Roll lyrics, pictures or symbols from the times. Smiley faces, flowers and peace symbols are the favorites. L.J. Bryant the Director of Economic Development said he was surprised at the town’s enthusiasm.
“We encouraged businesses to do this tie – dye the town.” He said. “I thought maybe 5 or 6 businesses would participate but we judged over 20 businesses and there was another 10 or 15 that participated that didn’t even ask to be judged.”
Sherry Burnside’s Sonic won the best outdoor display with their “Grease” decorations. The bigger than life size paintings of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John look out at the customers. Burnside said it’s important to support the town and but she hopes and expects to make money during the festival.
Burnside, “Just whatever it takes. We’ll have discounts that day. Whatever it takes to boost the town we are going to be there for them.”
The event itself will be a bit different than last year with several stages and more performers.
Snapp stood next to the life size Beatle statues in the center of town. “We’ll have music in Beatles Park. Then at 4 o’clock the Liverpool Legends will take the stage on the Rock and Roll Highway Stage.” Unlike last year when the Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band from Branson only played a few songs, Snapp said this year they will play their entire show.
Sonny Burgess and the Pacers take over from there with Stan Perkins, Carl Perkins son joining in at 8.
With hopes for record breaking attendance running high, the venue will ultimately help the city even after it’s over.
Bryant, “We see folks moving around downtown and ultimately we are going to see that in our sales tax dollars which in turns means better streets and city and fire and protection for our citizens.”
The Beatles At The Ridge Festival will kick off on September 15th.