The Times Dispatch, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Gretchen Hunt, Editor
The 2013 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism is underway in Hot Springs and the community of Walnut Ridge is getting lots of attention.
Already nominated for The Bootstrap Award in the 2013 Henry Awards, attendees were surprised to find out the community was also selected as the Welcome to Arkansas Community of the Year.
Welcome to Arkansas is a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Hospitality Association, and the Community of the Year award is presented for excellence in tourism and guest service.
Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, announced the honor saying, “The award goes to a community fast becoming known around the state as “The Beatles Town.”
Walnut Ridge was one of eight finalists for the award out of 89 participating communities.
“For Walnut Ridge to be selected from 89 other communities is an honor itself,” Lawrence County Tourism Committee member Charles Snapp said. “This honor acknowledges not only the Tourism Committee and Downtown Walnut Ridge, it also recognizes all the help and support city officials and individuals have put forth in helping promote tourism.”
Scott Sudduth with the Arkansas Hospitality Association, who presented a Welcome to Arkansas seminar at Williams Baptist College in March of 2012, made the award presentation.
In a letter announcing Walnut Ridge as a finalist, he stated, “We know you do a great job making guests feel welcome, providing tourists with activity recommendations and ultimately, bettering Arkansas’s economy through the tourist dollars you help us keep in state.”
Charles and Jackie Snapp and Fran Cavenaugh attended the conference. They were expected to be joined for the Tuesday evening banquet by Danny and Sue Gibson, Danny and Cara West, Brett Cooper, L.J. Bryant and Sen. Robert Thompson.
Lorra Whitmire with the Downtown Walnut Ridge organization said she was excited to see the community receive the hospitality award, as well as the nomination for the Henry Award.
“I am glad to see progress in our downtown area and glad to see that progress recognized,” she said. “These are the results we were wanting when we organized Downtown Walnut Ridge.”