Monthly Archives: October 2011

2011 Naturals Season in Review

For the fourth straight season, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals opened the year with a series against the San Antonio Missions in a matchup that although nobody realized it at the time, pitted the defending champs against the club that would wrest control of the league crown as the 2011 season reached its completion. Five months later, the Naturals secured a second-half North Division championship for the fourth time in as many seasons. Though the club fell short in its defense of its Championship, the 2011 season was packed full of memorable moments, notable achievements and season-long thrills for fans at Arvest Ballpark.

Wild Weekend

The Naturals began their title defense on Thursday, Apr. 7, hosting the Missions and Corpus Christi Hooks in a six-game homestand. The opener did not end in the home team’s favor, as the Naturals fell by a 3-2 score. But the team avenged that early loss over the next three days, notching three consecutive walk-off wins against the Missions and Hooks. Included in that stretch was a pair of extra-inning victories as well as Mario Lisson‘s walk-off homer on Apr. 9 – the first Naturals home game to end in that fashion since 2009. The Naturals played five consecutive one-run games for the first time in team history and finished the homestand with a 5-1 record.

Season of Streaks

That early-season five-game winning streak proved to be a sign of things to come for the 2011 Naturals, who compiled their 73-64 overall record in a roundabout manner. This season, the Naturals put together eight different winning streaks of at least four games and endured four streaks of at least that length. Two end-of-season streaks stand out. As play began on Aug. 25, the Naturals rested six games ahead of the Tulsa Drillers in the second half standings, only to see that lead reduced to a single game following five straight losses. The two clubs were then tied at the end of August before the Naturals bounced back to rip off four straight wins to clinch the division and secure a playoff spot.

Lights Out Relief

The Naturals began the 2011 season with a pair of Texas League veterans on their roster. Mario Santiago spent 2010 in the team’s starting rotation, while Blake Johnson had appeared for the club in each of the team’s first three seasons in Springdale. The two players opened the year in the Naturals’ pen and dominated the circuit over the season’s first month. In his first eight appearances of the season – including a spot start – Santiago posted a 1.46 ERA and held his opponents to a .167 batting average. Incredibly, Johnson was even better. The right-hander did not allow an earned run until May 6 – his final appearance before a promotion to Triple-A. Johnson allowed just 14 hits in 21 innings, recording a miniscule 0.43 ERA in the process.

Later in the season, 21-year-old right-hander Kelvin Herrera joined the club following a promotion from Advanced-A Wilmington. In his first full season as a reliever, Herrera featured an upper-90s fastball as well as an impressive arsenal of secondary pitches. After issuing an intentional walk in his first outing in Northwest Arkansas, Herrera did not walk a batter in 14 consecutive appearances. He walked just six batters – two intentionally – while striking out 40 before a call-up to Omaha, where he continued his dominance with the Storm Chasers.

Over the season’s final two months, Blaine Hardy emerged as one of the club’s go-to relievers. Joining the team from Omaha in early July, Hardy posted a 1.59 ERA in 19 games with the Naturals, recording nine saves in 10 regular-season chances. Perhaps most impressive was Hardy’s ability to work extended outings. The southpaw pitched at least two innings in 12 of his Double-A appearances, recording six three-inning saves.

The Workhorses

Left-hander Will Smith was a fixture in the starting rotation from beginning to end, one of two Naturals to make a team-high 27 starts in 2011. Smith led all Texas League hurlers with 161 1/3 innings pitched and 13 wins. In particular, Smith excelled during the second half of the season, posting an 8-2 individual record after Jul. 1. He strengthened as the season went on, saving his best work for August, a month in which he allowed just nine earned runs in 42 1/3 innings pitched, good for a miniscule 1.91 ERA. That performance earned him Texas League Pitcher of the Month honors.

Like Smith, Chris Dwyer made 27 starts and saved his best baseball for the latter part of the season. From Jul. 21 to Aug. 17, Dwyer won five times in a span of six starts, firing a quality start in each of those wins. He struck out eight or more batters in five separate games, tying a franchise record with 10 punch-outs on Aug. 5. Overall, Dwyer fanned 126 batters in 2011, third-most among all Texas League pitchers.

Salvador Slams His Way to KC

Catcher Salvador Perez began the season as one of the youngest players in the league, a 20-year-old with no experience above A-ball. After experiencing the ups and downs of any player challenged with a new level, Perez had a series to remember against the Springfield Cardinals in late July. Playing in three of the four games, Perez went 9-for-12 with two homers – including a grand slam – and 11 RBI. Just for good measure, he cranked another grand slam on Jul. 26 against Tulsa and earned a promotion to Triple-A one day after that. Perez spent roughly two weeks in Omaha before a call-up to Kansas City, where he has served as the Royals’ primary catcher ever since.

Summer Sluggers

The middle of the season brought with it two of the Naturals’ most productive individual months, as Tim Smith slugged his way through June and Jamie Romak did the same in July. Smith hit safely in all but five games during June, collecting a 12-game hitting streak en route to a .337 batting average and 26 RBI for the month. The left-hand-hitting outfielder hit for power as well, slugging six doubles, a triple and five homers in June. Not to be outdone, Romak hit .330 during July and cranked 10 home runs in that month alone, easily the most by any one Natural player in a month this season.

On the Basepaths

From the beginning of the season, the Naturals showed a tendency to be aggressive with runners on base. That lasted for the entire year, as the team led the Texas League with 205 stolen bases – at least 49 more than any other team. The club featured two of the top three stolen base men in the circuit, as Anthony Seratelli swiped 35 and Derrick Robinson nabbed 55 to lead the league by 19. Robinson broke his own team record of 50, which he had set during the 2010 season. In addition, it marked the fourth consecutive season in which the outfielder has led his league in stolen bases. Playing with Wilmington, Robinson stole 62 bases in 2008 and 69 in 2009 to the Carolina League on both occasions.

Mr. Everything

Stolen bases were just one of many of Seratelli’s contributions to the Naturals this season. In his second season with the team, the ever-versatile Seratelli appeared in all nine spots in the batting order at some point, played 70 games at first base, 25 at second base and 31 in the outfield (both in left and right field). In his team-high 129 games, Seratelli hit .282 with a team-high total of 75 walks, leading to a .392 on-base percentage that also led the squad. Seratelli notched a five-hit game and a four-walk game, and was named a mid-season Texas League All-Star, a body of work that led to his much-deserved selection as Naturals Player of the Year.

Wilmington’s Finest

In the second half of the season, the Naturals got a boost from a pair of 21-year-old players who excelled at Advanced-A Wilmington in the season’s first few months. Versatile infielder Rey Navarro hit .285 with 17 doubles, seven triples and eight homers in 72 games with the Blue Rocks while serving as the team’s primary second baseman. Upon his promotion to Northwest Arkansas, Navarro spent a significant amount of time at third base, a position at which he had only played five games during his entire professional career. Working through the adjustment, Navarro hit .271 in his first taste of Double-A.

Navarro made his Natural debut on June 30. Three days later, right-hander Jake Odorizzi joined the Naturals from Wilmington as well. This season was Odorizzi’s first in the Royals organization following his acquisition as part of the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. Odorizzi dominated the Carolina League, racking up 103 strikeouts in just 78 1/3 innings pitched. The 21-year-old experienced ups and downs in the Texas League – holding opponents to a .254 batting average but yielding 13 homers in 12 starts – but put it all together in his last two starts. On Sep. 2, with the Naturals’ playoff position in flux, Odorizzi took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a shutout performance against the Arkansas Travelers. Odorizzi took the mound again in game two of the Division Series against those same Travelers and tossed six scoreless innings in a game the Naturals eventually lost, 1-0.

Appreciating the Alums

2011 will be remembered as the first season that Naturals fans could turn on their television sets and be guaranteed to see a smattering of Naturals suited up for Kansas City on a night-to-night basis. Former first baseman Eric Hosmer blistered pitching at Triple-A Omaha for about six weeks, earning the call to the Royals as their everyday first baseman. The Naturals’ penultimate playoff hero a season ago, Hosmer never looked back once he reached Kauffman Stadium, swinging his way into the heart of the Royals’ order and mounting a campaign that will likely net him more than a handful of votes for the American League’s Rookie of the Year award. His fellow former Naturals Mike Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella soon followed and entered the lineup, as did Perez and several pitchers from last season’s club as fans in Kansas City finally saw the first wave of talent that exists in a farm system ranked as the top in all of baseball entering this season.

There were also a bountiful stable of ex-Naturals at Triple-A Omaha, who helped that club, newly rebranded as the Storm Chasers, post their best season record in years, make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Once there, they won both their playoff series including a three-game sweep of Sacramento, a club which featured many ex-foes of the Naturals who had competed with the Midland RockHounds against the Naturals in the past two seasons. Down the stretch, it was key contributions from Naturals representing all four seasons in Northwest Arkansas as Kila Ka’aihue, Irving Falu, Cody Clark, David Lough, Herrera, and Mike Montgomery formed part of the nucleus for Omaha’s title team.

A Night to Remember

Of all that happened in the Naturals’ 2011 journey, the events of July 19 almost certainly produced the most lasting memories for those involved. Taking the mound against the Travelers in North Little Rock, Will Smith opened the game with five perfect innings. After issuing back-to-back walks to open the sixth, the Naturals backed Smith up by turning the first triple play in the team’s four-year history. Out of that jam, Smith spun another hitless inning before handing the ball over to Kelvin Herrera, who fired two perfect frames to complete the Naturals’ first-ever no-hitter. In turning a triple play and pitching a no-hitter in the same game, the Naturals accomplished a feat that, to the best of our knowledge, had never been done in the 100-plus-year history of the Texas League.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Death and Dying Photo Exhibit

Rest in Peace, a photo exhibit examining death and dying in the Arkansas Ozarks of the 1800s and early 1900s, opens Tuesday, August 23 at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. The exhibit, which will be on view through December 17, will include images of funerals, cemeteries, mourning attire, and memorial activities such as Decoration Day. Located at the corner of Johnson and Main in downtown Springdale, the Shiloh Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 750-8165.

Siloam Springs Announces Social Marketing Tool to Launch on City Website

The City of Siloam Springs will formally launch its Twitter account on the city website Wednesday. This new feature will provide additional opportunities for residents and other website visitors to communicate with the City. It will also serve as a way for the City to communicate with community followers when the offices are not open or in the event of an emergency.

“Last year, because of all the rain, there were Parks and Recreation events scheduled outdoors that we thought may be rained out,” stated Libby Wand, Recreation Coordinator. “This new communication tool will be a great way to communicate with the public after office hours or during the weekend.”

Sandy Luetjen, City Marketing, sees many reasons for the addition: strengthening the City’s brand, disseminating information about new services, engaging the public to weigh in on various city-related topics, as well as promoting special events. And most important of all is utilizing this communication tool when other systems fail. “We certainly saw this happen during the 2009 storm,” stated Luetjen. “When the Internet was down, residents with a cell phone would have been able to receive new information as quickly as it became available to us,” she said.

The City welcomes anyone interested in City business to follow us on Twitter. The service is free and easy to use, either by computer or cell phone. Please visit www.twitter.com/SiloamSprings or the City’s website at www.siloamsprings.com to sign up and join the conversation.

A Variety of Museums Satisfy an Array of Visitors

– By Lynn Atkins

For some people vacations aren’t complete without a trip to a local museum. Other tourists save the museums for rainy days when there’s nothing else to do. In the Rogers area there’s a museum handy for almost every avocation.

In downtown Rogers, visitors can find the Rogers Historical Museum, the Daisy Air Gun Museum and the small fire equipment museum at Fire Station Number One. A few miles away is the opportunity to learn more about modern business, art and American Indians. Visitor Centers at two local parks provide insight into both natural and man made history and finally, politics can be explored in nearby Fayetteville. The Rogers Historical Museum was started by a group of volunteers in a former bank building in 1975, according to the web site www.rogersarkansas.com/museum/.  In 1982, the museum moved to its own building, the Hawkins House. Later, the Key Wing was added for exhibits, offices and collections storage. The Hawkins House is now completely furnished as a turn of the century, middle-class home and guided tours provide a glimpse of how Americans lived during the Victorian era.

The museum has earned a list of awards and their traveling exhibits have toured for years, offering insights on topics like “The Life Atomic: Growing Up in the Shadow of the A-Bomb” and “Here Comes the Bride: Weddings in America.”

Locally some exhibits change every few months with titles like “Rogers Auto-Biography: An Automotive History of Rogers” and “Buried Dreams: ‘Coin’ Harvey and Monte Ne.”  Permanent exhibits include “First Street,” a reproduction of a small-town Main Street of the turn of the 20th century, and “The Attic,” a hands on area for children of all ages.  There’s also space for traveling exhibits from all over, with titles like “The Civil War: A Nation Divided.”

The Rogers Historical Museum is located at 322 South Second Street in downtown Rogers and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.

A different kind of history is accessible at the Daisy Air Gun Museum where visitors are invited to find their own childhood BB gun, according to their web site: www.daisymuseum.com

Daisy Manufacturing came to Rogers in 1958 and soon the corporate offices became the home of an impressive collection of air guns and company paraphernalia. In 1999 Daisy decided to take their collection public and The Daisy Museum opened in downtown Rogers. Since then thousands of visitors a year from every state and Canada have toured the museum. They learn a little about the company that originally produced windmills and went on to turn their promotional air gun into a flourishing business. One highlight of the Daisy tour is the chance to reminisce about the movie that made “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle” a household word.

The museum is a non-profit corporation primarily staffed by Daisy retirees who are happy to provide a personal perspective for visitors. The gift shop has dozens of Daisy products available including collectible guns, nostalgic signs and posters and BB’s by the barrelful. The Daisy Air Gun Museum at 202 W. Walnut is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Although all seven Rogers fire stations are open to the public, Fire Station Number One in downtown Rogers is the home of the department’s museum where visitors can see the city’s first fire truck, “Old Hulda” and the hand drawn hose cart that preceded it. If the firefighters aren’t out on a call, someone will be available to answer questions.

While the entire art world waits impatiently for opening of Bentonville’s world class museum of American Art, Crystal Bridges, a preview is available in a historic building just off the Bentonville Square. The Massey Building, once a hotel but more recently the home of the Bentonville Public Library, is now hosting special events, traveling exhibits, lectures, movies and more for Crystal Bridges.

When Crystal Bridges is completed it will house a collection of paintings and sculptures by American artists from the Colonial period through the modern era. Meanwhile, a nature trail only a few steps from the square offers an observation deck that over looks the construction.

Around the corner from the Massey Building is the Five and Dime Store opened by Sam Walton in the 1950’s. In 1962, Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in Rogers and became an American Success Story, but he never forgot his roots and eventually, the Wal-Mart Visitors Center opened in that original Five and Dime Store. Visitors can see actual financial statements, profit and loss reports, and examples of early advertising, as well as the famous red pick up truck that Sam drove and his office, preserved for posterity. The Wal-Mart Visitors Center at 105 S. Main Street, Bentonville, AR is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.

Also in Bentonville is the Museum of Native American History with about 5,000 square feet of artifacts mostly collected by businessman David Bogle. The exhibits also include some on loan from the University of Arkansas and cover 14,000 years of Native American history. It’s located on South West O Street (Arkansas 72) and is open from nine to five Monday through Saturday with no admission.

Both the Pea Ridge National Military Park and Hobbs State Park have Visitors’ Centers that offer a crash course in the history and environment of Northwest Arkansas. Both Visitors Centers are open eight to five every day.

At Pea Ridge, the site of a Civil War battle that is said to have saved Missouri for the Union, a newly reopened Visitors Center featuring a documentary and interactive displays, is a popular first stop. The Visitors Center tells the story of the battle, but also the story of the people who lived in the area at the time of the Civil War.

At Hobbs, a brand new building is dedicated to the story of entrepreneurs who found a wilderness and built a community. There’s also information about the natural world, including the trees, animals and insects as well as an accessible nature trail for a first hand look.

A few miles away, the site of the Van Winkle Mill and home has become a handicapped accessible trail with information posted about both the history and the archeologists who are still uncovering it.

Two of the most famous residents of Northwest Arkansas were drawn here by the University in nearby Fayetteville and went on to impact the entire world. The first home of Bill and Hillary Clinton is now open to the public.

Both were teaching at U of A Law School, when Bill bought the house Hillary had admired. In 1975 they were married in the home’s living room.

Bill Clinton had already entered political life when he bought the small Fayetteville home which is now filled with memorabilia from his campaigns for the U.S. House and Arkansas Attorney General, according to www.clintonhousemuseum.org/home.html. Admission is five dollars and the museum, at 930 California Blvd in Fayetteville, is open Monday – Saturday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

For more information about visiting the Rogers area contact Allyson at the Rogers Convention and Visitors Bureau, 317 West Walnut Street, Rogers, Arkansas, 479 619-3183 or go to www.visitrogersarkansas.com.

Rogers Gains Fame Among Bikers

– By Lynn Atkins

Each curve, each hill, each moment opens up a new vista of lush scenery, quaint towns and refreshingly cool waterways. Thousands of trees shade quiet by ways while friendly folks greet visitors and natives alike. Northwest Arkansas is quickly gaining a national reputation among one segment of the population.

It’s the “twistys,” Buck Blanchard of Pig Trail Harley Davidson in Rogers explained. Twistys are what bikers call curves and there are about 137 of them along the Pig Trail alone. The Pig Trail is just one of the rides that draws bikers to the area.

At one time the Pig Trail was the route that die hard Razorback fans took to watch their favorite team. Now the same road is becoming famous with anyone who likes to throw their leg over a motorcycle.

When Interstate 540 opened, all the big trucks and many of the sports fans, abandoned the two lane highway to save time. That left it open for bikers. Like other small, two lane highways in the region, Highway 23 the Pig Trail is in good condition, Blanchard said, and that’s important to riders. So are hills.

“Flat rides are boring,” he said. There are few flat rides in northwest Arkansas. Just when a rider thinks they’ve seen everything Northwest Arkansas has to offer, the seasons change. The cool greens give way to fiery reds and oranges and then the leaves drop off and show the rider a whole new set of scenery. Experienced riders who brave a winter ride, discover they’ve been riding by streams and lakes they never knew existed.

Both newcomers and long time residents can find new places to ride when they pick up the CVB guide to great rides. “Rogers Rides: A guide to the Scenic and Fun,” details five rides from 77 to 283 miles, using the areas smaller, prettier, and sometimes hillier roads.

It all begins with a trip to the “biker-friendly resort” that is Eureka Springs. Beginning in Rogers, the route follows Highway 62 through Avoca and past the Pea Ridge Military Park, turning east at Gateway and crossing Beaver Dam. The trip home is via scenic Highway 12 and takes the rider through the state’s largest park, Hobbs State Park and Conservation Area.

A 194 mile route to Van Buren is called My Way & the Highway. It uses the less traveled highways including 59, 303 and 282.

Another southern route takes the adventurous rider 283 miles to Havana, Arkansas. On the way is Mountainburg, Alma, Ozark, Paris, and Mount Magazine.

The Missouri Connection takes the rider north on 62, but it doesn’t end in Eureka Springs. The 252 mile ride passes both Beaver and Table Rock Lake, and then goes on to Branson. After Branson, the route continues to Bull Shoals Lake and then takes the rider south, back into Arkansas, through the quaint small towns of Harrison, Green Forest, and Berryville.

Finally, the “Hilly-Billy Ride” takes the rider out to Beaver Lake and then south all the way to Ozark and Clarksville, including a portion of the famous Pig Trail. It passes through a tunnel of foliage, bright with fall colors and cool and green during the hottest summer months.

Leaving Rogers to explore the region, riders discover plenty of rest stops where they can stretch, take in the view and compare notes with other riders. Riders always talk about the ride, Blanchard said. After all, for them it’s the journey that’s important. Slowly they’re spreading the word that Rogers, Arkansas is at the center of a biker’s paradise.

For more information about Rogers and nearby bike trails contact Allyson at the Rogers Convention and Visitors Bureau, 317 West Walnut Street, Rogers, Arkansas, 470 619-3183 or go to www.visitrogersarkansas.com.

Free Entry At Crystal Bridges Nov. 11 – Jan. 2

Admission to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be free, but patrons will need a ticket if they plan to visit from opening day on Nov. 11 until Jan. 2.

Crystal Bridges staff on Wednesday began accepting ticket requests from museum members. Those who aren’t members may reserve tickets starting on Oct. 17 to tour the Bentonville museum.

“A museum is not complete until there are people in it,” said Kathryn Roberts, the museum’s director of member and guest services. “By opening our doors to our community, we are bringing the museum to life. We expect it to be a place of great excitement and activity.”

As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, 296 of the museum’s 4,445 members had reserved tickets by phone, another 1,530 tickets were booked online and 200 phone messages were waiting to be processed, Roberts said. Members are reserving tickets for a 25-hour preview, which runs from 9 a.m. Nov.9 to 10 a.m. Nov. 10. Members on Wednesday also made reservations for visits to the museum on opening day and through Jan. 2.

“Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas will transform into a world-renowned destination because of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art,” said Kalene Griffith, president of the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s nothing that has opened up to this caliber. We don’t have a comparison.”

Members are from across the United States, from California to Maine, Roberts said.

When making a reservation, patrons should provide a name or member ID number, the number of people in the party and the date and time of the planned visit, Roberts said. Tickets are required to prevent congestion in the galleries and to allow guests to travel through the galleries which are set up chronologically.

The museum expects to accommodate 12,000 guests during the 25-hour preview,and 2,000 guests daily when the museum opens. Visitors can reserve tickets for every half hour. Museum hours on opening day, Nov. 11, will be from 12:30-10 p.m. The museum will be closed Tuesdays. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Every visitor who is at least 1 year old needs a ticket.

The Crystal Bridges website recommends that visitors arrive 30 minutes prior to the time on their ticket, but there is no time limit on the amount of time visitors can stay in the museum.

“Truly, there is much more here to be taken in and enjoyed than can be fully appreciated in a single visit,” Roberts said. “To make the most of the first visit, I suggest guests take their time, discuss their favorite works among their party, and share their experience.”

With the anticipated crowds and the requirement to have tickets, Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, said his advice is to wait until early 2012 to visit Crystal Bridges.

“It’s going to be an attraction unlike any we’ve ever had,” Rice said Wednesday. “There’s just sort of a groundswell of interest.”

Many are comparing Crystal Bridges with the Clinton Presidential Center, which opened in November 2004 in Little Rock, Rice said. The center, which houses the presidential library and exhibits, served as a catalyst for growth in Little Rock. The center maintained a high level of traffic for more than a year, and while visits may have leveled off, interest is steady because exhibits change several times a year, he said.

Rice anticipates that Crystal Bridges will have an even broader appeal and will create a buzz for many, many months, he said.

“This is the art that we all grew up seeing in our history books and art books,” Rice said.

Meeting planners often schedule conferences at least a year in advance, and the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau receives calls daily about planners who are interested in coming to Northwest Arkansas because of Crystal Bridges, said Griffith of the Bentonville visitors bureau.

“They were waiting for it to open up,” Griffith said.

The Bentonville bureau will collaborate with Crystal Bridges staff to ensure that visitors coming within the first seven weeks know that tickets are required, she said. Not only is the museum a draw for its art that is known nationally and internationally, but also for its architecture and its forested setting nestled around two creek-fed ponds.

Destination Small Meetings find Northwest Arkansas’ Eureka Springs

With the much anticipated opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art small meetings are scheduling Northwest Arkansas for their annual gatherings.  Eureka Springs, AR, long seen as a vacation destination is enjoying somewhat of a re-birth as a Destination Meeting location offering a product with a surprisingly convenient location due to recent road improvements, being less than 35 miles east of the Museum and with easy access from both XNA and Branson Airports.  In fact, Eureka Springs now boasts the most prestigious title as of “One of America’s Dozen Most Distinctive Destinations” and regional meeting planners have taken note.  “We first learned of Eureka Springs through its efforts in preservation, however we held our annual meeting there and our attendees enjoyed everything from golf, lake, scenery and of course the historic hotels” Stated Compudyne (CDCY) CFO Geoff Feidelberg.

In Eureka Springs, we found ourselves at full occupancy on the weekends and empty during the week. As the senior, family and bus market began to soften we realized that we needed to enhance our weekday trade through diversification.  With the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum and with Eureka Springs being a Top 25 Art Community blessed with numerous activities and unique, high quality meeting space the corporate meeting was a perfect fit”  Stated Jack Moyer, Crescent Hotel General Manager.

Hosting Arkansas Conventions since 1979

Eureka Springs has hosted meetings and conventions in Arkansas since 1979, when the Inn of the Ozarks opened the first convention center in the state.  With over 100 small shops and eateries, golf available at Holiday Island, Kings River and Branson Creek, lively entertainment both wholesome and otherwise and outdoor activities tied to Table Rock Lake, Beaver Lake, Lake Leatherwood and the Kings and White Rivers,  a meeting in Eureka Springs is an easy choice and one that makes meeting planners look great.  “We hear from every group that their attendance is never higher than the Eureka Springs meeting.  It does not matter whether the group originates from Little Rock or New Orleans.”  Eureka Springs hosts nearly one million tourists annually and is the second most traveled destination in the state of Arkansas.  Meeting itineraries may be found on www.arkansasmeetings.com and by clicking the Featured Destination tab.

Getting to Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs is located in Northwest Arkansas at the junction of Highways 62 and 23.  Just 54 miles from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) and 49 Miles from the Branson Airport the region is served by many carriers including the low-cost carrier AirTran.  Eureka Springs by automobile is 4 hours from Little Rock, 3 hours from Tulsa, 2 Hours from Springfiled and 1 hour from most points on I540.

THE 1905 Basin Park Hotel

One site favored for corporate retreats is the 1905 Basin Park Hotel.  Initially housing health seekers and business trade for a bustling new town this second generation 1905 building replaced the luxurious Perry House which perished in the great fire of 1888.  Today, The Basin Park Hotel is back.  Experiencing its greatest period of growth since the county sheriff removed liquor by the drink and slot machines in 1951, The Basin Park Hotel is alive with weddings, romance and corporate meetings. An ideal location for meeting planners wishing to add something more to their meeting than just the agenda points, The Basin Park offers turn of the century “Mission Style” décor, renovated guest rooms and suites, Rooftop Billiards, Balcony Dining, Serenity Spa Services, Fresh baked goods in the War Eagle Outpost, Arkansas Outdoor Adventures and of course meeting rooms that are fully equipped with 21st century technology; all this with a location whose front door opens to the 19th century shopping dining and entertainment district.

THE 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa

This Mountaintop Spa Resort known as a prestigious member of the Historic Hotels of America is the leader in the Eureka Springs market for Destination Meetings.  Focusing on meeting group of 75 and down, The Crescent Hotel has been sought nationwide as a highly productive business environment, a destination spa and the headquarters to the resort destination that is Eureka Springs.  The Crescent Hotel has been fully-restored, offers fine dining in the Crystal Dining Room Restaurant, black-tie catering, VIP meeting services, advance AV and High Time on the Sky bar from 9-11PM daily.

Eureka Springs also boasts the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks, host of the cities convention center and expert meeting host since 1979 and The Best Western Eureka Inn located at the gateway to the Eureka Springs.

The Basin Park Hotel can accommodate:

Hotel Guest Rooms:

61 Total           14 Jacuzzi Suites

 

Meeting Space:

Atrium Room              880 Sq Feet                 5 – 40 attendees

Ozark Room                1180 Sq Feet               15 – 115 attendees

Grand Ballroom          2300 Sq Feet               50 – 200 attendees

 

Dining and Entertainment:

Balcony Restaurant and Bar               Casual American Fare – Outdoor Dining

Rooftop Billiards                                Lounge, billiards, board games and sports

Serenity Spa                                        Hot Stones, Serenity Rain Bar, Duets

 

The Crescent Hotel and Spa can accommodate:

Hotel Guest Rooms:

76 Total           7 Jacuzzi and/or Premium Suites

 

Meeting Space:

Faculty Lounge           810 Sq Feet                 10 – 70 attendees

Conservatory               1180 Sq Feet               25 – 125 attendees

Crystal Dining Room  3200 Sq Feet               75 – 300 attendees

Dining and Entertainment:

Crystal Dining Room                          Fine Cuisine – Resort Casual Dress

Dr. Baker’s Bistro                               Scenic Overlook, Full-menu & Bar

Dr. Baker’s Sky Bar                            Late Night Food, High Time from 9-11PM

New Moon Spa                                   Arkansas’ Largest Resort Spa

Long-Time Director Dale Christy Retires, NATA opts to reinvent organization

Dale Christy, long time director of the Northwest Arkansas Tourism Association was recognized in September for his many years of service with a retirement lunch at the Embassy Suites in Rogers.  “Dale was Mr. Tourism when tourism wasn’t cool” stated Ed Clifford Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce CEO.  In fact, Christy had been in tourism for most of his life starting with Rogers, moving to Fayetteville for over a decade and ending in his post as Director of NATA.

With the transition, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opening within sight and tourism identified by the Northwest Arkansas Council as a growth industry, the Northwest Arkansas Tourism Association (NATA) has acted swiftly to redefine its mission, grow membership and launch a Fresh brand and Identity Statement for the region that can be collectively shared by all of its tourism partners.  A new website is under development through Sharp Hue out of Fayetteville to serve as the regional authority for such magnets as Crystal Bridges, The Walton Arts Center, Thorncrown Chapel and Razorback Athletics and the pursuit of an executive director is underway.  Nata hopes to have both in place by the middle of October.   “We see the opening of the Crystal Bridges as an opportunity similar to the bump that the Clinton Library had for Little Rock” stated Warren Jones, NATA Board Chairman “and with that said, we knew our organization was the rightful home to represent the four-county region, host media writers and to create partnerships for regional travel and web promotion.” The Explore Northwest Arkansas brand statement has been developed and approved (ExplorenwAR.com) and THE REGIONAL AUTHORITY website for tourism will be online by October 10th.

NATA’s Executive Committee includes Warren Jones (Arkansas Air Museum) Chairman, Jack Moyer (Crescent Hotel) Vice-Chair, Joe Murfin (Daisy BB Gun) Past-Chair and Allyson Dyer (Rogers CVB) as Treasurer.

“We are getting ready for the next wave of economic development for our region and that wave is tourism.  We encourage all city leaders and economic developers to understand that tourism and the arts are not just an amenity to the job creators, in the new economy – we are the job creators.”

Esteemed Chefs Coming to Fayetteville for Inaugural Guest Chef Series

New Orleans Chef Tory McPhail and Pensacola Chef Mike Johnson Partner to Offer World Class Dining Experience for a Good Cause

Two highly esteemed chefs will work together to serve four incredible meals in Northwest Arkansas over two days.

Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail and Chef Mike Johnson, Owner of Cloud9Chocolates in Pensacola and former Executive Pastry Chef of Commander’s Palace, will travel to Northwest Arkansas to host four distinctive dining experiences for local residents on Friday, October 7, and Saturday, October 8, 2011.

McPhail and Johnson will begin by serving lunch at the UARK Bowl in Fayetteville on Friday, October 7, from 11:30am to 1:00pm. The chefs will visit to Bentonville on Friday, October 8, for dinner at South Walton Suites. The evening will begin with a reception at 7:00pm, and dinner will follow at 7:30pm.

The duo will offer lunch at the Laughlin House in Bentonville on Saturday, October 8, from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Saturday evening, McPhail and Johnson will host an evening event at Cafe Rue Orleans in Fayetteville with a reception at 7:00pm and dinner at 7:30pm.

The chefs’ trip in October will serve as the kickoff for a series of similar programs that will take place in Spring and Fall 2012. These programs seek to bring top-tier chefs to the area, offering Arkansans a taste of specialty dishes from around the country with proceeds benefiting local non-profit organizations. Proceeds from all events will benefit the Northwest Arkansas Chefs Association, who will use the funds to create a scholarship for aspiring chefs in Northwest Arkansas, and a portion of the proceeds from Friday’s lunch at the UARK Bowl will benefit the Arkansas Alumni Association and the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences.

“I couldn’t be more honored to showcase Louisiana’s cuisine here in Northwest Arkansas,” McPhail said, “There are so many aspects of the culinary community here that speak to my values as a chef. From organic produce to local grass-fed beef, the freshness of each ingredient is amazing. I am excited to share some New Orleans’ flavors with Razorback fans and to help raise money to support the growing culinary community in Northwest Arkansas.”

Tickets for the Fayetteville events, which include the Friday lunch and Saturday dinner, are available locally at Café Rue Orleans and online at www.arconventionsandevents.com. Tickets for the Bentonville food experiences, including Friday’s dinner and Saturday’s lunch, are available at South Walton Suites and Macadoodles, as well as online at www.arconventionsandevents.com. Seating is very limited, and ticket packages, including signed cookbooks, are also available. Tickets to the lunch events cost $60 per person, $80 with an autographed cookbook, and $125 for a package including both lunches and an autographed cookbook. The dinner events cost $100 per person, $125 with an autographed cookbook, and $210 for a package that includes both dinners and an autographed cookbook.

Bikes, Blues and BBQ Supports Local Charities

Fall is finally here and with it brings cooler weather, beautiful fall foliage, and one of the nation’s largest motorcycle rallies, Bikes, Blues and BBQ. Every year the rally draws hundreds of thousands of bike enthusiasts from all over the country to Fayetteville. The live music, family-friendly events, and championship barbeque promise a good time, but what makes this rally special is that it is a rally with a purpose. Each year Bikes, Blues and BBQ is staffed and supported by hundreds of dedicated and hardworking people who donate their time and energy trying to ensure that the experience is enjoyed by every attendee while at the same time raising money for charities all over NWA.

Local organizations take full advantage of the opportunity that the rally brings, to be able to raise funds and awareness for their cause and most often its NWA’s youth that benefit the most. From the Fayetteville Boys and Girls Club to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of NWA, this rally with a purpose brings hope and opportunity to the children in our communities. The Arkansas Firefighters Association has participated in the rally for the past 11 years by hosting the annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ poker run, a crowd favorite event that offers two chances to have fun riding the open roads of Arkansas, win big and support the AFA sponsored, Camp Sunshine, a four day retreat for pediatric burn survivors.

Founded in 1991 and set at scenic Camp Aldersgate Little Rock, the 120 acre wooded property includes a lake for canoeing and fishing, two zip line adventure courses, a tree house, two pools, an archery pavilion, and a Commons Center, which becomes the center of activity for Camp Sunshine. The goal of the camp is to promote physical and emotional healing as well as growth and development of burned children. Camp Sunshine, has given an opportunity for burn survivors across the state to establish lasting friendships, experience personal growth and develop life-long memories. “I have been attending Camp Sunshine for years and I am proud to say it has been the best time of every year!” said Rocky Barnett, “Every moment you spend at Camp is a remarkable experience never a dull moment! Camp Sunshine has helped me so much throughout my life and I spend the other 361 days of the year looking forward to going back!” There are over 50 participates, like Bobby, who visit Camp Sunshine every year and it is completely free thanks to the AFA and their charity work.

Children of all ages and situations need the opportunity to participate in recreational activities that not only help them to develop physically, socially and emotionally but also provide a safe and supportive environment for youth to explore their strengths and grow self-esteem by being a part of a team.

Pagnozzi Charities is a non-profit organization that grants sports scholarships to disadvantaged children in NWA grades K-8. With their help over 1,800 youth have received sports scholarships. “We help with sports registration fees, equipment, tickets to Naturals and Razorback games, etc.” says Executive Director, Kelly Atchley. The program provides the children with an open door to the same athletic experiences as their peers by following the Pagnozzi motto to “level the playing field”.

The charity hosts several events throughout the year to support its mission and raise awareness for its youth scholarship fund including raffling off a motorcycle each year at Bikes, Blues and BBQ which is also graciously donated by Pig Trail Harley-Davidson and Cycle Connection Harley-Davidson.

As you would imagine, with a crowd of over 400,000 there is bound to be a lot of trash and somebody has to pick it up, and for the last 10 years that has been Bobby Luttrell, along with the Kiwanis group, who has helped organize volunteer groups with the daunting task of trash maintenance and cleanup of Dickson Street and surrounding areas during and after the rally.

They dedicate their time and effort to help support the youth in our community. “This is all to help NWA, because all the profits we make from cleaning up after the rally stay here” said Luttrell. Every cent the Kiwanis club makes, not only during Bikes, Blues and BBQ but all year long, is donated to help out the children of NWA. Groups like the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Youth Excellence Award Program, Trikes for Tykes and Read First Leap Ahead all benefit from the hard work put into keeping the town clean and trash free.

While it’s the kids who are benefiting from the rally, they are also lending a hand, for the last five years the FHS band has been assisting with the cleanup, by showing up as early as 2 a.m. Sunday morning to begin rounding up garbage, all in efforts to raise funds for expenses and their yearly band trip. In 2006 they were able to raise $8000 to help them get to the Rose Bowl in California and this year the band will be performing in a televised parade in Philadelphia all of which is paid for by the hard work of the students and the generous donations made to the band.

From the very beginning, the founders of Bikes, Blues and BBQ knew that the festival would be a great success, but they also knew it could be something much more. By holding the rally to a higher standard and creating a greater purpose it has affected the entire community in a way that is unimaginable. For more information about Bikes, Blues and BBQ visit http://www.bikesbluesandbbq.org/