Walnut Ridge's fast hello, goodbye with Beatles | Arkansas Blog

Monday, September 19, 2011

Walnut Ridge's fast hello, goodbye with Beatles

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:23 PM

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Everybody's written plenty about Walnut Ridge's effort to make some tourist capital out of the Beatles' brief airport stop in the town 47 years ago. They came and went on a visit to a Missouri dude ranch.

But I like the Wall Street Journal's bemused take on it today.

"The Beatles were there for about 15 minutes!" jokes former musician Bob Tucker, part of the Beatles' opening act on that tour, Bill Black's Combo. Now an Arkansas businessman, he amusingly calls the tourism drive "the biggest stretch in the history of show business," though he doesn't blame boosters for trying.

Walnut Ridge isn't alone, either, in marketing oddities.

"If people will get off a highway to see the largest ball of twine, well, this is a lot more interesting than that," says Carrie Mae Snapp, who headed the town's "Beatles 4 Evermore" fan club in 1964 at age 14, but only managed to snag a photo of the back of Mr. McCartney's head as he boarded the airplane. "I picked up some cigarette butts at the airport. I might have some John Lennon DNA."

While boosters are eager to capture the spotlight, and rake in a few sales-tax dollars, they have maintained a distance from the current owners of the former Pigman Ranch in Missouri, a nonprofit organization that is selling lots for development under the slogan "The Beatles Slept Here."

The Buildings for Babies Ranch Foundation plans to auction off the ranch's furnishings as Beatles memorabilia, including the toilet: "Sit on the same throne as the Beatles!" a marketing brochure exclaims. Its chief executive, who says the group aids underprivileged children, expects the bathroom set to fetch $25,000.

Ms. Snapp captured several of the Beatle photos in a slideshow posted by the WSJ.

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