UPDATE: Clinton Center birthday bash features barbecue, blues and maybe Barbra | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, November 15, 2014

UPDATE: Clinton Center birthday bash features barbecue, blues and maybe Barbra

Posted By on Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 7:34 AM

click to enlarge GREETINGS: Bill and Hillary Clinton on a big screen when they greeted those at the barbecue on Clinton Center grounds Friday night.
  • GREETINGS: Bill and Hillary Clinton on a big screen when they greeted those at the barbecue on Clinton Center grounds Friday night.

Ticketed events culminated Friday's activities in the Clinton Presidential Center's 10th birthday celebration and Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are full of photos and comments, should you be interested.

There was a dinner for major donors and figures in the Clinton Center itself. Rumors of big names abounded. Barbra Streisand, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen were among the non-political sightings reported by credible witnesses, though I can't confirm them. I wasn't there.

In a pavilion erected for last night's "picnic," hundreds ate Corky's barbecue and were entertained by a rhythm and blues program including the Cate Brothers, the Memphis Horns, and Bobby Rush. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe cut a rug with Rush, the social media indicate.

The Clintons spoke briefly. A big cheer erupted when the former president hinted at his wife's future plans. Being a wonderful grandmother, he said, after a beat. A rump group of Hillary supporters will be meeting this morning to lay the groundwork for another group of Arkansas Travelers to campaign around the country for Mrs. Clinton if she does enter the 2016 race.

Plenty more pictures and coverage all over. One good spot is on Twitter, hashtag #clintoncenter10th.

Events yesterday — and there's more on the schedule today, Sunday and Monday — are ample illustration of the Clintons' continued pulling power. It is also indicative of the enormous economic benefit the Presidential Center brings to town. Last night, hotels were full, shuttle buses looped constantly, somebody had to build that tent, cook that barbecue, serve that wine and pour Diamond Bear draft. Leslie Peacock wrote sharply about the Center's impact in this week's Times. The Chamber of Commerce commissioned its own detailed report that shows the same picture — billions in direct expenditures on construction in the neighborhood that wouldn't have happened but for the presidential library and untold more spending by visitors.

In a city where economic activity is moribund (see the continuing reports on declines in air travel at the Clinton National Airport) and population growth is negligible and the core city suffers from decay, the Clinton Center and its neighborhood are particular brights spots.

Go to the library, ride the escalator to the second level and stop to look west. Spread before you is a new Little Rock skyline that wouldn't exist but for this center. The hope is that the Clinton family remains engaged with this enterprise for years to come. The dreamers say an expansion of the project is one way to keep it fresh and growing.

Chelsea Clinton and HIllary Clinton will lead a "No Ceilings" program at 2:15 p.m. today. It targets women and families. You can watch it on the web.

The pavilion tonight will be cleared of dining tables and filled with 5,000 or so chairs for a concert — Nick Jonas, Amos Lee, Court Yard Hounds, and Kool & the Gang — but tickets have all been claimed. There's a work day tomorrow and a discussion Monday on the impact in Little Rock of the center.

UPDATE: I got a copy of that report that endeavored to put a precise pencil to the benefits of the library. More than $3 billion in construction expenditures and 3.3 million library visitors and a rise in visitor spending of $700 million are among the big numbers. Millions worth of volunteer hours go into the picture, too, along with ancillary development, such as at the library, that has enriched the city in ways beyond money.

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