Road tripping for the arts 

AGELESS KC: Harry Wayne Casey will be in Hot Springs.
  • AGELESS KC: Harry Wayne Casey will be in Hot Springs.

If you’re thinking about a road trip to take in a little culture (or horticulture) around the state, here’s the scoop on four spots around Arkansas to consider:

Hot Springs

Harry Wayne “KC” Casey may not have started disco, but many ’70s boppers think of KC and the Sunshine Band first when they think about disco. From the 1975 break-through smash “Get Down Tonight” to “Shake Your Booty,” the Miami-based KC, with its funk-and-Latin sound, was all over the disco scene a generation ago.

If KC isn’t the first disco band to come to mind, probably the Village People would be. Guess what? KC and the Sunshine Band are touring with the Village People, and will come to Hot Springs to kick off the annual Hot SpringFest on Wednesday, April 11. The 7:30 p.m. concert is at Summit Arena. Tickets are $20 and $25 through Ticketmaster.

The Village People, famed for the chart-topping hits “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy,” includes original members Alexander Briley (the GI), David Hodo (construction worker) and Felipe Rose (Indian). Jeff Olson took the Cowboy role in 1981, and Eric Anzalone came aboard as the Biker in 1995.

The other music and art events that make up Hot SpringFest in the downtown Spa City are free. Hot SpringFest was conceived by city leaders to provide evening entertainment during Oaklawn Park’s popular Racing Festival of the South, a week of big-money feature races culminating with the $1 million Arkansas Derby for the leading 3-year-olds on Saturday, April 14. Admission to Oaklawn is $2.

To be a part of all the downtown action, a night (or several) at the Arlington Resort Hotel would be the right call. The hotel is in the middle of the historic district, near Bathhouse Row, art galleries and restaurants (Belle Arti on Central Avenue is considered one of the best; Js Italian Villa on the far end of Highway 7 at Lake Hamilton also comes highly recommended). Call 501-321-2027 for more information. For tickets to the Summit concert with KC, call 501-321-1919.


In 2001 the Botanical Garden Society of the Ozarks unveiled its grand plan for 86 acres located at the Fayetteville/Springdale line on Hwy 265. Drawn up by the Portico Group, a Seattle company that specializes in creating unique outdoor settings, the master plan is transforming an unassuming meadow into a premier outdoor arena to celebrate the beauty of nature.

The initial phase, including nine 2,000-square-foot themed gardens and the Carl A. Totemeier Horticulture Center, has been completed. The project will be completed with the help of a $564,460 donation from the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission. Nearly $3 million in private, public and corporate donations has gone into the garden.

Included in the blueprints are an amphitheater, a conservatory, an education center, hike and bike trails, boat rentals, an observatory cafe and a children’s area, all of which are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“The Art of Bonsai” with Mike Walker kicked off spring events recently. On May 10, the 12th annual Greening of the Garden party and auction will be held at the Horticulture Center from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 pm. Tickets for the event are $35 in advance and $45 at the door; Italian food and beverages will be served as the live and silent auctions are held.

Members of the BGSO pay a discounted rate to attend events at the garden. Visit www.BGSO.org for updates to the calendar.

Volunteers are encouraged to pitch in at the garden any way they can. Docent training is being provided on three Tuesdays in March and April.

Speaking of greening, the Greenhouse Grille in Fayetteville offers organic cuisine in a small setting south of the square, on Archibald Yell Street off Hwy. 71B.

Jerrmy Gawthrop and Clayton Suttle, who opened the Greenhouse Grille nine months ago, include such unusual offerings on their menu as shiitake mushroom and scallion cheesecake, jerked free-range chicken breast served over basmati rice, and bourbon chocolate chunk pie.

The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information visit www.greenhousegrille.com.

Eureka Springs

John Mitchell, the friendly curator of Mitchell’s Folly, has opened the Ozark Traveler Gallery, works by some of Arkansas’s most influential and revered artists, in Eureka Springs, at 130 Spring St.

Late painters Louis and Elsie Freund and Ernest Fredericks, part of Eureka Springs art colony in the 1920s and 1930s and dear friends to Mitchell in their later years, are represented through their watercolors of regional landscapes and small mountain communities. More recent pieces from two local Julies — Kahn Valentine and Traxler — provide contrast to the classic pieces.

“It is an honor and responsibility to have these collections of art,” Mitchell said. “I feel a strong sense of duty towards all of the works.”

Mitchell moved to Eureka 35 years ago and has been an integral part of its art community since. In 1992 he opened Mitchell’s Folly, arguably downtown’s most eclectic shop. The Folly is full of art and antiques classy and trashy, furry and feathery.

Mitchell has taken a more dignified approach to his new gallery, located on the top floor of a 1979 house. Perched atop a large limestone bluff downtown, the house was on its last legs before Mitchell completely refurbished it.

“The art business enabled me to afford the necessary construction to complete the gallery,” he said. “I felt like it was the least I could do for my friends.”

Eureka Springs has been a haven for artists and artisans of all types since the early 1800s. Mitchell attributes this to its picturesque topography and low cost of living. “This town was originally a tent city,” he said. “As a whole, there weren’t many houses built until the railroad came to town.”

Before settling in Eureka full time, Mitchell spent part of each year in New Mexico, at another art mecca — Santa Fe. He sees similarities in what’s happening in Eureka and Santa Fe’s exponential expansion and evolution. “Twenty-five years ago Santa Fe was a lot like Eureka Springs is now,” he said. “Due to the arts, it has become a world-class vacation destination.”

With the fallout from the population explosion of northwest Arkansas growing nearer everyday, there is no telling what the future holds for this quiet, artsy town. Mitchell is sanguine. “A lot of people are scared of change. Change is not a bad thing ... Besides, it’s inevitable.”

Another Eureka institution, Local Flavor, was redecorated recently by owners Brit and Connie Evans, and when the doors reopened, the building was not the only thing that emerged with an upgrade. A new dinner menu was born, featuring chicken parmesan, prime rib and seared mahi mahi, as well as a wine list including more than 45 labels ranging in price from $20 to $110. Don’t fret, they are still serving up those beefy burgers and fat deli sandwiches for lunch, just don’t expect to order one at night. And yes, Sunday brunch is still on.


The Grammy Award-winning John Popper and Blues Traveler highlight the music at Texarkana’s annual spring family extravaganza Jump! Jive! and Jamfest, set for April 26-28 at the Celebration Square downtown.

In Texarkana, they know it simply as “JJJ.”

“The most important thing to know about JJJ, if nothing else, is that JJJ IS Texarkana’s celebration,” says Ruth Ellen Whitt, executive director of the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council. The event won the Arkansas Festival Association’s Best New Festival in 2004.

Folk singer Michael Martin Murphy (“Wildfire”) will play on Thursday’s opening BBQ Preview Party. Blues Traveler headlines on Saturday.

A burger cook-off, music from area bands, tap classes and a laser spectacle are part of the goings-on. For more information, call 903-792-4992 or online at www.jumpjivejamfest.org.

JJJ will offer plenty of food, but visitors looking to branch out and see the rest of Texarkana might think about area favorite Timothys. Prices range from moderate to expensive for the fine dining spot with a good bar.

Hotel space will be gobbled up by the festival weekend, so look now into something like the Hampton Inn and Suites, a more upscale style of lodging. Also new to Texarkana are the Comfort Suites and Courtyard by Marriott.


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