(Walnut Ridge, Ark.)- The Beatles are coming back to Walnut Ridge! Plans have been set for a September unveiling of the Beatles sculpture that is to be erected at Walnut Ridge Regional Airport,and some special guests have committed to be a part of the ceremony.
The Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band from Branson, Mo.,have committed to headline the event, which will be held Sept. 18 at the airport.
“We continue to be amazed at the response we are getting to the Beatles sculpture,as well as our planned guitar plaza downtown. The Liverpool Legends actually contacted us after seeing a story about our plans on a Springfield, Mo.,TV station,” said Charles Snapp, a member of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce tourism committee, which is planning the project.
The tribute band is operated by Louise Harrison, sister of late Beatles member George Harrison, and she also plans to take part in the unveiling.
“Louise will turn 80 years old shortly before our event, so we are going to make her birthday celebration a part of our dedication ceremony. The timing of all this has worked out remarkably well,” Snapp said.
Sept.18 is also the anniversary date for the Beatlesâ€™ landing at the airportin 1964. The band flew into Walnut Ridge en route to a weekend vacation in southern Missouri,and then returned two days later to fly out.
The tourism committee is developing two tourist attractions to highlight Lawrence Countyâ€™s position on Rockâ€˜nâ€™ Roll Highway 67, including the sculpture to commemorate the Beatleâ€™s surprise visit.
Dubbed”The British Invasion of the Rock â€˜nâ€™ Roll Highway,” the sculpture will be eight feet tall and 20 feet wide. It is an artistic rendering of the Beatleâ€™s iconic Abbey Road album cover and is to be placed in a grassy area between the airport terminal and the Wings of Honor Museum.
“Everything is coming together for a big celebration at the airport on Sept. 18,” said committee chairman Brett Cooper. “We are anticipating an event all of northeast Arkansas will be proud of and will be talking about for a long time to come.”
The committee has secured several key commitments for the ceremony. Television station KAIT 8 and radio station KASU, both in Jonesboro, have signed on asco-sponsors to help promote the dedication ceremony, and the committee says it hopes to attract other media sponsors, as well. Additionally, JR and Michelle Rogers, owners of All-Star Music, are donating the use of a stage and sound equipment for the event.
Other musical acts are also being lined up, according to the committee. Those performers will be announced as the date for the dedication draws closer.
The event will be free of charge to attend and will begin in the early afternoon of Sept. 18th, which is a Sunday. Performances will run for several hours and culminate with the unveiling of the sculpture that evening.
The Beatles sculpture has already been fully funded through local donations, and the committee has also raised $14,000 thus far toward a related attraction, a guitar plaza along Front Street in downtown Walnut Ridge. The group estimates it will take over $30,000 to complete the plaza.
The guitar plaza, which will be 100 feet long and shaped like a 1950s era electricguitar, will be lined with sculptures of rock â€˜nâ€™ roll performers who once traveled and performed at venues along Highway 67. As with the Beatles project, the sculptures will be two-dimensional silhouettes made of metal.
“These two attractions are a lot of fun and exciting additions to our area, but theyare ultimately aimed at economic development. That has been our underlying motivation all along,” said Cooper. “We believe weâ€™re going to have two sites that, if properly promoted, will motivate folks to stop and spend some time here. Even if itâ€™s just a few hours, they will spend money here, boost our economy and maybe even spark some new businesses that we would all enjoy.”
Snapp added, “We are confident these two attractions will pique the interest ofmusic lovers of all types, bringing them to Lawrence County to share and experience our musical heritage. We are creating economic benefits through tourism and maintaining the historical significance the rockabilly era had on our community.”
photo courtesy of the Liverpool Legends