Riverfest brims with music, family fun in Little Rock, Ark.

There’s nothing little about Little Rock’s annual Riverfest, which is touted as the largest family festival in Arkansas.

In its 30th year, the festival will take place over Memorial Day weekend, May 25–27, in Julius Breckling Riverfront Park and the adjacent River Market District in Little Rock and the North Shore Riverwalk in North Little Rock. Last year’s attendance topped 245,000, and this year’s array of activities, food and entertainment surely will attract just as many throngs of visitors.

The festival is a mecca for music lovers with five stages and 100 acts performing day and night. Among the entertainers scheduled to appear this year are Smash Mouth, Keith Anderson, Blake Shelton, Ruben Studdard, Pat Benatar, LL Cool J and George Clinton. A fireworks show concludes each evening’s performances.

Children will enjoy the KidZone Playtime Promenade where they can participate in creative crafts, hands-on activities and exciting games. There will be interactive exhibits from the Museum of Discovery, an inflatable Moon Walk for bouncing, a stage for children’s entertainers and more.

This year, an all-new Market Row will feature arts, crafts and a broad selection of products that will appeal to the diverse interests of the festival-goers. Also new this year is a juried fine art show, which will be held downtown.

Hours for Riverfest are 5–11 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m.–11 p.m. Saturday and noon–10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $15 per person at the gate or $10 in advance with tickets available from the festival Web site or at Harvest Foods stores. Children under 6 are admitted free with an adult. The tickets are good for all three days.

For details about the festival, call (501) 255-3378, or visit www.riverfestarkansas.com online.

Published May/June 2007

Concerts at the festival attract thousands. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo

Louisiana’s Capitol turning 75 this year

Former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long pushed the state into the 20th century with his vision of a new Capitol building that shucked the overly romanticized antebellum past and firmly embraced the modern era.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Capitol, a 34-story skyscraper echoing the Art Deco era, will forever be tied to Long. It was his brainchild to construct a new Capitol, and he selected the architectural firm to design it, picked the site and secured the funding.

Ironically, he never served as governor in the building. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930. In the fall of 1935, he was tragically gunned down in a hallway of the Capitol. He was fittingly buried in the center of the public Capitol Gardens on the grounds. His memorial, a statue showing him holding a model of his monument, stands in the English Garden in the shadow of the skyscraper that was his dream of Louisiana.

Visitors can tour the building and see the floor in Memorial Hall that is made of Mt. Vesuvius lava from Italy. In the center of Memorial Hall is a 3,290 pound bronze relief map of Louisiana that lists each of the 64 parishes in the state around its border and depicts symbols of Louisiana’s industries and natural products.

Also within Memorial Hall are solid bronze elevators, four white Georgia marble statues and two solid bronze chandeliers, weighing two tons each. Side walls are graced with murals painted by Jules Guerin of France.

From the observation deck on the 27th floor, visitors can see the entire city of Baton Rouge and beyond.

The Louisiana State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark, is located at N. Third St. on State Capitol Drive. It is open daily from 9 a.m. –4 p.m., except on major holidays. There is no admission fee. For details, call (225) 342-7317.

The 34-story Louisiana Capitol, built in the Art Deco style, was unveiled on May 16, 1932. Louisiana Office of Tourism photo

Mississippi Museum of Art gives wing to angelic art exhibition

An array of angels will descend on the Mississippi Museum of Art this summer in an exclusive exhibition that will make the spirit soar.

On loan from some of the most prestigious collections in Italy and curated by Director General of the Vatican Museums Dr. Francesco Buranelli, the exhibition features more than 100 works of art that will be on display June 9–Dec. 30 at the museum in Jackson. The exhibit, “Between God and Man: Angels in Italian Art,” focuses on the world of angels, explaining their hierarchy, their attributes and various actions, while at the same time creating an evocative journey through Italian art.

Angels can be traced to nearly all ancient cultures and all religious traditions. As the representation of man’s relationship with God, angels fill the spiritual space between the earthly and divine realms. They are the messengers, often portrayed as the personification of spirituality, grace and purity.

The exhibition features works in various mediums, with a focus on paintings, and from various time periods, ranging from ancient to modern. It marks the first time many of the works have traveled to America, and they will return to Italy after this seven-month show.

This exhibition will be the first in the museum’s newly renovated facility next door, the former Mississippi Arts Pavilion, which doubles the museum’s gallery space.

The museum is located at 380 South Lamar St. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for students age 6 through college age. Hours are 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday– Saturday with extended hours on Thursday until 8 p.m., and from noon–6 p.m. on Sunday. Call (601) 960-1515, or visit www.msmuseumart.org.

Domenico Corvi’s “The Angel Appears to St. Peter in Prison.” Collezione Lemme, Rome.

Arkansas festival celebrates the beauty of butterflies

Known for its spectacular vistas and for being located on the tallest mountain in Arkansas, Mount Magazine State Park will celebrate its smallest and most delicate creatures this summer: butterflies.

The 11th annual Mount Magazine International Butterfly Festival will be held on June 22–23 at the northwest Arkansas park. Designed to help people appreciate butterflies more, the festival will feature guest speakers and hikes to explore butterflies’ natural habitat. Children will enjoy make-and-take crafts.

Mount Magazine is home to 86 of the state’s 134 resident butterfly species. At 2,753 feet, the mountain rises dramatically above the broad valleys of the Petit Jean River and Arkansas River.
In nearby Paris, the town will hold a celebration in conjunction with the festival with arts, crafts, food vendors, a quilt show and live music all weekend.

Mount Magazine State Park is located between Fort Smith and Russellville off Highway 309. Call (479) 963-8502 or visit www.butterflyfestival.com.

One of the 86 species of butterflies that call the park home. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo

Buccaneers rule at annual Lake Charles, La., festival

Ahoy ye mates, it’s time again for the annual Contraband Days Festival in Lake Charles, La., and with the festival celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, there will be plenty of fun to plunder.

Contraband Days, a pirate- themed festival with close to 100 events, is one of the state’s largest celebrations and the City of Lake Charles’ oldest festival. Held May 1–13 this year, the activities are based at the Lake Charles Civic Center grounds with some events held throughout the city.

The notorious 19th century pirate Jean Lafitte is the inspiration behind Contraband Days. According to local legend, Lafitte and his band of buccaneers avoided enemy detection by hiding along the waterways in Lake Charles, particularly in Contraband Bayou.

In addition to carnival rides, the festival offers a booty of activities, including a kid’s pirate costume contest, sailboat regatta, crawfish-eating contest, Cajun dancing and the Cajun pirate cook-off.

Special shows throughout the festival include the spring watercolor exhibition, a boat parade and a fireworks display. Other crowd favorites are an amazing tiger show and a classic car show.

General admission to the festival is $3 daily and parking on the grounds costs $2. For additional information, call (337) 436-5508 or click on www.contrabanddays.com.

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