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Mar/Apr 2010 Issue

Hot Springs, Ark., celebrates St. Patrick with zany parade

Hot Springs, Ark., has turned the concept of the St. Patrick’s Day parade on its ear, and the result is like nothing you’ve ever heard of before.

Called the First Ever Seventh Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, this year’s quirky event will be held at 6 p.m. on March 17 in downtown Hot Springs. This year’s celebrity grand marshal will be Bo Derek, and as many as 20,000 people are expected to attend the unique festivities.

The entirely tongue-in-cheek event is called the “first ever” because this will be the first time they’ve held the seventh parade. And the parade is held on 98-foot-long Bridge Street, which became famous in the 1940s when Ripley’s Believe It or Not designated it “The Shortest Street in the World.” Naturally, parade organizers deemed it the perfect place for their parade, compared to some other parade routes that stretch for miles.

Among the highlights of the parade will be green fireworks, Irish belly dancers, floats, marchers, Irish Wolfhounds and more. Among the entries will be the Irish Order of Elvi, a group of Elvis look-alikes. Following the parade will be a pub crawl that will last long into the night.

The parade has gained national attention in recent years not only for its quirkiness but for its grand marshals. Among them have been George Wendt of “Cheers” fame, comedian Pauley Shore and Mike Rowe, the host of the incredibly popular “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel.

Hot Springs in located in west-central Arkansas at the intersection of state Highway 7 and U.S. Route 270. For more details, call (501) 321-2027 or (800) 922-6478, or visit


Thousands of people converge on the 98-foot-long Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs, Ark., for the parade. Hot Springs CVB photo


Visitor center takes root at Louisiana State Arboretum

Plants, trees and flowers don’t constitute the only growth at the Louisiana State Arboretum. A new visitor center has sprouted up, offering guests a look at the park’s varied and verdant ecosystems before they explore the vast preserve.

The visitor center opened in September with an array of exhibits, hands-on models of vegetation found in the area, a flat screen monitor with continuous slide shows and an interactive program teaching about the life cycle of a tree and the process of decomposition. A dedication of the center is planned for this spring, though a date had yet to be determined at press time for this issue. The center will be named in honor of the late J.D. LaFleur, a retired principal from nearby Ville Platte, who was instrumental in establishing the arboretum.

Located near the entrance to Chicot State Park, the Louisiana State Arboretum features more than 300 acres of natural growth, embellished with additional plantings of species that are indigenous to the state. Atypical of the terrain in the Louisiana prairieland, the topography of the arboretum is varied and dramatic. The landscape ranges from nearly flat along the Walker Branch of Lake Chicot to relatively steep slopes along the terrace ridges. Due to this great variation in topography, almost every type of Louisiana vegetation is represented on the site.

Botanists, horticulturists, college students, youth groups, solitary nature lovers and people of all ages are attracted to this beautiful and fascinating place. The site features nearly five miles of trails that showcase sycamores, maples, beeches, magnolias, hickories, ferns and cranefly orchids. Hikers might even encounter a white-tail deer, wild turkey, raccoon, fox or opossum.

The Arboretum is located at 1300 Sudie Lawton Lane near Ville Platte. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and admission is free. Fore details, call (337) 363-6289 or (888) 677-6100, or click on

visitor center

Above: The new visitor center features hands-on exhibits and interactive programs.

Below: Birders exploring the preserve. Louisiana State Parks photo.



Enjoy fresh art at monthly Arts Market in New Orleans

Art, food, fun and music come together on the last Saturday of every month at the Arts Market of New Orleans, featuring more than 100 of the region’s best artisans and lively entertainment making a masterpiece of fun for the entire family.

Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Palmer Park, the Arts Council of New Orleans presents this vibrant open-air market filled with handcrafted creations by local talent, offering everything from jewelry, glasswork and fashion accessories to paintings, ceramics and organic soaps. Each month, the market has a different theme. To prepare for the upcoming festival season, March’s theme will be Festival Fashions, and April’s theme is Mother Earth, a nod to Mother’s Day and Earth Day.

The market also features live music showcasing New Orleans’ unique musical heritage, food and beverage booths, and a Kids Tent with creative crafts and a performance. 

As any of the roughly 4,000 visitors to the free event will tell you, the Arts Market is the ultimate cultural experience and is a great place to buy original artwork by local artists, as well as listen to good music, let the kids play and even grab a bite to eat.

Palmer Park is located in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans at the corner of South Claiborne and South Carrollton avenues–the final stop of the historic St. Charles streetcar. For more details, call the Arts Council of New Orleans at (504) 523-1465, or click on

arts market

The monthly Arts Market of New Orleans features more than 100 vendors. West Freeman photo.

Devil’s Den has heavenly trail

When winter finally releases her icy grip, embrace spring with a walking stick in one hand and a map in the other.

And there are few better places to find picturesque and relaxing hikes than in Arkansas.

With dozens of possibilities across the Natural State, choices for spectacular scenery abound. But at Devil’s Den State Park near West Fork, you also can learn about history amid stunning Ozark Mountain vistas. Among several trails at the park, the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Trail offers a step back into the lives of the young men who built the park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) used native materials to craft the park’s rustic wood and stone structures, including an impressive native stone dam that spans Lee Creek in the heart of the park forming peaceful eight-acre Lake Devil.

The self-guided trail, at about one-fourth mile in length, includes numerous wayside exhibits, as well as remnants of the CCC camp. Visitors can see many of the structures that the CCC originally built in the 1930s.

The park is located off Arkansas Highway 74. Call (479) 761-3325 for details, or visit


The CCC built a stone dam to create Lake Devil. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo

Natchez Trace Festival welcomes visitors home

Once a stop along the Natchez Trace with a tavern and inn for weary travelers, Kosciusko still welcomes travelers, especially during its annual Natchez Trace Festival, which is known as central Mississippi’s unofficial homecoming.

Thousands from across the state of Mississippi and the southeastern United States will converge on downtown “courtsquare” in Kosciusko on Saturday, April 24, for good food, great arts and crafts and lots of fun for the whole family. The open-air festival, sponsored by the Kosciusko-Attala Development Corporation, is held the last Saturday of April each year.

The festival actually will kick off on Friday evening, April 23, with the Family Night Concert at the M & F Bank Park. Then on Saturday, the festivities will begin with a traditional 10K run/5K walk and one mile fun run. Then throughout the day, guests can wander among hundreds of arts and crafts exhibitors, many of whom will demonstrate their skills.

Among the other highlights will be entertainment stages, the Gasoline Alley antique car and motorcycle show, plenty of food booths, children’s activities and the Miss Natchez Trace Festival Pageant.

Kosciusko is located in central Mississippi at the intersection of state Highway 12 and Highway 35. For more details, call (662) 289-2981, or visit

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