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Travel Treasures departments

September/October 2015 Issue

Stately Arkansas Capitol celebrating its centennial

Sometimes, governmental cost overruns and project delays turn out for the best, as they did for the magnificent Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.

Designed by architects George Mann and Cass Gilbert, the original construction cost for the monumental neo-Classical building was not to exceed $1 million. However, after two general contractors, six Capitol Commissions, three governors, and 15 years of labor, the completed Capitol cost about $2.3 million–nearly two-and-a-half times the original budget.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, however, no one could bemoan the stately structure today or its inauspicious beginnings. Rich in craftsmanship and remarkable architectural elements, the Capitol stands as a source of pride for the people of Arkansas.

Constructed between 1899 and 1915, the building features galleries in the House and Senate Chambers where visitors can watch legislators at work when in session. Other public areas include the towering rotunda, restored Governor’s Reception Room, and the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

On free guided or self-guided tours, visitors will discover that the marble on the floors and walls came from Vermont, the grand staircases from Alabama, and the columns from Colorado. Throughout the building, visitors will see ornamental plaster elements, mahogany railings, decorative painting, and a stained glass version of the Great Seal of Arkansas.

Among the highlights are six 10-foot-tall bronze doors that are polished nearly every day, and a 12-foot-wide brass chandelier that is suspended from the Capitol’s inner dome by a 75-foot wrought iron chain.

Located at 500 Woodlane St., the Capitol is open from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. on weekdays, with tours offered 9 a.m.–3 p.m. No tours are offered from noon–1 p.m. The building is open on weekends in December.

To schedule a tour or for details, call (501) 682-5080 or visit


The Capitol’s magnificent dome rises 213 feet above the ground. Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office photo


Louisiana festival features wood, water, and lots of fun

Southeast Louisiana’s annual celebration of wood and water returns Oct. 10–11 with the 26th annual Wooden Boat Festival, a tribute to the handcrafted wooden boats that made Louisiana’s maritime history and culture unique.

Hundreds of boats will line the banks of the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville, La., as more than 30,000 attendees enjoy live music, fine arts and crafts, a beer garden, and Cajun cuisine. Among the beautifully crafted wooden boats on display will be sailboats, skiffs, kayaks, runabouts, work boats, and more.

Young visitors will enjoy activities just for them in the Children’s Village, including the chance to build their own wooden toy boats. New this year is an area dedicated to carnival rides and amusements.

The Quick ‘n’ Dirty Boat Building Contest is a highlight of the festival with crews assembling boats from materials provided to them. After two days of building, they'll parade the boats to the water at 2 p.m. on Sunday for an exciting race.

Festival admission provides access to the nighttime musical performances and admittance to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, which brings Louisiana’s maritime history to life through interpretive programs and exhibits.

Gates open at 10 a.m. both days. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, and free for children under 12 and active-duty military personnel. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or at a discount in advance on the festival’s Web site. Free parking and free shuttle service is provided from the Sam’s Club parking lot at 69630 Stirling Blvd. in Covington.

For more information, call (985) 845-9200 or click on


Visitors will see beautifully crafted boats at the festival. Anthony “Chopper” Leone photo



Mississippi Music Fest brims with good times

Spectacular views of the Mississippi River in Greenville, Miss., provide the perfect backdrop for the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival–a three-day concert celebrating the Delta, its farmers, the legends, and all the music they inspired.

The anchor festival of Bridging the Blues–a project that promotes the blues across Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi–the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival will be held Oct. 2–4 at Warfield Point Park in Greenville. Featuring two stages, the festival is a multi-genre musical event that was voted as the Festival of the Year by the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Among the all-star lineup is the Old Crow Medicine Show.

The event also features arts and crafts, great cuisine, children’s activities, movie nights, and a 53-mile team race from Rosedale, Miss., to Warfield Point Park. Also, SEC football games will be broadcast on a Jumbotron all day on Saturday.

Day passes are $45 per day or $90 for the entire weekend. Parking is $10 per day, or a two-day parking pass can be purchased for $15.

For tickets or details, call (662) 347-2920, or click on



Baton Rouge Fair marks 50th birthday

Fifty years of family fun will be celebrated as the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair welcomes guests for 11 days of entertainment from Oct. 22–Nov. 1 at the BREC Fairgrounds in Baton Rouge.

In addition to the largest midway in South Louisiana with more than 40 rides for all ages, visitors will see Brian “The Human Fuse” Miser who launches himself into the air from a crossbow while on fire. The fair also features entertainment on the main stage every day, a “Mutton Bustin’” children’s rodeo, agriculture and livestock displays, lawnmower pulls and races, and the Swifty Swine Pig Races.

The fairgrounds are located at 16072 Airline Highway (U.S. Highway 61). Gates open at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon on weekends, and they close at 10 p.m. each day. Gate admission is $5 for anyone 48 inches and taller. Parking is free. Wristbands to ride all the rides are $25. Combination wristband and entry tickets are available for $20 at Walgreens, Cracker Barrel Convenience Stores, and online at

Since it was begun in 1965, the fair has served as a community fund-raiser. To date, it has donated more than $3.5 million to local programs and scholarships.

For more information, call (225) 755-FAIR (755-3247), or visit


Pig races are part of the fun at the fair. Greater Baton Rouge State Fair photo


History bubbles up in Hot Springs, Ark.

When the Fordyce opened 100 years ago, it was the most luxurious bathhouse in Hot Springs, Ark., and a shining beacon of prestige, and now in its second life as a visitor center, it beautifully illuminates the history of the city’s thermal springs and the bathing industry that bubbled up because of them.

The settlers who reached the Hot Springs area in the early 1800s quickly realized the potential of the area as a health resort because of the therapeutic water. A thriving city built up around the springs, and today, Bathhouse Row is a National Historic Landmark District.

The largest of the bathhouses to open was the Fordyce, which cost more than $200,000 to build and furnish in 1915. Owner Col. Samuel Fordyce spared no expense, from the mosaic tile floors and Carrara Italian marble walls to the stained glass skylights in the men’s bath hall and assembly room.

The Fordyce Bathhouse closed in 1962 and remained vacant until its reopening as the visitor center of Hot Springs National Park in 1989. Located in the middle of Bathhouse Row, the building was restored to appear as it did during its prime, and it contains exhibits on the thermal bathing industry. Guided and self-guided tours are available.

Located at 369 Central Ave., the visitor center is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.

Call (501) 620-6715 for details, or visit


The Fordyce was restored to its former glory. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo

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