BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Downtown Arts District will be transformed this weekend as the area is poised to host the annual Ouachita Arts Celebration, Saturday, November 5th. The event has garnered strong community partnerships that continues to help it grow and soar in popularity, attracting locals and tourists alike. The event is a huge and eclectic collaboration of partnerships from businesses to artists to students and organizers credit many humble volunteers that begin working months in advance behind the scenes to produce the one-day event.
Not only does it take time, it also takes solid financial backing. Rick Chrisman, owner of American Artisans, said many come together to make the event happen and they all support the event either financially or with in-kind donations. The City of Mena, Mena A & P, Chamber of Commerce, and UARM, in addition to sponsors and the Downtown Arts District are some of the groups that help ensure the success of the day. “All of these play various roles but it wouldn’t happen without them,” said Chrisman.
And after the popularity of the first two years of the festival, growth is being seen. This year, new attractions have been added and more participants are taking part to make the event bigger and better than ever. Barbara Tobias, member of Mena Art Gallery, said the event, “highlights local schools, businesses, non-profits, RMCC, City of Mena, antique stores, restaurants and many artists from the community for an unusual day of fun.”
Around 20 artists’ booths will line North Mena Street between Maple and Janssen, as the streets are blocked off for the festival. Businesses that line the street in the Arts District will also be open and each will have activities.
Building on the success of the first two street festivals, they will be closing an additional block of Mena Street to accommodate a large group of pre-war automobiles. These cars will be on display showing the tremendous handwork that went into them. Vintage Tin Restoration of Mena is helping organize this addition to our festival. They will even have Doc Hudson, made famous by the popular children’s movie, Cars, on-hand as well, and will be available to sit in and have your picture taken.
This year many children’s activities with demonstrations and hands-on creative things for the family have also been added. Watch Tommy Young’s birds flying and have your photo made with them. There will be martial arts demonstrations, flint knapping (arrow head making), native American drumming, live music, belly dancing and all the stores will be open. American Artisans and the Skyline will once again be serving food.
The Mena Art Gallery will host artist demonstrations and the annual Christmas Show will be in place for shopping. Actors from the Ouachita Little Theater will be in costume on the streets as well as local school choirs performing in the businesses.
Piano prodigy, Benjamin Morren, will provide entertainment on stage. Morren started playing the piano at the age of eight, one month after his mother received word of a rare brain cancer diagnosis. He went on to play a beautiful tribute to her at her memorial, four months later. He has gladly served as the church pianist of Grace Baptist Church in De Queen, Ark. since the age of ten. His crowning achievement was realized when he was invited by Arkansas State Representative Nate Bell to perform live for Governor Asa Hutchinson, and numerous other elected officials in The Rotunda of the State Capitol Building. Benjamin is now 12 years of age and is deeply grateful to be an invited guest to various fundraising events each year, and desires to further use his talent to honor God. His performance is a must-see.
Logan Lind, a Norwegian/American, singer/songwriter with his own sound and a style that melds his Southern upbringing and Scandinavian roots, will perform on stage for entertainment as well. Lind is from Mena but has traveled the world with his original tunes.
The 3rd Annual Ouachita Arts Celebration will begin in the Downtown Arts District on North Mena Street at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 5th. Don’t miss local talent, art, crafts, and more in this one-of-a-kind event.