A stage at Janssen Park was discussed in committee last Thursday at Mena City Hall. The proposed permanent stage would face northward near the springhouse and sit in what could be called a natural amphitheater in the northwest portion of the park. The stage would serve a great purpose during the annual Lum and Abner Festival during which it would be used for award ceremonies for the car show, announcements and live music. Marketing Director for Mena Advertising and Promotion, Ashley Smith, said outside of the festival the stage could see many different uses like music festivals, outdoor movies in the park, political rallies, theater productions, ceremonies, and various other events. She also said that having such a facility would help attract more popular music acts to the Lum and Abner Festival. In fact, music plays a large part in the festival history. In its beginning in 1977 the festival showcased live music nightly and attracted up to 200 people to hear country and bluegrass music. By the mid 80’s the festival lasted a full four weeks with two bands playing every night.
By viewing the schematic of the stage it would be built in a way to add to the feel of the park and would have a period look to it that would lend itself well with the log cabin that was built on the grounds in 1851. Committee member James Earl Turner said, “I’d like for people to drive by and see the stage and think, how’d they build that over 100 years ago”. Judging by the plans of the stage it would meet those expectations. The projected cost for the stage is listed at $30,000 to $50,000. Smith told The Pulse that the Mena A&P pays upwards of $6,000 to $8,000 annually for a stage and sound company to set up for the festival. By having a permanent stage in Janssen Park, and taking an average of $6,000 in set up costs, Smith figures the stage would pay for itself seven years. The stage could also be leased out to area organizations and individuals at a cost with proceeds going to the upkeep and maintenance of the park and structure. Smith hopes, if council approves the stage, that it would be ready in time for the 2020 Lum and Abner Festival. If the city decides to go forward with the proposal Mena will have an excellent venue to add to the already beautiful park.
-by Jamie Hammack