After working this morning, I headed to Arkansas with Greg. We visited his dad first, enjoying a trip to Braum’s and a good chat. Time with Dad Moore is precious and we spent a lazy afternoon on the front porch, cooled by a summer breeze, watching the happenings of the neighborhood.
Greg’s cousin Pam lives in Bella Vista and right now, her sister, Greg’s other cousin Linda, is visiting from Illinois. We arranged to meet them in Bentonville, AR, in the town square, for a fun evening together. My first for today was to visit several interesting places on or near the square.
While waiting for the cousins to arrive, Greg and I sat in the park, in the center of Bentonville Square. With water splashing in the large fountain and trees to shade us, we spent a pleasant 15 minutes watching people stroll through the park. The flowers were in bloom and I was struck by the beauty of the park and also of the square itself. It was reminiscent of the square in Carthage, however, Bentonville has more green spaces. The park was a great place for people to gather throughout the evening.
After Pam and Linda joined us, we walked to a restaurant just off the square, The Flying Fish. We arrived just ahead of a huge crowd! The interior was fun and casual. There was ample seating and after ordering, we found a booth in the corner. I sampled their catfish basket. The meal was excellent and conversation flowed easily back and forth. Linda made us laugh when, after admiring a basket of fried okra at another table, the friendly diners allowed her to sample their food!
After dinner it was time to explore the square. Bentonville is Walmart country. The retail giant began in this small town, when Sam Walton opened his first shop, a Ben Franklin store called Walton’s 5-10. There is a museum on the site of the original store. Although there are times I hate the thought of having to go to Walmart to shop, I wanted to take a peek. We walked through fairly quickly, however, I learned a lot about Sam Walton. Greg’s dad knew Sam. He always described him as a humble, genuine man. Sam had a dream of bringing the best American made products to families, at the best prices possible. His first Walmart opened in Rogers, AR, in 1962. His story is one of perseverance and innovation. And no matter what the feelings are toward this mega company, the Walmart Foundation does a great deal of good all around the world, including in my city of Joplin.
We continued our walk around the square and then veered off again to visit the 21c Museum Hotel. I have never heard of this franchise, and indeed, there are only three such properties thus far in the chain. This Louisville KY based combination of contemporary art museum and boutique hotel was launched in 2006 by a pair of philanthropists and art collectors. It is the only museum in the US dedicated to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art and the hotel has been voted in the top ten in the world and the number one hotel in the south. We wandered through the exhibits, looking at all manner of interesting art. The mascot of 21c Museum Hotel is a penguin. AR has a green one, being the natural state. This icon shows up everywhere. A kind worker took our picture with a large blue snail and a pink meerkat.
Further down the block, we cooled off at the Ernest G. Lawrence Park splash pad. What a cheerful place. Kids darted among the sprays of water that shot randomly into the air. After watching for a few minutes, we discovered which fountains only bubbled up, rather than sprayed and kicking off our shoes, Pam, Linda and I ventured in. It was invigorating to get our feet wet and play for a moment. Refreshed, we sat and watched the kids. Joplin has a splash pad at Parr Hill Park. I made a mental note to visit it as a first.
Lastly, we strolled back through the square to The Spark Café located next to the Walton Museum. I learned that the asterisk looking symbol, associated with Walmart, is called Spark. The café is an old fashioned soda shop featuring ice cream, sodas, floats, sundaes and pie. It was a great place to end our evening together. I intended to only get a drink but succumbed to a slice of blueberry pie a la mode. Ah well. I got in a good walk this evening! And the pie was delicious.
We parted company back in the park in the center of the square. A man was singing with a karaoke machine while many people milled about. I loved the festive atmosphere. The evening reminded me of Joplin’s Third Thursdays, only this is a common occurrence in Bentonville. I think Joplin is on the right path, redeveloping the downtown area. I’d love to see this trend continue and the possibilities expanded. And I loved spending time with Pam and Linda. Greg and I enjoyed their company and I appreciated their willingness to experience firsts with me today. Pam gave me several great ideas for further firsts in this lovely state. Going beyond is showing me more of my own community and also expanding my adventures in other towns and states. I look forward to more trips of discovery to Arkansas.