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Friday, May 6, 2016

Cherokee Village to observe 50th anniversary

Thursday, June 9, 2005

June 11 is a day of celebration -- Cherokee Village, home to more than 4,000 residents, is turning 50.

On June 10-12 the city, Suburban Improvement District, Cherokee Village Historical Society and the city are celebrating the first half century of the community with a full weekend of events.

"We want to commemorate 50 years of growth and development," said Debbie Kehrli, chairman of the 50th anniversary committee. "We want to celebrate the anniversary of our community and honor a man who had a vision for this area."

Cherokee Village, founded by John A. Cooper Sr., is one of the first planned retirement communities in the nation. Fifty-one years ago Cooper envisioned a community surrounded by gorgeous scenery and with numerous amenities that would attract vacationers who would later return to spend their golden years. One year later, on June 11, 1955, the Village was dedicated.

At the time of the dedication the Village consisted of a 60-acre lake, a clubhouse, a park, a garden and an airstrip.

The dedication itself was the talk of the area. The program was to include speeches from four prominent Arkansas politicians -- Gov. Orval Faubus, Sen. John McClellan, Sen. William J. Fulbright and Rep. Wilbur Mills. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented Fulbright, Mills and McClellan from attending.

The three men flew in from Washington to Little Rock and then made their flight to the Village, but were unable to land because of a severe storm in the area. Faubus was the only one who was able to attend. He had driven up the night before.

The program was held in an outdoor amphitheater of the east side of Lake Cherokee. Speakers and entertainers at the program included Hardy Mayor R. Baty, Princess Sky Eyes, Cherokee entertainer and singer; Chief Evergreen Tree, performing "bird calls and other imitations"; Miss Arkansas Sara Grace Martin; and Miss Arkansas-Universe Cherie Bowers.

The storm kept many away, but about 1,000 attended the program. At the end of the day, members of civic groups who had prepared platters for the dedication took home much of the food they had prepared.

This year alternate plans for inclement weather are in place.

"We need rain so bad, but I really hope it doesn't rain that weekend," Kehrli said.

Rather than a single ceremony, the celebration will last three days and allow residents and guests alike to take advantage of everything Cherokee Village has to offer.

On June 10 a barbecue dinner will be held at Thunderbird Center in the evening. On Saturday the Kiwanis Club will hold a pancake breakfast, and a golf tournament will take place while activities abound during the afternoon and evening in other parts of the city.

A car show will be held in Town Center along with vendor booths and bands. A fly-in is scheduled at the airport with an airshow and plane rides. Lake cruises will also be available at Thunderbird Marina. A big band dinner is planned for Saturday evening at Omaha Center with a jazz orchestra playing all the tunes from yesteryear.

On Sunday the activities will conclude with a brunch at Fountain Place, founder Cooper's former home.

"We want them to get to see as much of Cherokee Village as they can during that three-day weekend," Kehrli said.

In addition, a monument honoring Cooper will be unveiled during the celebration. The $8,000 monument is paid for by donations and will be located on city property near the police station. Extra funds will be used to landscape and further develop the area, Kehrli said.

For details on this weekend's activities call City Hall at 257-5522.

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