Niki de Soto
The Horseshoe Bend Chamber of Commerce met on June 19 to discuss new ways to promote the city, both in the surrounding areas and in Arkansas. The featured speaker, North Central Arkansas Tourism Council President Glenna O'Neil shared ideas and programs to help increase tourism in Horseshoe Bend as well as the entire area of the Ozarks foothills.
"Together we can accomplish something. We can work on grants together, and on projects in our communities. Together we can really make an impact through this tight knit coalition of these towns working closely with Donna Perrin, the director of the Arkansas State Tourism Board," said O'Neil. The council is a coalition of cities and counties in north central Arkansas working together to increase tourism across the region. It offers hospitality training and other programs to help local businesses encourage visitors to stay a little longer in their area.
The council has already placed concierge books at several locations throughout the state, to alert regional travelers to the vacation opportunities available in north central Arkansas. "We have the two resorts, the golf courses and the lake here in Horseshoe. That's what we have to capitalize on right now to get people here. Once they are here, then they're going to come and eat and stay locally, but we have to do something to draw them here. That's what our program is all about," said O'Neil.
The council has also teamed up with the Arkansas Bluegrass Association and KMBG Festival Productions to produce a program book to be distributed at all the participating chambers, at regional festivals and at several bluegrass festivals both this year and next year. "Our festival here in Horseshoe Bend next year will be May 29, which is Memorial Day weekend. We're going to have one next year also at Norfork Lake on Aug. 28. This year's festival at Berryville will be Oct. 24, and they will also have one next year on Oct. 23," said O'Neil.
Horseshoe Bend Chamber president Mitzi Ballman said she is on board 100 percent.
"As president of the Chamber, I want to see all of the merchants in town do well and work together. In order to do that, I have to bring people into this town to buy your products. Bluegrass music is very popular in this part of the country, as I'm sure most of you are aware. If we can get the bluegrass people to come here and perform, like we did in May, they have a following that will come with them which will generate more people that will come here and if we can do it year after year after year, we may even be in competition with Mountain View -- who knows what could happen from this? What we have to do is make our star shine. We have to be exceptional, here in Horseshoe Bend, and that starts with each of us," Ballman said.
O'Neil also urged area business owners to make use of the State Resource Guide. "Before you go out and purchase something -- say you're a florist and you need to purchase some flowers or he needs to find laundry soap for the rehab center, or you need to buy new sheets and towels for your resort - you can call me and I can give you the name of where you can get that in Arkansas, from an Arkansas company. We should try to keep our money here, rather than buying outside of Arkansas."
Other ideas brought to the table during the meeting were the creation of a "destination" in Horseshoe Bend and promoting "fly-ins" of regional golfers to come and play a round in the city. O'Neil brought up that destination grants are available from the Arkansas State Tourism Board, but they take a lot of work and require sign-off from not only the chamber but local officials as well.
Ken Ballman, vice chairman of North Central Arkansas Regional Development supports the council's efforts.
"The nice thing about what the council is trying to do, it's forcing people to network and when you network, you get things done. Maybe not everything gets done, but things happen," Ballman said. "Why is this being done? Tourism. We are trying to get people to come to the area. Part of this Welcome to Arkansas program, it's not all about training your folks to tell them about what's happening locally, but also to tell them about what's down the road. Keep them in the area, that's what regionalization is about."
Residents attending the Horseshoe Bend Chamber of Commerce meeting June 19 were rudely interrupted near the end of the chamber session when Tori Reilly of Horseshoe Bend barged in and assaulted chamber member Paul Behrendts, owner of the Crown Point Resort.
According to the Horseshoe Bend police report, Behrendt's alleged girlfriend was arrested and charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, fleeing, interference with an officer and third degree battery. The report states that she was transported to the Izard County Jail, where upon arrival she had to be tased by officers.
Reilly has since been released on a professional bond. Behrendts was allegedly unharmed in the attack.