Today (Thursday, November 10) at 10am, the ribbon will be cut on the newly restored Robinson Center. It seems like a good chance to look back at two prior ribbon cuttings for the building.
The original ribbon cutting was supposed to be outside on the evening of Friday, February 16, 1940. It was moved indoors due to rain and cold temperatures. The ribbon was originally to be stretched across the front columns, but instead was stretched across the front curtain. The white satin ribbon stood out against the royal blue velvet curtains.
Four people participated in the ribbon cutting: Little Rock Mayor J. V. Satterfield, Mrs. Ewilda Robinson – widow of Senator Robinson, Mrs. Emily Miller – sister-in-law of Senator Robinson and a member of the auditorium commission, and a D. Hodson Lewis of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Lewis emceed the brief program, which was was broadcast live on a Little Rock radio station. It consisted of Mr. Lewis introducing Mayor Satterfield, Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Robinson chose not to make remarks. Mayor Satterfield spoke briefly (a whopping twenty-nine words). Then Mrs. Robinson cut the ribbon. It took a couple of tries for her to get the scissors through the fabric on the ribbon.
Following that the building was officially opened.
In the late 1960s, City leaders started making plans for a renovation and expansion of Robinson Auditorium into a convention center. In September 1973, a second ribbon cutting was held to celebrate the opening of the renovated space. That ribbon was bright red and stretched from Ashley Street along Markham, wrapped into the side doors, and then back outside across the front of the building. At the ceremony, Advertising and Promotion Commission Chairman Warren “Bud” Baldwin joked that they were having the longest ribbon and the shortest ceremony.
While the ribbon may have been long, the ceremony was not short. Well, perhaps by ribbon cutting standards it was short, but it was certainly longer than the 1940 edition. Among those participating in the ribbon cutting were Governor Dale Bumpers, Little Rock Mayor Bill Walters, and Miss Little Rock Risa McLemore. The ribbon was cut by Miss McLemore and Ken Johnson of the Central States Shrine Association. Over 14,000 Shriners were the first large convention in the new space.