During All Star Week – Movies in the Park presents THE SANDLOT

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Baseball players are sometimes referred to as “The Boys of Summer.”  So it seems appropriate that during the MLB All Star week, the Movies in the Park has a movie about baseball in its purest form.

Movies in the Park continues its 15th season tonight with The Sandlot.

When Scottie Smalls moves to a new neighborhood, he manages to make friends with a group of kids who play baseball at the sandlot. Together they go on a series of funny and touching adventures. The boys run into trouble when Smalls borrows a ball from his stepdad that gets hit over a fence.

Families, picnics, and leashed pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, but no glass containers. Don’t forget the bug spray! An adult must accompany all children under the age of 18 and an ID is required. Chaperoned youth, sports, church and other groups are welcome!

The First Security Amphitheater will open an hour before film showings (approx. 7:30) and movies with begin at sundown each week (approx. 8:30).

For more information about Movies in the Park and to see which films will feature live performances or other activities before the showings, visit www.rivermarket.info or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lrrivermarket

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Women’s World Cup Watch Party today at War Memorial Stadium

Image may contain: stripesThe City of Little Rock and War Memorial Stadium invite the public to watch Team USA take on the Netherlands in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, today, July 7.

This is a free watch party, and the public is asked to bring blankets and/or lawn chairs to view the game from the field.

No cleats; shoes must be worn.

Concessions will be sold. Gates open at 9:30. The match begins at 10.

The Little Rock Zoo invites persons to stop by the Zoo for lunch and to see the exhibits there following the match.

Film “Swingin’ Timber” will be shown at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center today at 3pm

On Saturday, July 6th at 3 p.m., Mosaic Templars Cultural Center will host a free showing of David D. Dawson’s film “Swingin’ Timber.” David will be in attendance at the screening.

“Swingin’ Timber” is the story of the Claybrook Tigers, a Negro leagues team formed by John C. Claybrook in Claybrook, Arkansas (a town which no longer exists today).

Entrepreneur John C. Claybrook was a farmer and lumberman who built the town of Claybrook around his businesses. He founded the Claybrook Tigers and built their stadium on his farm to try to stop his son from leaving their family businesses. The documentary tells the story of Mr. Claybrook’s town and his team.

Famous Negro Leagues players such as: Theolic “Fireball” Smith , Dan Wilson, Walter Calhoun, John “The Brute” Lyles, Logan “Eggie” Hensley, Alfred “Greyhound” Saylor, Roosevelt “Bill” Tate, W. H. “Big Train” Summerall, and Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe all played for Claybrook.

National Balloon Race starts in Little Rock on April 29, 1926

On April 29, 1926, nine hot air balloons took off from Little Rock’s airport (which was actually just an airfield at the time) in a national race to win the Litchfield Trophy.  In addition to the trophy, the winner would be on the American team in an international balloon race in Belgium.

The New York Times coverage noted that the weather conditions were ideal as the balloons took off in five minute intervals between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.  The test balloon (akin to a pace car in a car race) was the Arkansas Gazette‘s Skylark.  It took off at 4:25 and headed in the direction of the northeast, which was the desired direction.

The nine balloons, in order of liftoff were: the US Army from Phillips Field in Maryland; the US Army from McCook Field in Ohio; the Goodyear Southern California; the Detroit; the Goodyear IV (whose pilot Ward T. Van Orman had won the 1924 and 1925 contests); US Army from Scott Field; a balloon piloted by a Danish pilot Svend A. U. Rasmussen; US Army balloon from Langley Field in Virginia; and the Akron National Aeronautic Association balloon.

The pilots carried provisions for 48 hours and were equipped for sea flying.  Each had a radio and loud speaker.  KTHS radio of Hot Springs (a forerunner to today’s KTHV TV station) was broadcasting the location of each balloon.  As they left the Arkansas radio station’s range, there was a network of other stations which would do the same.

It was expected that the race would last between eighteen and thirty-six hours.  The last balloon aloft was Van Orman for the third year.  He lasted approximately 31 hours and landed near Chesapeake Bay.

Though no headcount was given, the New York Times called the viewing audience “the largest crowd ever assembled in Little Rock.”

Many thanks to Brian Lang of the Arkansas Arts Center for giving me the tip on this.

Little Rock Look Back: First Basketball Game in Little Rock

Very few sports can have a definitive “this was the first game in Little Rock” moment. But basketball does.

On April 7, 1893, the Arkansas Gazette ran stories about the final day of horse racing at Clinton Park racetrack (the park stretched roughly from what is today’s Clinton Presidential Park through the East Village to Clinton National Airport), the men who were soon to take office as aldermen met to plan for their upcoming City Council terms, and a preview of a new sport coming to Little Rock.

Less than two years earlier in Springfield, Massachusetts, a YMCA instructor named James Naismith had invented the new game of Basket Ball (then spelled with two words).  The sport caught on in popularity and spread throughout the country through the network of YMCAs.

Now, on April 7, 1893, Little Rock residents would get their first glimpse of the game.  Two hundred men and women gathered at the Little Rock YMCA (located at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main Streets) to see the game, which started at 8:30pm.

The Little Rock YMCA team (which had only formed the night before) took on the Pine Bluff YMCA team.  The Pine Bluff young men had been practicing for six months.  The results of the game reflected that.  At the end, Pine Bluff had scored 70 points and Little Rock had scored 9 points.

Following the game, the Little Rock chapter hosted both teams for refreshments.  Little Rock was scheduled to go to Pine Bluff to play again during the YMCA statewide convention at the end of April.

From those meager beginnings, Little Rock has seen its fair share of basketball triumphs.

Women Making History: Gretchen Hall

Gretchen HallAt the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Gretchen Hall was named Tourism Person of the Year.  This is just the latest honor for her.  In 2017, she was the first woman to solely receive the Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s Top of the Rock Award.

As the President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, she leads a staff that not only brings conventions and tourists to Little Rock, but also creates opportunities for local residents to enjoy their city more.

From 2014 to 2016, she actively oversaw the deconstruction and reconstruction of Robinson Center Performance Hall. Taking a New Deal era assembly hall and making it into a state-of-the-art performance facility was not an easy task. Gretchen and her team have worked with the architects, engineers, designers and consultants to make it happen.

Gretchen joined LRCVB in 2001 and worked her way up through the organization.  In May 2011, she was named to her current position.  Since that time, the LRCVB has undertaken numerous efforts to enhance Little Rock including a new amphitheatre in Riverfront Park, enhanced programming at the River Market, and increased financial support of cultural organizations.  She has worked to improve not only the meeting space available for conventions, but also to enhance the dining and lodging scenes in Little Rock.  In addition, she helped lead the effort to see the additional penny of the hotel tax be dedicated to support the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

Little Rock Look Back: Creation of War Memorial Stadium approved

On March 18, 1947, Governor Ben T. Laney signed the bill into law which authorized the construction of War Memorial Stadium.

The plans for the stadium were the brainchild of Arkansas Secretary of State C.G. “Crip” Hall and University of Arkansas Athletic Director John Barnhill.

Apparently the Southwest Conference was threatening to kick Arkansas out because of an inadequate football facility. Since the University did not have the funds to build a new one on its campus, Barnhill and Hall decided that the state should build one. Many other states were building War Memorial facilities of a variety of natures. The duo decided that the new football facility could be a War Memorial Stadium to pay tribute to the men who died in the recently concluded World War II.  While the stadium was touted as being of use to all colleges in the state and a variety of other types of activities, it was very much designed to be a home for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Getting the stadium through the Arkansas General Assembly was not easy.  The bill to create the stadium commission sailed through both houses. But even some who voted for it said they would oppose any funding bills.  When time came to vote for the funding, the bill fell far short of the three-quarters vote that was needed in the House for an appropriation bill.

WWII veterans were on both sides of the issue.  Some felt it was an appropriate way to honor those who died.  Others felt it was a gimmick to get the stadium approved.  Some of the opponents felt that a new state hospital for UAMS would be the more appropriate way to honor those who died during the war.  The debates were often heated and personal.

Overnight a new bill was created. It would pay for the stadium through the issuing of bonds. In addition to the state issuing bonds, any city which wished to bid for it would have to put up money for it as well as provide land.  This new bill would require only 51 votes to pass the House.  It was able to pass that threshold.  The Senate made a few amendments (mostly dealing with the composition of the stadium commission and the amount of dollars that the host city had to pledge).  Finally the House agreed to the Senate amendments and it went to Governor Laney.

The next hurdle for the stadium was choosing a location. That process would occupy stadium proponents throughout the spring and summer of 1947.