2019 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Finalists announced

The 2019 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame finalists were announced today (January 10) at the Department of Arkansas Heritage headquarters.

This year, the Hall of Fame’s third, over 600 nominations were received in the five categories.  (The first year there were 300 nominations received and last year 450 nominations were submitted.)

As Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst noted, “The number of nominations confirms that people are indeed opinionated about their food.”  She continued, “Food is woven into our culture and our heritage.”

The 2019 Arkansas Food of the Year is Catfish. Not only is it a staple in many restaurants throughout the state, it is also a major contributor to the state’s economy.

The finalists in four of the five categories were announced. The fifth, the People’s Choice Award, goes to the entity that received the most nomination submittals. It will be announced, along with the winners in the other categories, at the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame ceremony on Monday, February 25 at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater.

The finalists in the other four categories are:

Food Hall of Fame
AQ Chicken House (Springdale)
4-Dice Restaurant (Fordyce)
Bruno’s Little Italy (Little Rock)
Burge’s Restaurant (Lewisville)
Craig Brothers Cafe aka Craig’s (De Valls Bluff)
Doe’s Eat Place (Little Rock)
Keeney’s Food Market (Malvern)
Kream Kastle (Blytheville)
The Ohio Club (Hot Springs)
Star of India (Little Rock)

Proprietor of the Year
Capi Peck, Little Rock (Trio’s)
Loretta Tacker, Marion (Tacker’s Shake Shack)
Peter Brave, Little Rock (Brave New Restaurant)
Sami Lal, Little Rock (Star of India)
Scott McGehee, Little Rock (Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurants)

Food Themed Event
Hope Watermelon Festival
International Greek Food Festival (Little Rock)
Our Lady of the Lake Annual Church Spaghetti Dinner (Lake Village)
Tontitown Grape Festival
World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook Off (Stuttgart)

Gone But Not Forgotten
Klappenbach Baker (Fordyce)
La Scala Italian Restaurant (Little Rock)
Mary Maestri’s Italiano Grillroom (Springdale)
The Shack Barbecue (Little Rock)
Uncle John’s (Crawfordsville)

The members of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee are:

  • Paul Austin
  • Swanee Bennett
  • Yvette Brady
  • Chip Culpepper
  • Montine McNulty
  • Dr. Cindy Grisham
  • Tim Horton
  • Rex Nelson
  • Tim Nutt
  • Dr Wendy Richter
  • Kat Robinson
  • Christina Shutt
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Little Rock Look Back: LR voters overwhelming support bid to Restore Robinson in 2013

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, voters of Little Rock overwhelmingly chose to renovate the historic Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

By a vote of 5,183 For and 1,800 Against, Little Rock citizens approved a plan to use a portion of the city’s existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for a renovation of Robinson Center.  The campaign was chaired by businessman Charles Stewart, restaurateur Capi Peck and former LR Mayor Jim Dailey.

Robinson has long been a landmark in central Arkansas. Construction of the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in 1938 (after a December 1937 groundbreaking under a deadline) and officially opened February 1940. The structure was a PWA (Public Works Administration) project, and is an excellent example of the Art Deco style architecture of the time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The facility is owned by the City of Little Rock and managed by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 1940 structure suffered from a wide array of deficiencies, including stage loading and unloading, stage size, acoustical insufficiency, dressing room access and inadequate wing space within the performance hall. Also, structural, mechanical and electrical issues, public circulation and outdated conference center spaces existed within the facility.

Knowing the center is in need of major upgrades if the facility is to continue to serve central Arkansas into the future, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P) empanelled a Robinson Center Concept Team in October 2011. The group was tasked with evaluating all aspects of the existing facility, researching user needs, proposing conceptual solutions and estimating the cost and construction schedule of the proposed additions and renovations. The concept team was led by Mike Steelman of SCM Architects, PLLC, and included representatives from WD&D Architects, Shuler Shook Theatre Planners, Jaffe-Holden Acoustical Consultants, TME Inc. Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, ECI Inc. Structural Engineers, McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. Civil Engineers, East Harding Construction, HVS Consulting and Hunt Construction Group.

Additionally, stakeholder and tenant organizations representing the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Celebrity Attractions of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Double Tree Hotel participated in the planning. The concept team findings were presented publicly on June 5, 2012.

On January 17, 2013 the LRA&P announced the selection of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, partnered with Ennead Architects, as the architectural and design team for the future renovations. On March 28, 2013 CDI Contractors LLC, partnered with Hunt Construction Group, were selected by LRA&P as the general contractors and construction managers.

On September 23, 2013 the final schematic renderings and cost estimates were presented publicly. The schematic plans depict major interior upgrades within the performance hall including additional volume to create a two-balcony setup, increased lobby space, acoustical improvements, theatrical upgrades, loading dock expansion, a larger stage area, and new dressing room facilities. Additionally, an enhanced modern ballroom and small conference center was unveiled. New technology, mechanical systems, and outdoor plaza spaces were included in the presentation.

Construction would begin on July 1, 2014.  It reopened on schedule and on budget on November 10, 2016.

Jewish Federation honors Capi Peck, including for her work with Operation Song

On December 8, Capi Peck was the Grand Honoree at the Jewish Federation of Arkansas’ Bridging Worlds: The 15th Annual Jane B. Mendel Tikkun Olam Awards.  Among the reasons she was cited was her work with Operation Song.

The awards are named in memory of Jane B. Mendel who was active in many education and social issues throughout her lifetime as well as Arkansas’ Jewish community.  Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for Repairing the World.

Operation Song is a program to create an opportunity to transform service related issues, injuries and illnesses into a structured, musical outlet as an enhancement of traditional therapies and/or treatments.  Founded in 2012 and based in Nashville TN, it has produced over 600 songs with veterans of World Ward II up to service members in active duty.

Goodman and Dean with Operation Song

It pairs award winning composers and lyricists with the veterans. Earlier this year, Capi brought the program to Little Rock for a workshop which lead to a concert being performed of the songs which had been written during the workshop.

Two songs written by Operation Song based on Little Rock veterans’ experiences were performed at the awards program last night by Steve Dean and Don Goodman with Operation Song. “The Journey” told the tale of Derek Mumford’s childhood in Britain and subsequent evacuation to the US during World War II, while “Classified Top Secret” captured Gene Weinstein’s experiences working on classified missions during the war.

Congratulations to Capi, and thank you for introducing Operation Song to Little Rock!

Little Rock Look Back: Robinson Center closes in preparation for Second Act

On July 1, 2014, Robinson Center Music Hall closed so that renovations could commence.  Instead of having a groundbreaking ceremony, Gretchen Hall and LRCVB arranged for a “stage breaking.”  Slats from the stage flooring were pried up with crowbars.

Twenty-eight months later, Robinson Center reopened on-time and on-budget.

(As a side note:  the Culture Vulture announced the countdown before Governor Mike Beebe and various Little Rock leaders used their crowbars for the first breaking of the stage flooring.)

Here are some photos from that ceremony.

Little Rock Look Back: Robinson Center closes for renovation

On July 1, 2014, Robinson Center Music Hall closed so that renovations could commence.  Instead of having a groundbreaking ceremony, Gretchen Hall and LRCVB arranged for a “stage breaking.”  Slats from the stage flooring were pried up with crowbars.

Twenty-eight months later, Robinson Center reopened on-time and on-budget.

(As a side note:  the Culture Vulture announced the countdown before Governor Mike Beebe and various Little Rock leaders used their crowbars for the first breaking of the stage flooring.)

Here are some photos from that ceremony.

Little Rock Look Back: LR votes to Restore Robinson!

restore-robinson-121013On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, voters of Little Rock overwhelmingly chose to renovate the historic Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

By a vote of 5,183 For and 1,800 Against, Little Rock citizens approved a plan to use a portion of the city’s existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for a renovation of Robinson Center.  The campaign was chaired by businessman Charles Stewart, restaurateur Capi Peck and former LR Mayor Jim Dailey.

Robinson has long been a landmark in central Arkansas. Construction of the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in 1938 (after a December 1937 groundbreaking under a deadline) and officially opened February 1940. The structure was a PWA (Public Works Administration) project, and is an excellent example of the Art Deco style architecture of the time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The facility is owned by the City of Little Rock and managed by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 1940 structure suffered from a wide array of deficiencies, including stage loading and unloading, stage size, acoustical insufficiency, dressing room access and inadequate wing space within the performance hall. Also, structural, mechanical and electrical issues, public circulation and outdated conference center spaces existed within the facility.

Knowing the center is in need of major upgrades if the facility is to continue to serve central Arkansas into the future, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P) empanelled a Robinson Center Concept Team in October 2011. The group was tasked with evaluating all aspects of the existing facility, researching user needs, proposing conceptual solutions and estimating the cost and construction schedule of the proposed additions and renovations. The concept team was led by Mike Steelman of SCM Architects, PLLC, and included representatives from WD&D Architects, Shuler Shook Theatre Planners, Jaffe-Holden Acoustical Consultants, TME Inc. Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, ECI Inc. Structural Engineers, McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. Civil Engineers, East Harding Construction, HVS Consulting and Hunt Construction Group.

Additionally, stakeholder and tenant organizations representing the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Celebrity Attractions of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Double Tree Hotel participated in the planning. The concept team findings were presented publicly on June 5, 2012.

On January 17, 2013 the LRA&P announced the selection of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, partnered with Ennead Architects, as the architectural and design team for the future renovations. On March 28, 2013 CDI Contractors LLC, partnered with Hunt Construction Group, were selected by LRA&P as the general contractors and construction managers.

On September 23, 2013 the final schematic renderings and cost estimates were presented publicly. The schematic plans depict major interior upgrades within the performance hall including additional volume to create a two-balcony setup, increased lobby space, acoustical improvements, theatrical upgrades, loading dock expansion, a larger stage area, and new dressing room facilities. Additionally, an enhanced modern ballroom and small conference center was unveiled. New technology, mechanical systems, and outdoor plaza spaces were included in the presentation.

Construction would begin on July 1, 2014.  It reopened on schedule and on budget on November 10, 2016.

RobinsoNovember: Election Days in 1937, 1940 and 2013

Since today is Election Day, it is appropriate to look back at the three different campaigns to build, furnish, and restore Robinson Center Music Hall.  (Note, there have been at least two other General Capital Bond elections which contained money for Robinson, but those were not stand alone elections about the auditorium and have thus been excluded.

1937-robinson-election1937

On January 26, 1937, Little Rock voters were asked to approve three bond programs which would build a municipal auditorium, expand the City library, and construct a park for African Americans.  Each issue had its own group of supporters, though they all encouraged “Yes” votes for each question.  The “Forward Little Rock Committee” (sometimes referred to as the “Little Rock Forward Committee) was headed by W. H. Williams and led the charge for the auditorium.   The bonds for the auditorium would be $468,000 in general obligation bonds which would be paid off between 1940 and 1971.  This was toward a total cost of $760,000 for the entire project.

The campaign stressed the economic benefits from all the conventions which would be held in Little Rock after an auditorium was constructed.  The focus was as much, if not more, on the exhibition hall space as it was about the music hall space.   The Municipal Auditorium had the lowest level of support of all three issues, but it still passed overwhelmingly.  It is interesting to note that the design featured in the campaign ad bears little resemblance to the project which was actually constructed.

The final vote total was 1,518 for and 519 against. The project passed in each of the City’s 23 precincts.

 

1940-robinson-election1940

Because the project ran out of money, Robinson Auditorium opened in February 1940 with out any landscaping, furnishings in the meeting rooms, and a lack of equipment in various areas throughout the facility.  To remedy this, additional bonds for the auditorium were added to a request put to the voters on April 2, 1940.  The dollar amount was $30,000 for the completion of the project.  The other two issues were additional fire equipment and establishment of an administrative building at the municipal airport.

The campaign for the new bonds used a similar structure and message as the 1937 election to build the auditorium.  There were newspaper ads by the steering committee (this time simply called the Citizen’s Committee and led by Omar Throgmorton) and support from civic organizations.  One thing very different from the 1937 campaign was the presence of an actual building.  On Sunday, March 31, just two days before the election, there was an open house for the public to explore the edifice.  From 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., members of various Little Rock Boy Scout troops led 4,000 visitors on tours of the auditorium.  Visitors were shown all over the building; one scout calculated that the walking tour equated to two miles.  Though most people were from Little Rock, the guest registry indicated visitors from California and Pennsylvania

On election day, the Auditorium bonds passed with a vote of 1,413 to 423.  Every precinct in every ward of the city voted in favor of the new bonds.

 

restore-robinson-20132013

In an effort to bring Robinson Center Music Hall into the 21st Century, the Advertising and Promotion Commission (which took over administration of Robinson in 1971) leadership decided to dedicate the renewal of their bonds to the renovation of Robinson.  What had been built as a 1940 civic auditorium did not meet the artistic or convention needs of the 2010s.  The Restore Robinson Committee was led by former LR Mayor Jim Dailey, civic leader Charles Stewart and A&P Commissioner Capi Peck.  In campaign literature Mr. Stewart noted: “An upgraded Robinson will allow thousands of children and residents from Little Rock to enjoy future dance recitals, graduations and community gathering in a spectacular new performance and events center.”

Plans called for taking the historic building down to its exterior walls (except for the front lobby which remained).  The music hall level was to be dropped 30 feet to street level.  A new conference center would wrap around the northern facade of the structure.

The referendum passed with 5,183 For vs. 1,800 Against.

The building closed on July 1, 2014 with a ceremonial breaking of the stage flooring.  On July 1, 2015, the reconstruction “topping out” ceremony took place.  The ribbon cutting for the new structure will take place on November 10, 2016, at 10 a.m.