One Rice tore down a Little Rock auditorium; his grandson helped restore another one

On June 7, 1920, the Little Rock City Council finally authorized the demolition of Little Rock’s 1906 temporary auditorium.  The structure had originally been built as a skating rink which, when chairs were added, could be used for public meetings.  Since the mid 1910’s, the City Council had discussed tearing it down over safety concerns.  But since Little Rock had no other structure as a substitute, the Council kept delaying the decision.

J Rice 1920In 1920, though there was not alternative space available, the Council decided that the structure had to come down.  So City Engineer James H. Rice was authorized to have the building removed.

JimRice RobinsonToday, Rice’s grandson, Jim Rice, is the COO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In that capacity he  oversaw the renovation of Little Rock’s 1940 municipal auditorium – Robinson Center Performance Hall.

Locally Labeled Pavilion Party returns to the River Market tonight

Image result for locally labeled little rockThe Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau presents the 4th Annual Pavilion Party Celebrating Locally Labeled in Greater Little Rock.  The event runs from 6pm to 8pm tonight (May 16) at the River Market pavilions.  There is no admission fee, but a photo ID is required and guests must be 21 or older.

Event attendees can expect to party like a local in the River Market Pavilions on May 16, with Locally Labeled Partners, music by Cons of Formant and Locally Labeled wristbands for River Market restaurant specials following the party.  

This event offers a great opportunity to sample or purchase local libations, become familiar with the Locally Labeled Passport program and even get a jump start on filling one. Attendees who collect three (3) passport stickers at the event can present them to an event staffer for a special Locally Labeled insulated solo style cup, only available at this event!

Thanks to our partners at Core Brewing Co., Lost Forty Brewing, Diamond Bear Brewing Co., Rebel Kettle Brewing, Flyway Brewing Company, Stone’s Throw Brewing, The Water Buffalo & Buffalo Brewing Co., Vino’s Brewpub, River Bottom Winery at BoBrook Farms, An Enchanting Evening Winery and Rock Town Distillery.

Jazz in the Park features Genine LaTrice Perez tonight in Riverfront Park

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Jazz in the Park is a free happy hour style event featuring different Jazz musicians weekly from 6pm-8pm in the History Pavilion in Riverfront Park. Family and Pet Friendly.  It is offered each Wednesday in April and September.

Tonight features Genine LaTrice Perez.

A self-taught jazz and blues singer with a booming voice, Genine LaTrice Perez “captures the spirit of the live-sound era,” said Rex Bell of Infrared Records. Her performances With elegance, fun, and excitement in a jazz and R&B atmosphere,

Genine will keep you entertained by her musical journey back in time to the sounds of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Etta James, and Otis Redding. Not only does she take you on a journey back in time, she moves you forward with neo-soul by Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Leelah James, and Chrisette Michelle.

She has two jazz projects: Self-titled, Genine LaTrice Perez on iTunes, and Cafe’ Windsong, a live project. She is also featured on two Rex Bell Trio albums: Two Faces: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday’s 100th Birthday and Let me Sing it for You-A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

No Coolers Please. Lawn Chairs Welcome. (Rain Location is East Pavilion at River Market)

LRCVB announces agreement with AWAKENING EVENTS to book and promote First Security Amphitheater in Riverfront Park

Image result for first security amphitheaterThe Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) has finalized a Promoter Agreement with AWAKENING EVENTS to provide exclusive rights to book and promote ticketed concerts in the First Security Amphitheater in Riverfront Park downtown.

AWAKENING EVENTS is a nationwide, full service live event company based in Arkansas. They successfully produce over 250 concerts each year. AWAKENING EVENTS has produced concerts at Verizon Arena, Wal-Mart Amphitheater, the First Security Amphitheater, as well as many iconic venues around the country, including Madison Square Garden, Red Rocks Amphitheatre and The Forum in Los Angeles. AWAKENING EVENTS is owned by Arkansas native Dan Fife.

AWAKENING EVENTS is proudly partnering with STARR HILL Presents, owned by Red Light Management’s Coran Capshaw. Red Light Management’s extensive artist management roster ranges from Dave Matthews Band to Chris Stapleton and many others. STARR HILL Presents is an independent concert promotion company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, promoting hundreds of events each year, ranging from small club shows to multi-day festivals. The company operates multiple venues and is a partner in festivals across the country including Bonnaroo, SXSW and Outside Lands.

AWAKENING EVENTS responded to a Request for Qualifications released by the LRCVB in late 2018. Following negotiations, an agreement was finalized and signed on March 11, 2019. The agreement requires a minimum of three “A-Tier” concerts in 2019 and six concerts each year in 2020-2023. A-Tier is defined as “Artists that tour nationally or globally, having the documented ability to sell 2,000 or more tickets.”

In addition, it is the desire of AWAKENING EVENTS & STARR HILL PRESENTS to create an additional 2020 series of free, or very low cost, “Live at Five” type events. Dan Fife, president of AWAKENING EVENTS, stated, “We are excited to get back into the Amp business on the River in Riverfront Park. It is a great venue and we need to start offering regular and diverse concert programming again.”

Gretchen Hall, LRCVB President & CEO said, “I am excited about this new partnership and the quality of entertainment it will provide in Little Rock.”

This exclusive promoter agreement is designed to allow a booking window for the concert season, as well as protecting Little Rock’s long time Amphitheater and Pavilion events and provide the flexibility for community events to continue booking in those venues. LRCVB will maintain the booking and coordination efforts for all non-concert bookings.

A formal press conference to announce the initial season is expected in the next 30 days.

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: Implosion of the Grady Manning and the Marion

On February 17, 1980, a cold and clear Sunday morning, over seven decades of Arkansas history came tumbling down as the Hotel Marion and Grady Manning Hotel were imploded.

Thousands of people watched from places in downtown Little Rock and along the Arkansas River.  Many more were able to watch from live coverage carried on KATV, KARK and KTHV.  Those that missed it were able to see the replays multiple times on the news.

It was the first large-scale implosion in Little Rock’s history.  (It was likely the first implosion, but there could have been a small one that is not known.)  The two hotels were torn down to make way for the construction of the Excelsior Hotel and the Statehouse Convention Center.

The Hotel Marion, named after the builder Herman Kahn for his wife, opened in 1907. For four years it was Arkansas’ tallest structure.  It was the largest and grandest hotel in the City. For decades it would be the host to many dignitaries, conventions, and gala celebrations.

The Grady Manning Hotel was originally known as the Hotel Ben McGhee when it opened in 1930.   Manning was the head of the company which owned both the Marion and Ben McGhee properties.  Upon his untimely death by drowning in September 1939, the property was subsequently renamed in his memory.

The Manning Hotel, though taller, was never as grand a hotel as the Marion.  It was more of a mid-range property in pricing.

By the 1970s, both hotels were suffering from neglect and disinterest.  Changes in the lodging industry combined with a decline in downtown Little Rock had left both facilities with little business.

When Little Rock civic and government leaders decided to construct a larger convention center downtown with an adjacent hotel, it was decided that neither of these facilities could be properly renovated to be part of the project.  Instead, the land on which they stood (and the space in between) would be prime for the new hotel and center.

So, on the cold Sunday morning, the explosives were detonated, and the buildings came down.   Sunday morning was chosen because it would have the least impact on traffic flows since it would cause numerous streets to be closed for safety reasons.  The blast was delayed due to a rumor that someone might be in one of the buildings.  After checking both sites and finding them empty, the charges were set off.

And the Marion and Grady Manning became as much a memory as the long gone people who had once populated them.

The University of Arkansas’ Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History has a video of the implosion.