‘Beatles at the Ridge’ festival slated for Saturday in Walnut Ridge

by George Jared ([email protected]) 547 views 

The Beatles Abbey Road art sculpture in Walnut Ridge.

One of Northeast Arkansas’ iconic festivals, Beatles at the Ridge, is slated for Saturday (Sept. 16) in Walnut Ridge. Live music, food and vendors, children’s attractions, a car show, and other activities are planned at the event.

The festival is estimated to cost about $40,000 and it is paid for through sponsorships. City officials expect anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 visitors.

The Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band from Branson, will headline the festival. The Legends take the Cavenaugh Chevrolet Rock n’ Roll Highway stage at 7:00 pm, and several other acts will precede them, performing throughout the day.

Singer-songwriter Derrick Brandon kicks off the performances at 1:00 pm. He will be followed by the alternative country and rock sounds of Tanner Shumard and Jackson Forrester & Band at 3:00 pm, and Greasy Tree will bring their blues-infused rock and soul to the stage at 5:00 pm.

“This is a fantastic musical lineup that will keep our guests entertained all day long,” said Rachel King, executive director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. “There is a variety of musical styles, but one thing these acts have in common is that they are all great performers that attendees will thoroughly enjoy.”

Business owner Jack Allison saw a peculiar aircraft in flight over his hometown late night Sept. 18, 1964. It was large, and as he spied it from a parking lot, it was clear to him the plane was headed to the Walnut Ridge Airport.

Allison instructed three teenage boys to investigate it. When they arrived at the runway, the plane door opened and the iconic band members strolled onto the tarmac. It was the only time the Beatles – George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr – visited the Natural State as a group.

The Beatles landed at the airport that night on their way from Dallas to New York. The foursome was tired and they decided to take some time off from their tour and rest at the Reed Pigman dude ranch near Alton, Mo. Their plane was too big to land at most airports in the region, so it was decided that Walnut Ridge’s airport, a former pilot training base during World War II, would be the best place to land.

A smaller plane waited on the runway to whisk the band members away when they arrived. Paul McCartney was scared to fly in the small plane, and he left in a truck. The band came back two days later. Teenagers throughout the Ozarks learned the famed band was in the region and turned out in full force to greet them before they left. Local native Carrie Mae Snapp, along with a few others, sneaked onto the plane and stole items, including cigarette butts and pillow cases.

The Beatles at the Ridge festival has garnered worldwide attention. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other publications have published feature stories on the event. A list of the top ten places to view Beatles history around the world was released a few years ago and Walnut Ridge was listed as the fourth place to visit. The town appears on many Google searches involving the musical group.

Several children’s attractions are on tap. Touch-a-Truck will give youngsters a chance to see large trucks and equipment up close. The Morley Family Magic Show, always a popular feature of the festival, will be back once again. There will also be an inflatable obstacle course, an inflatable axe throw, a giant Connect Four, and other games for children.

About 90 vendors have signed up for the festival, including a wide array of arts, crafts and retail vendors selling their wares. There will also be a big variety of food with 11 food vendors setting up for the day.

“We are especially pleased to have all the food trucks and vendors this year,” King said. “One thing people love about any festival is the chance to experience the food, and we have expanded our cuisine this year to include everything from full meals to tempting snacks to cold drinks.”

The Abbey Road Car Show will run from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The festival itself opens at 10:00 am, and it runs until the conclusion of the Liverpool Legends’ performance that evening. Beatles at the Ridge takes place on the north side of Main Street and encompasses several city blocks in downtown Walnut Ridge.