From the Capital Hotel to the River Market--A treat for the senses

by Mac Lacy 30. September 2011 01:39

Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Gretchen Hall, far left in doorway, and other Little Rock representatives welcomed delegates to the River Market event

Delegates to the Small Market Meetings Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, were treated to a wonderfully--executed destination dichotomy the second day of the event.   Following an afternoon of sightseeing, they were swept off their feet at a reception at this city's historic Capital Hotel.   This graceful old hotel has been meticulously renovated and delegates were enthralled by its approachable elegance. 

After an hour or more of drinks and hors d'oeurvres in its upstairs lobby and adjacent balcony, they barely had time to go to their rooms before a boisterous high school band met them head-on in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel and marched them down the street a few blocks to this city's restored River Market.  This colorful old indoor market has a distinctly Mediterranean feel about it and dozens of small eateries and retail shops line its walls, creating the feel of a middle eastern bazaar. 

In this delightful juxtaposition of settings, delegates relaxed and danced to the sounds of a local blues band, feasted on more foods and had open bars throughout the complex for their enjoyment.  It was as if Little Rock wanted these meeting planners to experience everything it had to offer from A to Z in one afternoon and evening of mind-blowing entertainment.  And it worked!

Blues rifts filled the River Market while delegates enjoyed one of Little Rock's most eclectic downtown scenes

A few of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota delegation took in the fun at Little Rock's River Market

Small Market Meetings editor Vickie Mitchell, left, talked with SMM Conference CEO Joe Cappuzzello and Little Rock CVB CEO Gretchen Hall

A gorgeous afternoon on Little Rock's Big Dam Bridge

by Mac Lacy 30. September 2011 01:18

Little Rock's Big Dam Bridge is a huge draw for runners, walkers, bicyclists and nature enthusiasts

As delegates to our Small Market Meetings Conference enjoyed a fascinating tour of Little Rock's sights that wrapped up with a reception at the historic Capital Hotel, I took a couple of hours off and went for a walk at this city's favorite outdoor recreation spot, the Big Dam Bridge.  Opened in 2004, this mammoth bridge crosses the dam on the Arkansas River a few miles northwest of the city.  Another pedestrian bridge across the river in downtown Little Rock was to open the week of the Small Market Meetings Conference.  A 14-mile loop now exists between the two bridges for bicyclists and walkers.

The day I was there, dozens of bicyclists, runners and walkers crossed the bridge in both directions as I walked it.  A track team of maybe 20 young men and women from a nearby university ran across as well.  I followed the trail across the bridge and up into the woods that line this scenic river.

This was my second trip to Big Dam Bridge and this time I had enough time to really get the feel of this Arkansas outdoor icon.  At its zenith, it rises 90 feet above the river and features eight observation points.  Little Rock is a town filled with outdoor enthusiasts and they flock to Big Dam Bridge.  But they enjoy downtown nearly as much.  From my perch in the Peabody Hotel, each morning I could see many joggers and bicyclists getting their time in on the trails that line both sides of the the river in this scenic city.


A 14-mile loop trail connects downtown Little Rock with Big Dam Bridge

I watched as runners and bicyclists disappeared into the Arkansas countryside on this scenic trail

Looking westward on the bridge away from Little Rock, Arkansas's Ozark Mountains begin to rise in the distance

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2011 Small Market Meetings Conference

Small Market Meetings Conference opens at Clinton Presidential Library

by Mac Lacy 30. September 2011 01:02

A high school band and drum corps welcomed delegates to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library for the opening event of the 2011 Small Market Meetings Conference

A beautiful evening gave way to a spectacular event as the 2011 Small Market Meetings Conference got underway in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 26.  Roughly 225 delegates including more than 100 meeting planners from 23 states gathered for the second annual conference that is designed to highlight second and third-tier cities and distinctive smaller venues across America. 

Delegates were transported from their host hotel, the Peabody Hotel in downtown Little Rock, to the internationally-acclaimed William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library that sits prominently on the Arkansas River in this revitalized downtown.  Only three days later, the former President and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would be in Little Rock to observe the 20th anniversary  of his first announcement speech for his candidacy for President at the Old State House in this Arkansas capital city. 

Delegates toured the library and were treated to a rare privilege--almost all were photographed in the resplendent replica of the Oval Office that is housed at this impressive library.  Following an ornate reception, they dined in the facility's ballroom and were treated to a jazz concert and dancing.

A place setting in the library reflects the grandeur of a state dinner in the White House

Delegates poured over thousands of documents, photographs and other types of memorabilia from the Clinton Presidency

The event concluded with a surf and turf dinner and dancing to a jazz ensemble compliments of The Clinton Library, the Little Rock CVB and the Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Tourism

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