In 53 short days, I will no longer be living in Arkansas full-time.
I read that sentence, and while I understand it–I know what it means–I don’t really grasp the gravity of it. The last time I left home “officially” was for college, and I was more than ready to leave. I was 18 years old. I hadn’t applied anywhere in-state for school. I had two feet out the door.
That was six years ago, though, and one undergraduate degree later, I’m again getting ready to leave my home state for school, this time in Kansas. I can’t help but think about all the things I’ve left undone here.
One thing Arkansas isn’t offering, though, is enough opportunities for classical musicians like myself. And so we leave. We have to, if we want to have any sort of performing career. (And God bless the people who are working here to revive the arts community here in central Arkansas and beyond).
Arkansas is my home. It’s not a perfect place, by any means–sit down with me some time and I’ll be glad to tell you all about a few things that need fixing. But it’s filled with good people who are working tirelessly to enrich their communities and to change the not-so-great parts. I’ve gotten to meet these folks and witness first-hand some of their efforts. I’m convinced Arkansas is changing and growing for the better.
Anyway. None of that really obscures the fact that come August, I will no longer be a full-time resident (except for tax purposes, if you know what I meaaaaan) of Little Rock. Time is ticking and I have so much left to do! Cue the sirens.
I want these last 53 days to be memorable, so of course I had to do the typical millennial thing and create a bucket list. Arkansas has a LOT of cool stuff that I’ve yet to do and experience–picking these 5 things was not the easiest task in the world.
Thankfully, this is just a ‘summer 2015’ bucket list and not a ‘I’m never coming back, see you later Arkansas’ list. WITHOUT FURTHER ADO.
1. Attend the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival
The South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato is actually the Arkansas state fruit and vegetable. For 59 years, they’ve been celebrating this Southern delicacy in Warren with a festival.
At the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, there’s dancing in the streets, beauty pageants (because this is the South, after all), and even an all-tomato luncheon. The t-shirts look cool. Count me in.
2. Have a pork sandwich at Jones Bar-B-Q Diner
It’s taken me a few years, but I can finally say, without reservation, that I love barbecue. I don’t know what took me so long.
Arkansas barbecue is a strange beast. With Memphis to the east and Texas to the west, we’ve been more influenced than influencer in the BBQ world. Our barbecue is a veritable melting pot of Southern regional styles. Depending on what area of the state you’re in, you’ll find a different style of barbecue.
As I’ve learned more about Southern and Arkansas foodways, I’ve been absolutely enamored with the lore surrounding Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna. It is believed to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Arkansas and may be the oldest restaurant owned by a black family in the South–it’s been around since at least the early 1900s.
It is the only restaurant in Arkansas to be the recipient of a James Beard award. Jones Bar-B-Q Diner was named an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation in 2012.
It seats approximately 10 people. The menu is simple: pork with a vinegar-based sauce. Time for me to go, y’all. See you there, and we had better get there early–sometimes they sell out as early as 10 AM.
3. Sit in on an airing of King Biscuit Time
(Encyclopedia of Arkansas)
Nestled in the Arkansas Delta is the longest-running daily American radio broadcast–King Biscuit Time. With more than 17,000 broadcasts, King Biscuit Time’s archives outnumber both American Bandstand and the Grand Ole Opry.
First airing in 1941, King Biscuit Time featured blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson II and helped recognize the achievements of African-American musicians.
At the time, KFFA was the only station to play music by African-Americans in the region. It gave voice to incredible musicianship and musicians. Its impact on the blues, its musicians, and music in general is undeniable.
“Sunshine” Sonny Payne has hosted the show since 1951 and invites guests down to Helena to sit in on live airings of the show.
I want to be one of those guests.
4. Attempt to finish a Hubcap Burger at Cotham’s
(Rock City Eats)
In Arkansas, Cotham’s is a burger destination. We sell their acclaimed Cotham’s Hamburger Seasoning at my day-job! The Hubcap Burger, 17 ounces of beef deliciousness, is on every Arkansas foodie’s bucket list, as well as quite a few other Arkansas food related lists (like the 10 Greatest Gut Bombs in Little Rock, courtesy of my friend Daniel Walker at Rock City Eats).
At Cotham’s, they’ll let you order as many patties piled on top of each other as you want to form your Hubcap Burger.
Challenge accepted. Bring on the beef.
5. Go to an Arkansas Travelers baseball game
(image: Little Rock Family)
Y’all know I complain a lot about baseball. Baseball: it’s almost as boring as golf.
I’m only half-serious. Since I was born in Kansas City, MO, I have a little bit of lingering pride for the Kansas City Royals.
I do know that watching baseball live is a lot more fun than the endless broadcasts of games on television (seriously, y’all, almost as boring as golf), though.
The Arkansas Travelers are quite a good little minor league team and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never attended a game (though I did visit Ray Winder Field [RIP]–for a Bob Dylan concert). It’s the perfect summer-time activity.
There you have it, folks. My Arkansas bucket list. The five things I’m aiming to do over the next two months. Farewell tour! 53 days only! Get your tickets now!
I’ll be back, Arkansas. I know we’ve got more things to do together.