Arkansas Delta

					         Arkansas Delta
 Rural Heritage Development
            Initiative
Visitor Experience Assessment


                                              Prepared by:
                                                Amy Webb
                                Heritage Tourism Director
                   National Trust for Historic Preservation

                                               Dan Spock
                   Director of the History Center Museum
                              Minnesota Historical Society

                                             Prepared for:
                                            Arkansas Delta
                    Rural Heritage Development Initiative
                   National Trust for Historic Preservation

                                      Funded in part by:
                               W.K.K. Kellogg Foundation

                                    In Partnership with:
      Arkansas Delta Byways at Arkansas State University
                        Department of Arkansas Heritage
               Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas
                                    Main Street Arkansas


                                             August 2006

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This three-day visitor experience assessment visit focused on targeted sites
along Arkansas’ Great River Road, one of two National Scenic Byways running
north to south in the Arkansas Delta. Several criteria were taken into
consideration in strategically selecting sites for inclusion on this visit, including:
    Heritage sites where interpretive development is currently underway or
       being reviewed
    Sites where funding is currently available for interpretive enhancements
    Sites where staff or volunteers responsible for interpretation are receptive
       to feedback and suggestions regarding the visitor experience at their site.

Several sites (including the Greyhound Bus Station in Blytheville and the
Lakeport Plantation outside of Lake Village) were targeted for more detailed site
specific interpretive recommendations. In other cases, consultants Amy Webb
from the National Trust and Dan Spock from the Minnesota Historical Society
were looking for interpretive strategies to ―connect the dots‖ between heritage
sites and communities in the Delta. The consultants were also asked to provide
guidance on two Rural Heritage Development Initiative (RHDI) heritage tourism
projects currently underway including a proposed music heritage trail and a tear-
off map of the region. For more information about the sites selected to be
included in this visit, see the itinerary included as ―Appendix A‖ on pages 30-32
of this report.

This region has a fascinating social history with a number of significant, and in
some instances, overlapping stories with respect to American musical culture,
agriculture, the African-American experience and, to a lesser extent, events like
the Civil War, the New Madrid earthquake and the 1927 flood. A great deal of
thought and action has already gone into the development of these themes for
the heritage traveler. In particular, the development of three distinct or combined
heritage trails devoted to music, African-American and agricultural heritage are
currently being explored.

Unfortunately, many physical landmarks in the Arkansas Delta associated with
these historical events no long exist or are currently threatened. Economic
forces as well as a lack of preservation awareness in some areas have worn
away many key assets and have imperiled others. As in many other parts of the
country, strip development along the major highway corridors have been an
economic drain threatening historic downtown main street districts.

In addition to developing interpretive efforts to tell the story of the Delta, the
development of visitor amenities will be critical to allow the region to flourish as a
heritage destination. This includes a range of choices in restaurants and lodging
facilities to expand from the current limited options concentrated in areas such as
West Memphis and Helena. Addressing the issue of vacant storefronts in historic
downtowns in the Delta through the business development aspect of RHDI will
help to address perception issues for travelers by bringing vibrancy and life back

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into the downtown centers. As business development opportunities are explored
in the Delta, it would be useful to identify the Delta equivalent of a coffee shop or
community ―hangout‖ where locals and visitors alike can meet friends, read the
paper, or stop in for a visit. Perhaps this is a gathering place that subsists on a
high volume, low overhead product? Is it ice tea and/or ice coffee? Ice cream?
Cokes?

As new business development options are explored, consider creatively
stimulating growth through strategies such as offering city or institutionally owned
properties adjacent to heritage destinations tax or rent free to restaurant
entrepreneurs for a negotiated period of time in order to stimulate new
businesses. Steps might also be taken to dress up vacant storefronts, perhaps
with displays related to the heritage of the area or promoting other nearby
businesses. City ordinances might be enacted to fine property owners for
neglecting vacant storefronts.

Regional travel guide for the Delta (and specifically Blues heritage guides) touch
very lightly on the Arkansas side of the river, and then, often only to acknowledge
the limited opportunities to see things of interest. Geography provides additional
opportunities for some Delta communities such as West Memphis and Blytheville
due to their proximity to a major urban/tourism center and the ―Blues Highway‖
61. Helena may be able to attract a larger number of visitors both because of the
concentration of attractions in Helena as well as the blues-related destinations
across the river in Mississippi.

While the ―Delta‖ already has name recognition, the general public perception of
the Delta does not necessarily include Arkansas. Including ―Arkansas‖ along
with the moniker ―Delta‖ in branding efforts for the region will help to build the
public perception of the Delta region as including Arkansas. Randy Wilson and
Ben Muldrow have recently developed branding logos and ideas for the Arkansas
Delta as part of the RHDI initiative that can help to address these concerns.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Wayfinding and Interpretive Signage
There is a need for high quality wayfinding and interpretive signage with a
consistent ―Arkansas Delta‖ design. A unified system of interpretive markers on
building fronts or as ―reading rails‖ at sites where there is no opportunity for
indoor interpretation will help to reinforce the ―Arkansas Delta‖ brand. Extending
this identity program with a system of directional markers to tie the region’s
heritage together and make things easier to find.

While the Great River Road is signed with the green captain’s wheel logo, there
are places where the signage is missing or hard to find. Additionally, there is a
lack of wayfinding signage to attractions off the byway. While the visitor
assessment did not allow for a comprehensive signage study, specific locations
for wayfinding signage include (but are not limited to):

                                          3
   o Directional signage to Historic Downtown Helena at the ―T‖ intersection as
     travelers cross the river from Mississippi and again in Helena to indicate a
     right turn to the heart of downtown (Cherry Street). Where possible,
     directional signage should include mileage. For example, a wayfinding
     sign at the ―T‖ intersection just after the bridge from Mississippi might read
     ―Historic Downtown Helena 1.9 miles →.‖
   o Wayfinding or directional signage to the Confederate Cemetery from
     downtown Helena as well as directional signage within the cemetery itself.

Low profile interpretive signage featuring text and images could help to tell the
story at key locations such as the Rohwer Relocation Camp, the Southern
Tenant Farmer’s Union Museum, Dyess and the Johnny Cash home, Lakeport
and in each of the Delta Main Street communities. A scenic byway interpretive
grant has been secured that could provide a source of funding for wayfinding and
interpretive signage. The design for these signs should be consistent with the
logo and branding that is will be created for the Arkansas Delta through the RHDI
program.

Audio Tour with Guidebook
The Delta covers a vast geographical area with many miles between visitor
attractions. With the lengthy travel time between sites, developing an audio tour
with an accompanying guidebook would take advantage of the captive audience
during the travel time to help tell the story and ―connect the dots‖ between sites in
the Delta. This might be made available as a series of CD’s like a book on tape,
a downloadable podcast, or both. The audio tracks might feature a celebrity
narrator from Arkansas such as Bill Clinton, or better yet a well known celebrity
from the Arkansas Delta itself, which could open up new funding opportunities
and raise the profile of the effort. The tours should contain both music and oral
history interviews, all correlated to a companion branded Delta regional map or
guidebook.

Music Heritage Trail
Several states (mostly in the south) have developed regional or statewide music
heritage trails. An appendix describing a number of these trails is included as
Appendix B on page 33-35 of this report.

Graduate students in the Heritage Studies program at Arkansas State University
have been researching music heritage sites throughout the Arkansas Delta to
supplement an existing database of Arkansas Delta Music Heritage sites
developed several years ago. Each of the students has been focusing on sites
in a different county or counties, and each will be submitting a final report with
recommendations for the music heritage trail at the end of the summer.

The existing Arkansas Delta Musical Heritage Trail database currently includes
the following categories:
    Attraction
    City

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      Location
      Category
      Notes

As this database is expanded through research conducted by the ASU graduate
students, consider additional categories (especially for key listings that are
determined to have current or future tourism potential) such as:
     Expanding the “Location” listing to provide more specific information. In
        many cases, this category is blank. Some include only an address;
        others include only a more general location description such as ―Off 147‖
        or ―Dumas Arts Council.‖ Consider whether adding a category such as
        GPS coordinates would help with future mapping opportunities.
     The “Notes” category is currently a catch-all that includes some
        information on a variety of topics. Breaking these into distinct categories
        will provide a more comprehensive and consistent database. Suggested
        additional categories:
            o Significance of the event, person, venue or site in relation to the
                theme(s)
            o Description of what is currently found at the site (e.g. ―now a
                vacant lot‖ or ―local museum open Wed from 1-4‖).
            o Recommendations for site specific interpretation that could
                improve the visitor experience at the site.
     If this database is to be used as a resource for tourism information,
        additional visitor information should be collected about key sites offering
        a museum or tour experience. Additional information for these sites could
        include:
            o Directions to site
            o Phone/email
            o Hours/days of operation
            o Cost/fees
            o Availability of visitor services (restrooms, gift shop, parking food)
            o Accessibility for large group/motorcoach tours

The current database notes that the “Trail should run UP river, South to North,
since the music moved up the river to cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit,
etc.” While it is fine to structure the tour listings in this sequence to encourage
this flow as ideal, the tour structure should allow for visitors to start at any point of
entry to allow for maximum flexibility.

Initial reports from the ASU graduate student research is that many music
heritage sites in the Delta do not currently offer a compelling visitor experience.
In many cases, the actual buildings connected to musicians or historic music
venues have been lost. As the research continues, it will be important to rank the
sites according to their current or potential visitor experience. Rankings should
take into consideration both the significance of the site as well as the visitor
experience available at the site. Based on a careful consideration of these two
areas, music (or other) heritage sites could be classified as:

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      Destination (Stand alone destinations that are open regular hours most
       days of the week, offering a high quality and authentic Arkansas Delta
       visitor experience. Sites in this category should be considered as
       potential Delta Discovery Centers if they meet all the agreed-upon
       criteria).
      Drive-By (Sites/attractions interesting for visitor to see along the way)
      Local Interest (Sites/attractions more appropriate for local audiences due
       to limited hours of operation or exhibits/offerings that are less likely to
       appeal to travelers from outside the area).
      Future Potential (Sites/attractions not yet ready for visitors, but with
       future development potential).
      No Tourism Potential (Sites/attractions that do not have any foreseeable
       potential as visitor attractions).

A key factor in evaluating the visitor experience is determining whether the
destination is worth the drive. The further you are asking a visitor to travel out of
the way to experience an attraction, the higher their expectations will be. One
strategy to create the critical mass necessary for a compelling Arkansas Delta
visitor experience would be to jointly promote the thematic trails (music, African
American, agriculture) to allow visitors an opportunity to customize their trip. Due
to the distances between sites in the Delta, a combination itinerary may be most
desirable for the majority of individual travelers (outside of itineraries created in
conjunction with music festivals.) For group travelers there could be more
opportunities to create events or performances that would allow any one of the
thematic heritage trails to fill the itinerary.

Rather than create multiple overlapping databases, it would make more sense to
have thematic listings in one master database that would allow entries to be
sorted based on thematic criteria.

The graduate student research currently underway will capture valuable
information about attractions, restaurants, lodging and festivals/events and
should provide a broader picture of the existing tourism infrastructure in the
region. If additional categories are added at a later date, visitor-oriented retail
could be another category.

Delta Heritage Trail
Given the plans to develop several thematic heritage trails in the Arkansas Delta
relating to music heritage, African American heritage and agricultural heritage, it
is unfortunate that a rails-to-trails biking trail segment south of Helena has been
dubbed the ―Delta Heritage Trail.‖ According to local stakeholders, this trail does
not interpret the heritage of the Delta, and the similarity in names could result in
confusion on the part of visitors in the future. As the 10-state bike trail is
expanded in the Delta, it would be preferable to incorporate the Delta Heritage
Trail as part of that overall trail system under the common ―Mississippi River
Trail‖ name.


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In laying out this and other bike trails through the Delta, it would be
advantageous to have the trails pass through as many of the heritage sites in the
region as possible, offering heritage travelers different ways to experience the
history of the region.

Delta Discovery Centers
There is a tremendous range in terms of the quality and accessibility of museums
and attractions within the Arkansas Delta. To help visitors differentiate between
the heritage offerings, tiered categories of heritage attractions should be created.
The top attractions could be featured prominently in promotional materials as
―Delta Discovery Centers.‖ To be selected as a Delta Discovery Center,
museums and attractions must meet a set of visitor experience criteria such as:
     Availability of visitor information about visitor attractions in the Arkansas
        Delta
     Open to the public a minimum of 5 days a week including regular hours
        on weekends and/or when travelers are most likely to visit
     Availability of visitor services such as restrooms, food service, parking
        and retail/shopping opportunities either on site or nearby. This includes
        the availability of parking for motorcoaches and other group tours.
     High quality, professionally developed exhibits that accurately tell the
        story or authentic history one or more specific aspects of the Arkansas
        Delta’s heritage.
     Sites that are well maintained

While the five Main Street communities would not automatically have an official
Delta Discovery Center, Main Street communities should be identified as such on
the map as Arkansas Main Street communities. In some but not all cases they
may also be the location of an official Delta Discovery Center.

Potential Delta Discovery Centers could include the museums associated with
Arkansas State University (ASU) such as the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in
Piggott. Other ASU sites such as the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum and
Lakeport could be considered for inclusion once they are open if they meet the
specified criteria. Additional sites such as the Delta Cultural Center and the
Arkansas Post should be considered as well. As this visitor experience
assessment did not include a comprehensive review of all heritage attractions
within the Arkansas Delta, local stakeholders may wish to add other sites to the
list of potential Discovery Centers.

The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor Discovery Centers could serve as
a model for the Discovery Centers in the Arkansas Delta. Another potential
model to consider is the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Guidelines for Authenticity for
Sites, Services and Events (see
http://www.lancastercountyheritage.com/heritage/cwp/view.asp?a=11&q=512158
&heritageNav=%7C6445%7C )



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Tear Off Map
A tear off map is being planned for the Arkansas Delta as part of RHDI. The map
will feature the northern end of the Delta on one side and the southern end on
the other. Map pads will be created in such a way that the northern end is on top
for some and the southern end is on top for others for use in key distribution
points in the northern and southern end of the Delta. The tiered listings of
heritage sites can help to inform which sites to include on the tear off map. The
map should include prominent icons to identify official Delta Discovery Centers.

There may be other sites with a compelling story but minimal (at present) visitor
experience (such as the Cash boyhood home, Twist, the Confederate Cemetery,
Sultanna or Rohwer) that could be identified as ―pilgrimage‖ sites—must see
attractions for the die-hard pilgrim. Each pilgrimage site should be marked by at
least a branded roadside marker. This standard can be used as a lever to push
some of the sites to enhance the visitor experience to attain a higher level of
marketing visibility. Additional heritage attractions could be clustered under
thematic headings.

To ensure that the listings and icons on the map fit into the overall branding
efforts for the Arkansas Delta, plans for the tear off map should be shared with
Randy Wilson and Ben Muldrow during the branding consultation visit. A
statewide example that could be included as part of the review for the branding
process is the Arkansas History and Heritage Trail Guide which includes a
variety of Delta heritage sites in Helena, Wilson, Rohwer, Piggott, Jonesboro and
other communities. This statewide brochure includes icons to designate sites
such as cemeteries, Civil War sites, sites on the National Register, multi-cultural
interest sites, museums, state parks, historic sites/districts, structures and the
Civil War Discovery Trail.

The most challenging aspects of creating the tear off map will be deciding what
to include and what to leave out, and creating a user-friendly hierarchy of
information. Keep in mind that the tear off maps are intended to be updated on a
regular basis, so all graphics and mapping should be done in such a way that
they can be easily updated over time.

Cross Marketing
Develop a network of cross-marketing distribution points for collateral tour
materials such as the audio tour/guidebook. Each major distribution point could
have a point-of-purchase display and some mix of branded spin-off products (for
example, branded CD reissues of licensed or public domain music). These key
distribution points could be the Delta Discovery Centers, and might include
additional sites as well.

International Travelers
As marketing strategies for the Arkansas Delta are developed, be sure to
investigate opportunities in the international market. The Delta Cultural Center
estimates that full half of their visitors are foreign. There are hardcore American
music aficionados in Europe and Asia (especially Japan) who are far more
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knowledgeable and appreciative of this heritage than the average American
listener. Steps should be taken to explore how best to market directly to this
demographic. A place like Rohwer should have interest to Japanese visitors,
among others. Additionally, the hardcore music buffs are far more likely to make
a pilgrimage off the beaten track just for the bragging rights of having been there.




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SITE SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS

Blytheville

Blytheville’s proximity to Highway 61 and the fact that it is one of the few
Arkansas Delta communities already included in Blues guidebooks gives this
community an advantage in heritage tourism development. An interpretive
marker program on Main Street and nearby could identify points of interest and
tell the colorful story of a once-thriving timber boomtown: the poolhalls, radio
stations, cathouses, etc.

Greyhound Bus Station
The Greyhound Bus Station is a real jewel, and the scale and funding progress to
date make it realistic to expect this project to become a reality sometime in the
near future. There are plans to restore this building as a visitor center and office
space for Main Street Blytheville. Some funds have already been secured
toward the restoration of the building though more will be needed to complete
this restoration and provide interpretation. The restoration of this building is, and
should be, a top RHDI priority in Blytheville.

An additional potential source of support could be the Hampton® Explore the
Highway with Hampton, Save a Landmark program. Hampton has indicated that
they hope to help a landmark in all 50 states, and they have not yet provided
assistance to any landmarks in Arkansas. For more information about this
program, go to http://www.hamptoninn.com/en/hp/promotions/explorehighway/.

While plans to house the Main Street Blytheville office in the Greyhound Bus
Station have the short term advantage of staffing the building and putting the
Main Street program in a highly visible downtown landmark, it is not an ideal long
term solution from a visitor experience perspective. As more travelers come to
experience the restored bus station, it may also not be an ideal situation for Main
Street staff.
    Main Street offices are traditionally open Monday through Friday during
       business hours. As weekends are traditionally the busiest time for
       travelers, this creates an ongoing need to find volunteers to staff the
       building on weekends (or having the building closed on weekends if
       volunteers are not available).
    Main Street staff job responsibilities mean that they are often out of the
       office meeting with downtown merchants, etc. which could result in having
       the doors of the Greyhound Bus Station locked at various times during the
       week.
    Current plans call for the Colored Waiting Room to serve as a boardroom
       for Main Street Blytheville. While it could still be possible to interpret this
       room using historic photographs, the intrusion of a modern board table
       and chairs will take away from the potential visitor experience in this room.
       Ideally, this room will be interpreted as exactly what it was, or alternatively
       as a space to talk about the black northward migration.

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      The Main Street Blytheville staff desks and computer stations will be
       located in the main waiting room and will be hidden behind a restored
       lunch counter. While this will minimize modern intrusions and will leave
       additional space for visitor information and some interpretation in the main
       waiting room, the Main Street staff will be in a fairly public location. When
       visitors arrive, Main Street staff will need to stop whatever they are doing
       to greet visitors and offer assistance. While this may not be a problem if
       the number of visitors is fairly small, as more visitors come to the
       Greyhound Station this could interfere with other Main Street job
       responsibilities.

A more desirable long-term use for the Greyhound Bus Station as visitation
increases could be to contract with a concessionaire who would operate the
Greyhound Bus Station as a restaurant/lunch counter business. As the bus
station originally included a lunch counter, a restaurant business would be
compatible with the original use of the building. Restaurant hours might also be
more in keeping with the hours and days that visitors might be in Blytheville, and
the service function of a restaurant would be compatible with the visitor/welcome
center function. The feasibility of a restaurant business in the bus station could
be considered as a potential local business development service through the
RHDI program.

By retaining ownership of the building and working with a concessionaire to
provide the restaurant business/staffing it will be possible to ensure that the
interior is restored as authentically as possible. This will also help with quality
control as well as ensuring that the visitor information and other Delta stories that
are told at the bus station fit into the overall Arkansas Delta experience. By
offering food service, visitors will linger longer at the bus station in Blytheville.
Visitors can plan their trips while relaxing over a meal or a snack, and there could
be opportunities to introduce interpretation at each of the tables such as:
     Information about the Arkansas Delta included on the restaurant menus
     Interactive listening stations at each table with oral histories and Delta
        music
     Interpretive signage and/or displays
     Themed menu items connected to Delta heritage
     Period restaurant furnishings and decor
Done correctly, the bus station has the potential to be a ―destination‖ rather than
merely a ―stop along the way.‖

As the bus station has fairly limited space (an estimated 4,000 square feet), one
option for future expansion might be to use an old greyhound bus to provide
additional seating. Country’s Barbeque, a restaurant in Columbus, Georgia, is
one example of how another restaurant has used an old bus to provide additional
restaurant seating. Alternatively, additional space in a historic bus could be
used for a regional orientation film, or for a piece on the northward migration.
The interpretation at this site might focus on the northward migration of
musicians and other during the 20th century—a fitting theme given the original

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use of the building as a bus station and the location on Highway 61. Two
presentations to look at for inspiration might be the Mystery Train orientation film
at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the introductory video at the Kansas City Jazz
Museum.

Look for opportunities to combine interpretation and retail. For example, offer
CDs and/or MP3 downloads for sale right at the interpretive labels describing the
lives and regional significance of different musical artists. Be sure to correlate
musical artists with other sites one can visit on the Arkansas Delta Heritage Trail,
or at least identify where they came from—Louis Jordan, Brinkley, Levon Helm,
Turkey Scratch, etc. Souvenir products such at T-shirts, mugs, books and other
related products could be sold here as well, with proceeds helping to support the
ongoing operation.

In developing interpretive materials for the station, rely on first person
interpretation where possible. Drawing pithy quotes from oral histories will
provide the authentic voice that will be much more compelling than a third-person
narrator. Another idea would be to include computer terminals at the lunch
counter or in another appropriate location with Arkansas Delta travel information.
The SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota has done creative work with computer
terminals on diner counters (e.g. using an egg yolk as the trackball, etc.). If
computer terminals or interactive kiosks were included at all Delta Discovery
Center sites there could be ways to develop one system that could be available
in all locations, thus maximizing the cost benefit for developing the system.

As the bus station restoration moves forward, local stakeholders should carefully
weigh options for adaptive reuse of the building.

Kress Building
The Kress Building offers ample space in the heart of the downtown Main Street,
though the full development of this site should wait until the Greyhound Station is
completed. This large downtown building currently houses a small museum
behind a glass wall, a large open rental space and the Main Street Blytheville
offices on the first floor. A mezzanine level with several good-sized rooms and a
large third floor attic space are currently unused except for storage. Local
stakeholders have secured some funding to renovate the building as a heritage
museum. While stakeholders agree that they want to see a high quality museum
in the space, they are not sure what the interpretive focus of the museum should
be. Possible interpretive themes that have been considered include cotton,
logging, earthquake faults and archeology. The museum would include some
changing exhibits and would serve as a regional museum.

A charrette has been suggested to local stakeholders, and this would be a useful
tool to explore both either potential themes for the heritage museum as well as
compatible income-producing functions that could be incorporated into this large
space along with a high quality heritage museum to offset ongoing operating
costs. While the museum might focus on several themes, starting with the
stories of the people (such as a ―Museum of the People of the Delta‖ rather than
                                         12
topics might be more novel and interesting for the casual visitor. It could
chronicle the experiences of disparate individuals or families at different times in
history: loggers and cotton farmers; Italians, Jews and Japanese internees (some
of the more unexpected stereotype defying people whose experiences have
defined what the Delta is today). A multimedia show could paint a portrait of the
―Delta Experience.‖ Each story could relate directly to other sites in the Delta,
setting up some advance curiosity and cross-promotion. Building in a changing
exhibit space is a good idea as change has been a proven key to stimulating
repeat visitation.

Potential additional uses to complement the proposed heritage museum in the
Kress Building could include:
    Offices for non-profits such as Main Street Blytheville
    Special event/rental space (for example, two-thirds of the upper floor could
      be dedicated as a rental space while still leaving a great deal of space for
      collections storage).
    After school daycare (ideally offering Delta heritage themed activities for
      local youth)
    Coffee shop

There may be opportunities to explore interim strategies such as active
concessions such as food, drink or retail out by the front windows to help
establish this site as a destination (especially on nights when the theater has
something going on).

That Bookstore in Blytheville
Develop a ―Book-A-Trip‖ promotion to encourage residents and visitors to
purchase books with a regional connection. The promotion would encourage
participants to read about the Arkansas Delta and then experience it in person
(see related recommendation under the Painted House in Lepanto).

Another potential resource to consider is www.bookstoretourism.org. Bookstore
tourism is described as a type of "cultural tourism" that promotes independent
bookstores as a group travel destination. This concept was started in 2003 by
Larry Portzline, a writer and college instructor from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Osceola

Downtown Osceola has an attractive town square featuring an impressive
copper-roofed courthouse building. There is a Mississippi County Historical
Center museum on the square, although it is currently only open limited hours
(Wednesdays from 1-4 pm). The museum is in the process of taking over an
adjacent space to develop as a genealogical research center using old county
records relocated from the courthouse in the town square across the street.

While Osceola once had a number of juke joints and other music themed sites,
these are mostly gone today. Current live music offerings are limited and may

                                        13
not be an attraction for out of town visitors. Osceola’s annual Music Fest does
attract a regional audience of 5-6,000 people a year. Posters featuring the Music
Fest during the early years include outstanding artwork (according to the local
Main Street manager, one original has been featured at the Smithsonian). While
the artist who provided the artwork in early years has not been involved recently,
there have been some discussions with the artist about getting involved with
future Music Fests.

There may be ways to use artwork from past Music Fests help bring Osceola’s
musical heritage to life year round. For example, the poster artwork could be
transformed into wall murals on the sides of buildings or silk screened onto
banners for the downtown to use alongside the Main Street Osceola banners.
Main Street Helena is currently exploring a similar banner strategy to alternate
Main Street Helena banners with seasonal banners promoting annual events.

The Florida estate offers a great tourism opportunity for Osceola. This, coupled
with the gracious historic town center, have the potential to make this a worthy
destination. Plans are currently underway to develop the Florida estate as a bed
and breakfast. The grounds of the estate are large enough to accommodate
additional activities such as an outdoor summer concert series, bringing high
quality live music back to Osceola on a regular basis.

The efforts of the Main Street program to attract restaurants and entertainment
businesses to the downtown should be supported, as this will enhance the
appeal of the downtown for visitors. These opportunities should be explored as
part of the business development component of RHDI.

Dyess
Dyess has been in the spotlight recently as the town where Johnny Cash’s
boyhood home is located. The story of Johnny Cash and his rise from obscure
Delta poverty to international fame is a fascinating one with broad popular
appeal. Of all the musical artists with Arkansas Delta connections, Cash is
perhaps the most famous and the one with bona fide superstar status. A new
sign can be found outside town proclaiming ―Dyess, Arkansas: Boyhood Home of
Johnny Cash.‖ The Johnny Cash story, featured in the 2005 movie Walk the
Line from 20th Century Fox, includes a portrayal of key experiences from Cash’s
boyhood years in Dyess. It appears that little has changed in Dyess since
Johnny Cash’s youth, and the New Deal agricultural policy backstory is also a
great tie in to the other Delta heritage sites under consideration.

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
The Johnny Cash boyhood home is a modest home on a dirt road in the midst of
cotton fields. The Cash family lived in the house until 1962. The current owner
has offered to sell the house as a museum, but the asking price has been too
high to generate any takers. The current owner is offering Johnny Cash T-shirts
for sale.



                                        14
      Unless/until the financial challenge of acquiring the house can be
       resolved, the visitor experience at the Johnny Cash house will continue to
       be a drive-by photo opportunity with the option of purchasing a T-shirt
       from the current owner.
      Consider improving directional signage to help visitors find the Johnny
       Cash house, keeping in mind that the house is still a privately owned
       residence.

Administration Building
As an alternative to creating a museum in the Johnny Cash house itself, local
stakeholders have been considering creating a Johnny Cash exhibit in the
Administration Building in downtown Dyess.
    Given the challenges of acquiring the Johnny Cash house as well as
      probably having space limitations within the house for Cash related
      exhibits, the logical solution is to pursue the development of a museum in
      the Administration Building and offer the Johnny Cash house as a drive-by
      opportunity.
    Consider approaching the Cash family to help support this effort with
      either financial support or Cash artifacts.

Lepanto
There is a reason that Lepanto was chosen as a made-for-television movie
location. There is something classic about this town with its high, covered
sidewalks and uniform one-story brick commercials buildings, fitting the image of
what a tourist might imagine a Delta town to look like. If this site was to be
included in a Delta audio tour, quotes from the Grisham novel The Painted
House could possibly be used to help describe the town.

Lepanto has been building on connections to the Hallmark movie The Painted
House based on the John Grisham novel. Many of the downtown scenes from
the movie were shot in Lepanto. Local stakeholders have acquired the home
used as the Painted House movie set and have rebuilt it at one end of the
downtown. Movie scenes featuring the home were shot on location in
Mississippi. In addition to offering tours of the original home featured in the
movie, photo collages from the movie filming are on display in front of a number
of downtown Lepanto buildings. Judy’s, a local diner, features a photo collage
from the movie on one wall as well as a themed menu that includes items named
after characters from the movie.

The enduring popularity of Lepanto as the movie set for The Painted House will
depend upon the enduring popularity of the Hallmark movie as well as the book.
While this site would not fit into the three regional themes that are currently being
explored for the region (music, African American heritage and agriculture) it could
fit into a catch-all of ―hidden treasures‖ or ―off-the-beaten-path‖ attractions. If
there are other sites connected to books within the Arkansas Delta, there might
be an opportunity to develop a ―Book-a-Trip‖ promotion featuring sites that a
visitor could first read about and then subsequently visit. That Bookstore in

                                         15
Blytheville, a local business in the Arkansas Delta established as a stand-alone
destination, would be a logical partner to lead this promotion.

Tyronza
This tiny crossroads town was the home of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union.
With assistance from Arkansas State University, starting in October 2006 it will
be the home of the Southern Farmers Tenant Union Museum. The new museum
will include several interactive exhibits such as a mini theater that will show
newsreel footage, an old radio that will play old protest songs on demand and
computer terminals with oral histories. Once open, this museum could be
considered one of the ―Delta Discovery Centers‖ proposed in this report if local
stakeholders find that it meets all the agreed-upon criteria.

Exhibit labels in the museum have not yet been installed. Ideally, these labels
should be story-driven with a focus on first-person narration. Some concerns
were expressed regarding the proposed name of the museum (Southern Tenant
Farmer’s Museum) as it may be a little obscure for the uninitiated. It relies on a
potential visitor having a fair amount of prior knowledge of the organization of the
Southern Tenant Farmer’s Union in the New Deal Era. Ideally, a recognition test
with potential visitors could be undertaken to determine if this really is a valid
concern. For example, several potential museum names could be included on a
list, with potential visitors asked to identify the museum they would be most likely
to visit. Additional terms that could be included in other museum names are
words such as ―Delta‖ and ―cotton‖ (as in the Delta Cotton Farmer’s Museum or
some such title) for their ready familiarity with the public. This museum ―name
game‖ might be complicated by the opening of a Cotton Museum in the Memphis
Cotton Exchange building in Memphis, Tennessee.

Twist
While the team did not visit this site and understand that it is further off the
beaten track, the B.B. King Lucille story and Howlin’ Wolf connections could be
very compelling, especially if there was a way to share these stories on the drive
to Twist. Although the buildings connected to these stories have been lost,
interpretive signage could be used to commemorate this site as a potential
pilgrimage for die-hard fans.

If sufficient interest in this site could be generated, there may be future business
development opportunities here that could enhance the visitor experience down
the road. For example, a restaurant named ―Lucille’s‖ could be developed that
included B.B. King artifacts and incorporated the B.B. King Lucille story as part of
the dining experience.

West Memphis
West Memphis is a key gateway into the Arkansas Delta located adjacent to a
major metropolitan area (Memphis) and at the intersection of two major
interstates. While West Memphis was once home for many of the African
American Blues musicians performing in Memphis as well as the home of many
of the ―after hours‖ clubs where musicians performed once the Memphis clubs
                                         16
had closed for the night, many of the actual buildings connected with this musical
heritage have been lost.

Several of the most popular Blues music travel guidebooks tell travelers that
there is no history in West Memphis to speak of. To combat this misconception,
West Memphis could work with other Delta communities with a strong blues
heritage such as Helena and Blytheville to create an Arkansas Delta Blues
Traveler booklet, following the format of the popular guidebooks but offering the
authentic and more in-depth perspective on the blues heritage of the Arkansas
Delta. The pamphlet should be published by a respected academic source (such
as Arkansas State University). Complimentary copies should be sent to the
authors of existing Blues music guidebooks for consideration as future editions
are released. Personal invitations should be extended to these authors to visit
these places, and even be sponsored if necessary.

Sites such as the loading dock at the Ice House where Elvis performed, the
KWAM ration station and the Plantation Inn site are all potential ―pilgrimage‖ sites
that could be commemorated with interpretive markers.

New State Welcome Center
The state Welcome Center in West Memphis is slated to be redone, and local
stakeholders are working with the state to relocate the Welcome Center to a new
location at the convergence of the two main interstates (I-55 and I40) that should
increase the potential traffic through the Center. The state has expressed some
willingness to allow some Delta specific promotions/information to be housed in
the new Center, opening up possibilities for this new Center to serve as a
gateway for visitor experiences within the Arkansas Delta. This could provide a
tremendous opportunity to position West Memphis as a key gateway to the
Arkansas Delta for large numbers of travelers passing through the area.

The story in West Memphis could be the 1950’s music scene and the emergence
of the electric blues and rock. If Wayne Jackson’s collection is really good and
available, it would help a great deal. The welcome center could be named (or
have an adjacent facility with a dynamic, attractive name such as ―The Electric
Delta Music Museum‖ or the ―West Memphis Electric Blues Center.‖ As in
Blytheville, retail and dining components could be especially viable at such a
heavily traveled location, not to mention adding a supporting revenue stream.
For example, to tap into the audience of truckers on this heavily traveled route,
consider a high-quality truckstop restaurant with musical instruments, CD and
souvenir store components.

Local stakeholders should continue to work with the state to advocate for the
inclusion of Delta specific displays and visitor information within the new
welcome center. A potential model to look at is Tamarack, a West Virginia
welcome center in Beckley, West Virginia (see http://www.tamarackwv.com/ ).
This welcome center, which was designed by West Virginia architects using West
Virginia building materials, features high quality West Virginia food and crafts in
addition to the expected brochure racks and visitor information. The goal of the
                                        17
center is to change negative perceptions that visitors may have about West
Virginia.

Marianna
Like Osceola, this pretty town is not too far from the Memphis sprawl zone.
Marianna’s location on the main road between Tyronza and Helena is a definite
plus, and plans for a new boutique hotel and several appealing restaurants add
to the appeal of Marianna as a stop along the way between other attractions.

Helena
A fascinating combination of grandeur and decay, Helena has the largest
concentration of visitor ready attractions of any community included on this visitor
experience assessment visit. The 2005 Strategic Community Plan for Phillips
County, Arkansas 2005-2010 (commonly referred to as the Delta Bridge Plan) is
an exciting development for Helena with recommendations for a number of
projects that will greatly enhance the visitor experience. Tourism is one of two
key areas (along with business and job creation) in the economic development
section of the plan. Implementing the recommendations in the Delta Bridge Plan
will dramatically increase Helena’s tourism appeal.

Key tourism recommendations in the plan include:
    enhancing the travel corridor from the Mississippi River Bridge to
      downtown Helena;
    redeveloping Cherry and Walnut Streets in downtown Helena;
    expanding visitor access to the Mississippi River;
    developing or enhance up to six annual tourist events;
    expanding the emphasis on arts and entertainment;
    creating a tri-state blues music trail;
    creating a delta image campaign.

As priorities for implementation are developed for the Delta Bridge Plan, keep in
mind that time is of the essence for critical historic preservation projects such as
the planned restoration of Centennial Baptist Church. Additional delays will at
best increase the cost of restoration, and at worst allow this historic landmark to
deteriorate beyond repair. The story of the church itself and its architect are
interesting sidebars, and the idea of presenting the extensive Johnson
photography collection is also intriguing. While the financial investment to
restore this landmark is daunting, it has the potential to provide a complementary
anchor attraction to cover both the sacred and the profane aspects of the African
American musical tradition in the Delta.

There are plans to develop directional and interpretive signage to tell the story of
the music and heritage of the Helena area. Ideally, Helena’s directional and
interpretive signage will be coordinated with signage developed for the entire
Arkansas Delta. Local stakeholders in Helena should coordinate with RHDI and
Arkansas Byways to make this happen.


                                         18
The possibility of creating a public pier at the Port of Helena and having Buck
Island available to residents and visitors via ferry offers an unusual opportunity to
get out on the Mississippi River to experience the Great River Road from the
water. Due to seasonal flooding, the island will remain as a primitive outdoor
recreational opportunity with camping, picnicking and possibly a midnight jam
session.

It would be ideal if one of the educational institutions in Helena (or even another
Delta community) could be convinced to resurrect the culinary and restaurant
management institute, or alternatively explore the development of a
multidisciplinary music conservatory program to allow the city to act as a ―local
culture breeder.‖ Not only would this help to define the future attributes of the
Delta’s regional style, it would also train the talent to propel it forward.

Delta Cultural Center
The Delta Cultural Center (DCC), with an estimated 34,000 visitors a year (of
which approximately half are international visitors) is a key attraction in the
Arkansas Delta that should be one of the Delta Discovery Centers within the
region. It is one of the few sites in the Arkansas Delta that is included in popular
guides such as The Blues Traveler.

      Look for ways to position the exhibits at the DCC as promoting other
       visitor experiences within the Delta. Incorporate uniform display signage
       as an overlay within the existing permanent and temporary exhibits to
       inform visitors when another heritage site in the Arkansas Delta can help
       to tell the rest of the story. For example, one display panel in the depot
       building mentions the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. An additional
       panel could be added to tell visitors that they can also visit the Southern
       Tenant Farmers Union Museum in Tyronza to learn more.
      In addition to positioning ―VISIT…‖ panels throughout the DCC exhibits,
       include an interactive kiosk near the gift shop where visitors can create
       their own customized Arkansas Delta itinerary featuring the sites
       mentioned in the DCC exhibits. The itinerary could be tied to Mapquest or
       a comparable mapping program to provide directions, mileage and travel
       time between sites as well as key visitor information about each site. The
       kiosk could also include suggested geographic or thematic itineraries for
       Arkansas Delta travelers as well.
      The exhibits in the depot building currently include computer terminals
       with interactive information about the Delta. The software program could
       be expanded to include a ―VISIT…‖ component that would encourage
       travelers to learn more about other Delta heritage sites within the region.
      The DCC could take the lead in developing an Arkansas Delta Passport
       program to encourage visitation at Delta heritage sites throughout the
       region.

With regard to current exhibits at the DCC, additional interactive exhibits and
more artifacts/objects throughout would enhance the experience. For example,

                                         19
the addition of a multimedia presentation on the 1927 flood could increase the
emotional impact of this exhibit.

Confederate Cemetery
There is a need for improved directional signage to help visitors find the
cemetery from the Great River Road as well as signage within the cemetery
itself. Currently, there is no information or signage to tell visitors that they must
drive up the hill to the top of the cemetery to find the Confederate cemetery.
Where possible, directional signage should include distance to help travelers
gauge how close (or far) they are from an attraction.

Pillow-Thompson House
The enthusiasm of the staff at the Pillow-Thompson House adds to the visitor
experience at this site, which goes beyond a traditional historic house tour. A
modern catering kitchen was added in an addition to the rear of the building by
Phillips Community College. This kitchen, which once served as a training
kitchen for students from Phillips Community College, now serves the needs of
local caterers who provide the food for special events as well as regularly
scheduled luncheons. Tours are offered regardless of other activities taking
place in the house, which could affect the visitor experience as well as the
availability of staff to lead tours.

The combination of a catering kitchen designed as a teaching kitchen and a
charming historic setting could be used to provide additional visitor experiences
such as cooking classes led by chef from local restaurants or local caterers,
ideally focusing on regional specialties from the Delta.

Centennial Baptist Church
As the restoration of this landmark moves forward, there may be opportunities to
partner with other communities in the Arkansas Delta. Dumas, for example, is
currently exploring the possibility of creating an International Gospel Institute.

Wild Hog Music Fest and MC Rally
Consider the possibility of expanding this event into the ―Arkansas Delta Hog
Road Rally,‖ an annual tour of the entire Arkansas Delta with special events for
each leg of the tour.

Elaine
The Great River Road loops down to include Elaine before circling back up north
to cross the White River National Wildlife Refuge. While the drive past the Old
Town Lake is scenic, the lack of any visitor experience in Elaine may leave Great
River Road travelers wondering why they are taking this circuitous loop. At a
minimum, low profile interpretive signage telling the story of the 1919 race riots in
Elaine would help to make this destination worth the extra drive. Ideally,
additional businesses could be developed in Elaine along the Great River Road
to serve the needs of local residents and visitors alike. Without a draw in Elaine
or some of the other small communities along this section of the Great River
Road to convince travelers to drive the official route, many travelers would be
                                          20
tempted to take 49 west from Helena and then head south on 1 to reconnect with
the Great River Road north of Dumas.

The Delta Bridge Plan, for example, includes a recommendation under the
development of county-wide tourism opportunities to develop a museum in Elaine
in conjunction with the trailhead for the Delta Heritage Trail to commemorate the
race riots.

Dumas

International Gospel Institute
Local stakeholders in Dumas are interested in pursuing the development of an
International Gospel Institute that would offer gospel experiences for group and
individual travelers, provide training with top gospel singing artists and create an
identity for Dumas as the center of gospel music. Dumas currently has a large
number of churches where gospel singers perform regularly as part of church
services.

The first step in exploring the feasibility of this concept is to determine what other
gospel programs, museums and institutes may already be in existence. The
auditorium at the Ritz in Blytheville, for example, hosts a number of gospel
festivals in their 480 seat auditorium. There are plans in the works to renovate
Centennial Baptist Church in Helena as a museum, educational and cultural arts
hub and a gospel venue that can seat up to 1,000 people.

Outside the Arkansas Delta, a July 19, 2006 article in the Miami Herald noted
that Fort Lauderdale has plans for a $45 million 50,000 square foot gospel
museum that would include an auditorium, recording studios, a hall of fame and
artifacts such as original songbooks. According to the Miami Herald article, ―the
idea for a museum emerged in January when gospel star Bobby Jones
expressed an interest in staging his long-running Black Entertainment Television
show in Fort Lauderdale.‖ Other existing gospel related attractions include:
     the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Detroit,
        Michigan)
     Southern Gospel Museum & Hall of Fame (Dollywood, Tennessee)
     Gospel Museum (Benson, North Carolina)
     Texas Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame (Arlington, Texas)
     James D. Vaughan Museum (Lawrenceburg, Tennessee)
           A museum dedicated to James D. Vaughan, described as the "the
           father of southern gospel music."

Though the proposed International Gospel Institute will not be a museum per se,
sites such as the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Detroit
could make it more challenging for Dumas to establish the proposed International
Gospel Institute. That said, there could be opportunities to promote gospel music
as a visitor experience for both group and individual travelers in Dumas. A
gospel performance could be offered to group tours in the area, either as a stand

                                          21
alone offering or as part of a heritage package that could also include some of
the catfish agritourism offerings described below. While the creation of an
International Gospel Institute is a formidable task, the infectious enthusiasm of
Don Livingston, a respected local leader, offers several of the key ingredients for
success—leadership, enthusiasm, and commitment.

As many of the local churches include gospel music as part of their services,
individual travelers could be invited to participate in a church service to have an
―authentic gospel experience.‖ Identify appropriate churches that would welcome
visitors with an interest in gospel music and provide information to visitors about
where the churches are, what time services are offered, and what visitors can
expect to find at different churches. Local hotels such as the Days Inn already
include a listing of area churches in the visitor information in each room. Offering
additional details about gospel offerings could take this simple listing to the next
level. As this concept is tested, look at the comfort level of potential church
visitors and develop strategies to overcome any hesitations that may discourage
them from taking part in local services.

Offering gospel festivals or gospel training programs could be yet another way for
Dumas to establish a reputation as a center of gospel music. Dumas already has
an arts center downtown that seats several hundred people, and the Desha
County Museum has acquired a historic church that would be an ideal setting for
smaller scale gospel performances. As the renovation of Centennial Baptist
Church in Helena moves forward, there may be opportunities for Dumas to
collaborate with Helena on gospel events and training programs.

Catfish Farm/Fish Processing
Several sites in the Dumas area offer development potential as agritourism
attractions around the catfish industry. As the potential of these sites is
developed, it will be important to work with agritourism and catfish farming
experts to address any health and safety regulations that may impact what can or
cannot be done.

At a catfish farm 13 miles outside Dumas, the evening feeding offers a dramatic
show as thousands of catfish splash to the surface of the catfish ponds seeking
the food that is being sprayed into the ponds. Approximately 4 miles from
downtown, a catfish processing plant transforms the live fish into flash-frozen
fillets. The Catfish Kitchen, a local eatery just outside of the downtown, offers an
opportunity to experience a catfish lunch or supper.

The challenge in connecting visitors with a catfish feeding experience is that
catfish farmers feed the fish once a day, either in the early morning or early
evening. This means that visitors will need to arrive at the catfish farm at
precisely the right time to witness the feeding. As the catfish farm we visited was
13 miles from downtown, visitors would need to plan ahead to find the farm and
ensure that they were there at the right time.



                                         22
One option could be to offer some additional visitor experiences at the catfish
farm that could be available at non-feeding times, such as:
    A ―catch your own‖ catfish opportunity, possibly with additional options to
            o have your fish filleted
            o pack the fillets for transportation OR ship fillets
            o cook catfish fillets to order either on site or at a local restaurant
    Individual catfish feeding opportunities with small bags of food available
       for purchase only if small amounts of food provided at different times of
       the day will not be harmful to the catfish.
    Specialty items available for purchase such as frozen or fresh catfish
       fillets, catfish spices, catfish cookbooks and other catfish related gift items.
    A fish tank with live catfish
    A catfish pond trail with a self-guided tour brochure. Brochures can be
       inexpensively produced and easily updated. The brochure could include
       an order form for catfish gift items as noted above which could be
       purchased on site (or via phone or the web). The brochure should include
       stats such as the average number of catfish in each pond as the numbers
       are quite impressive.

As a starting point, local agritourism catfish stakeholders might want to find out
more about other catfish operations that offer visitor experiences. A quick check
on the web turned up the Dorey Fish Farm in Leola in central south Arkansas
(870-765-2749) which sells bulk frozen catfish and offers a ―pay lake‖ where
visitors throw in a hook and line and pay for what you catch by the pound. They
also have picnic tables, a playground and a restaurant on site. There may be
other catfish agritourism sites in the region that could be looked at both in terms
of potential competition as well as role models.

The catfish processing plant has the potential to provide a factory tour to show
visitors how catfish goes from pond to your table. Starting with tours for small
groups by appointment will be the most practical and cost effective, expanding to
offer regularly scheduled tours if sufficient demand can be generated.
     Arkansas is just launching a statewide agritourism program, which may be
        a source of guidance on health and safety regulations for tours. Visitors
        might be required to wear the same rubber boots, hair nets and masks
        that the plant workers wear, and visitors should be kept at a safe distance
        from the working machinery. Other factory tours have accomplished this
        in a variety of ways, ranging from:
            o a glass-walled partition between visitors and the factory floor, to
            o suspended walkways that offer a birds-eye view of the machinery,
                to
            o lines painted on the floor to designate where visitors are allowed to
                walk and how close they are allowed to get to machinery.
     Offering rubber boots to visitors will also protect the visitor’s shoes from
        the bits of catfish and water on the plant floor.
     It is exciting to see the processing plant in action, however the noise of the
        machines makes it more difficult to hear the tour narration. One solution

                                          23
       would be to explain more about what visitors will see inside the plant while
       outside. It could also be possible to provide visitors with a tour brochure
       that could include a floor plan to identify the different machines and stages
       of processing to supplement the guided narration.
      The main office does include shelves with catfish related items for sale,
       though during our visit these shelves were fairly empty. As tours are
       offered, ensure that these items are replenished and displayed
       attractively. The tour should conclude in the office where visitors could be
       invited to browse for gift items.
      The tour should have a logical sequence that begins with a live catfish and
       ends with the finished fillet to show the visitor all of the steps that each
       catfish goes through in the plant.
      There may be opportunities for cross-marketing between the catfish
       offerings in the Dumas area. A ―catfish package‖ could be offered to
       group tours that would include the catfish feeding farm, a catfish dinner,
       and a morning tour of the processing plant. The tour of the processing
       plant should be recommended after the catfish dinner, as some diners
       might not have an appetite for catfish immediately after watching the fish
       processing activities. An additional add-on option might be a catfish
       cooking class arranged for a group, possibly featuring one of the local
       award-winning chefs from the annual Dumas Main Street Catfish Cook-
       Off.

Another agritourism resource that is available in Arkansas is an incentive
available to local economic developers that would provide a break during
construction or when adding space to make a site (such as the fish processing
plant in Dumas) more tour friendly. More information about these benefits is
available at
http://www.1800arkansas.com/Incentives/index.cfm?page=Tourism_Development .

Rohwer Relocation Camp National Historic Landmark
According to the website www.lifeinterrupted.org, the Rohwer Relocation Camp
was one of two Japanese Internment Camps in Arkansas along with the Jerome
Relocation Center south of Rohwer in Denson, Arkansas. This website is a
wonderful archive of information and historic photographs that could provide
information and graphics to help to interpret the Rohwer memorial site.

This monument to the Rohwer World War II Japanese Relocation Camps is
relatively well marked from the road. The site includes several monuments, an
open green area and a small graveyard within a marked area as well as an
undeveloped area beyond the formal monuments with trees. The area is
completely surrounded by working fields. While the monuments include
descriptive text that explains the meaning of the site, there is currently no
interpretation to tell visitors more about what was found on that site when it
served as a relocation camp during World War II. Signage within the memorial
site could also provide translations of the Japanese text on the remaining
monoliths, if appropriate.

                                        24
Several low profile interpretive signs could be added to the site, perhaps at the
end of the access road immediately in front of the site, with additional information
about the site including a map to compare ―then and now‖ and historic photos to
help visitors imagine what the relocation camp looked like.

While the buildings from the camp are no longer there, many have been moved
to other locations such as Dumas and Arkansas City and are being used as
homes. For the dedicated heritage traveler, it would be possible to identify the
current location and use of some of these barracks. A brochure could be
inexpensively produced that could include both historic and current photographs
to show how these buildings have been adapted for use today.
While a suggestion was made that one or more of these buildings could be
relocated to Rohwer and restored to the original condition to enhance the visitor
experience, this would not be practical unless adequate staffing and security was
available on site. The site is remote, and evidence of a campfire and empty beer
bottles in the area provided an indication that the site currently attracts some
questionable evening activity.

H.R. 1492 is a bill currently pending that would authorize grant funds for a
Japanese-American Internment Camp preservation program. If authorized, this
bill would provide $38 million to ―encourage, support, recognize and work in
partnership…for the purpose of identifying, researching, evaluating, interpreting,
protecting, restoring, repairing and acquiring historic confinement sites.‖ Rohwer
is one of the ten interment camp sites identified in the bill. If passed, this bill
could provide a valuable source of funding.

This site could be one with particular appeal to foreign (especially Japanese)
visitors. There may be ways to promote this site to target international audiences
in conjunction with other sites with strong appeal for foreign visitors.

Arkansas City

John Johnson House
The rags-to-riches story of John Johnson’s humble beginnings in Arkansas City
and his subsequent rise to power as the founder, publisher, chairman and CEO
of Johnson Publishing Company, the largest black owned publishing company in
the world, is a powerful story. While having John Johnson’s boyhood home open
to the public helps to bring this story to life, it is unfortunate that the house is not
in the original location and appears to be primarily a recreation rather than the
original home. The John Johnson story could be another non-musical example
of the migration north to Chicago story that could be told in this region (possibly
at the Greyhound Bus Station in Blytheville with an encouragement to also visit
this site in Arkansas City).

Lakeport Plantation
The restoration of Lakeport Plantation is an exciting new development within the
Arkansas Delta. A tremendous amount of care and thought has been put into the
                                          25
building restoration and the preparation of the property as a museum open to the
public. A team of experienced and talented local experts have been working on
this project for a number of years with specialties in archeology, history, building
restoration, museum development and more.

One key issue being debated by this team of experts is whether the tour should
begin at the front door or the back door. This discussion is emblematic of a
larger issue of the perspective from which the plantation’s story is told—whether
it is the story of the prominent Johnson family who owned the plantation, or the
story of the African Americans and others who worked the plantation and
provided the craftsmanship to construct the building.

While there are pros and cons on both sides of this discussion, several key
points should be kept in mind in resolving this debate.
    While Lakeport is the only extant plantation in Arkansas, there are a
       number of other plantation museums in the south. To avoid becoming
       ―just another historic southern plantation tour‖ it will be important to
       provide a unique and compelling visitor experience which is different from
       other plantation tours.
    Before any final tour decisions are made, conduct front-end surveys with
       visitors, testing their level of interest about various aspects of the story
       (architecture vs. restoration vs. tenant farmer plantation live vs. landowner
       family life). Use the surveys to see what has the greatest appeal and
       tailor experiences according to the level of public interest. Keep in mind
       that ―the public is always right.‖
    Armed with the survey results, develop rough cuts of potential tours
       should be field tested with target audiences. The final tours should be
       modified to reflect the feedback from the test audiences. Lakeport has a
       variety of potential stories to tell ranging from the Johnson family history,
       to the stories of the laborers who built and worked the plantation, to the
       architectural history and the story of the archeology and cutting edge
       preservation technology at the site. Recognizing that there may be
       several potential target audiences for these different experiences, it might
       be prudent to develop several different tours that can be available on
       demand to meet special interests. Given the cost involved with staffing,
       the assumption is that a self-guided tour will be provided at the site, most
       likely with an audio tour component. If this is the case, it could be possible
       to have several tours available, perhaps having some that begin at the
       front door and others that begin at the back door. Offering multiple tours
       also creates greater incentive to encourage return visitors. Taking a
       flexible, incremental and experimental approach to developing the
       interpretation experience and introducing new elements bit by bit will
       provide a cost-effective way to field test different ideas and resolve any
       remaining internal arguments about which approach to take.
    Assuming that the offices will be housed in an adjacent building (such as
       the trailer complex currently serving as the office/museum), all visitors will
       be approaching the house from the front to begin their tour. Regardless of

                                         26
    whether the interior tour begins at the front or the back door, the tour
    experience can begin during the approach to the house or on the front
    lawn. One of the unique features of Lakeport is that the house is still
    surrounded by working cotton fields. It might be possible to create a
    ―Cotton Path‖ that would allow visitors to walk a short distance through
    cotton fields to get the sense of what it would have been like to be a cotton
    picker in the fields. To address safety issues, a wider walkway/path
    through a small section of the cotton fields could be created to ensure that
    visitors do not get lost, and to ensure that they stay a safe distance from
    the contiguous working cotton fields. To enhance the experience, visitors
    might be invited to try their hand at picking cotton, or perhaps pulling a
    fully loaded bag of cotton a few feet to get a sense of how grueling the
    work is.
   Current audio tour technology has advanced and offers options that go far
    beyond the old cassette tape off/on and forward/reverse options. It could
    be possible to offer tour options with the audio tour that would enable
    visitors to customize their tour experience on site. For example, there
    might be a primary message that all visitors are invited to listen to in a
    specific room with ―drill down‖ options to learn more about specific sub-
    topics. This would allow visitors to adjust the audio tour to meet individual
    time constraints and interests. Prototype tours, however, could be
    inexpensively developed as a simple tape recorded tour.

    The planning team may want to take a look at other relevant interpretive
    models. Sites to consider include the Lower East Side Tenements
    Museum and Ellis Island in New York City and Alcatraz Island in San
    Francisco Bay. The Tenement Museum and Alcatraz both make excellent
    use of a powerful, evocative site combined with oral histories to make a
    compelling visitor experience. Ellis Island has done interesting things with
    audio and the existing building fabric. The firm that produced the Alcatraz
    audio tour, Antennae Studios, could be a firm to consider once you reach
    the production stage.

   Be cautious about introducing period furniture, reproductions and even
    static exhibits into the house. The house is very powerful empty. A story
    driven approach anchored primarily in oral history and through the house
    itself has a great deal of potential. Use written labels and graphics
    sparingly, if at all, or perhaps in just one context-setting orientation room
    or in the gathering space before the tour begins. Where stories don’t
    reference the interior of the house, use the windows to frame views of the
    exterior events and places.

    The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina (www.biltmoreestate.com)
    has developed this kind of an audio tour. Tour goers can switch back and
    forth while touring, so they do not have to choose just one tour. For
    example, a visitor can be looking at a room and listen to the "general"
    description of furniture, family activities, etc. Then visitors can push

                                      27
       another button and hear additional information such as reading a letter
       that a family member wrote while in that room, or hearing a family servant
       remember something that happened their, or discussing their duties.
      Keep in mind that regardless of how engaging the visitor experience is,
       unless you have first met the basic needs of your visitor, they will not fully
       appreciate the experience you have to offer. The office/museum building
       can, at a minimum, offer restrooms and water. Because Lakeport is not
       close to restaurants or stores, it might also be desirable to offer snacks for
       sale to abate any hunger pangs that unprepared guests might have. If
       appropriate space is available, picnic benches situated with a scenic view
       of the plantation and surrounding fields could provide a restful break.
       During the audio tour, keep in mind that visitors will linger longer if they
       are comfortable. Providing simple benches in rooms in the house could
       help to make visitors more comfortable as they listen to information in
       each of the rooms in the house.
      If additional archeology or work on the house is required after the house is
       open as a museum that work can become part of the visitor experience.
       Observing archeological digs and having a chance to talk with the
       archeologists, or observing preservation work in progress would be a draw
       for visitors rather than a drawback.
      The exhibits outside the house offer another opportunity to engage visitors
       in an interactive way. To enhance the sense of discovery, consider
       organizing exhibits in such as way that visitors are challenged to reach
       conclusions about the site. For example, rather than a single flat panel
       that might describe research findings and the conclusions drawn from that
       research, consider describing research findings and challenging the visitor
       to reach their own conclusions before lifting a panel(or manipulating the
       exhibit information in some other way) to reveal actual conclusions from
       the professionals.
      Similarly, there might be an area dedicated to the architectural
       craftsmanship of the building that could include a workshop viewing area
       (if work on the house was completed, this might be work that was being
       done for other historic properties in the region) or interactive opportunities
       to try some of the decorative techniques found in the house such as the
       art of painted wood graining.
      Due to the distance of the Lakeport site from other buildings, hosting
       annual special events at the house including reunions would be a strategy
       to encourage return visits, increase overall visitation and generate
       awareness.

One of the most promising interpretive threads at Lakeport could be drawn from
the oral history materials that have been collected from former Lakeport tenant
farmers. A social history approach will distinguish this site from other similar
plantation sites. A spotlight on the African American perspective, offered along
with the stories of the Johnson family, could also differentiate this museum
experience. It would be fascinating and unique to look at the Johnsons through
the eyes of the tenants. This type of novel approach, coupled with the strong

                                         28
supporting scholarship already available, could make this project very appealing
to the National Endowment for the Humanities for consultation, planning and
implementation grants.

There are several additional museums and organizations that could serve as
potential role models or resources for Lakeport, including:
    Belle Meade Plantation, Nashville Tennessee
       www.bellemeadeplantation.com
       The executive director is Norman Burns, 615-356-0501, ext. 24,
       NOBurns@bellemeadeplantation.com. Belle Meade hosted a seminar on
       interpreting African American history and has put a strong focus on better
       interpretation beyond the "moonlight and magnolias story" in the last few
       years.
    Carter's Grove (Williamsburg, Virginia)
       www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/Almanack/places/hb/hbcgrove.cfm -
       Although this site is currently closed while they evaluation their programs,
       they have had a specific focus on interpreting the lives of slaves. Rex Ellis
       at Colonial Williamsburg is a tremendous resource on interpreting the
       African American experience.
    Somerset Place (Creswell, North Carolina)
       http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/sections/hs/somerset/somerset.htm. - This is
       an antebellum plantation on the eastern coast of North Carolina. The
       executive director is Dorothy Redford, a descendant of the slaves who
       built the plantation. In the 1980s, she began researching her family history
       which led her here. She wrote a book, Somerset Homecoming:
       Rediscovering a Lost Heritage. In the book she describes how she began
       incorporating the story of the slaves into the interpretation. She also
       organized a homecoming of descendants of blacks and whites who lived
       there. She eventually became (and continues to be) executive director of
       the site.
    African American Association of Museums (www.blackmuseums.org)
       This organization could provide good networking opportunities to learn
       about how other sites are interpreting African American heritage. Their
       annual conference is scheduled for August 23-26, 2006 in St. Louis,
       Missouri.
    American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) -
       www.aaslh.org – This national organization based in Nashville, Tennessee
       is another source for contacts and training. Their annual conference is in
       September in Phoenix, Arizona.




                                        29
                                 APPENDIX A

                    Visitor Experience Assessment
                      Amy Webb and Dan Spock
                               Itinerary


TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2006

5:20 pm      Amy Webb arrive

6:00 pm      Blytheville City Council meeting – RHDI annual presentation to city
             (Beth and Cary)

8:45 pm      Dan Spock arrive; Beth, Cary, Ruth, and Amy to pick up; pre-visit
             meeting during drive back to Blytheville

9:45 pm      Blytheville - Overnight, Hampton Inn (conf #80761524),
             870.763.5220


WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2006

8:00 am     Breakfast introduction meeting in hotel lobby (20 minutes) Beth,
Cary, Amy, Dan

8:20 am     Depart hotel for downtown Blytheville; meet at Kress Building on
Main Street

8:30 am      Kress Building (30 minutes) Mayor Barry Harrison, Dana Overman

9:00 am      Greyhound Bus Station (30 minutes) Mayor Harrison, Ron Dawson,
             Dana Overman, George Hubbard

9:30 am      Main Street Blytheville (30 minutes) Mary Gay Shipley, Dana
             Overman

10:00 am     Depart Blytheville for Osceola

10:30 am     Arrive Osceola; meet at Main Street Osceola office; Main Street
             Osceola and Florida Mansions (45 minutes) Beau Butler, Eric
             Golde

11:15 am     Depart Osceola for Dyess




                                        30
11:45 am   Arrive Dyess; visit Dyess Colony Administration Building and
           Johnny Cash boyhood home (30 minutes) Mayor Larry Sims,
           870.764.2030

12:15 pm   Depart Dyess for Tyronza via Lepanto

12:30 pm   Lunch at Judy’s in Lepanto

1:15 pm    Depart for Tyronza

1:30 pm    Arrive Tyronza – Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union museum (30
           minutes) Ruth Hawkins

2:00 pm    Depart Tyronza for West Memphis

2:30 pm    Arrive West Memphis – Visit KRAM Studio and Ice House (30
           minutes) Sarah Beth Christian, Annette McCollum

3:00 pm    Main Street West Memphis (15 minutes) Annette McCollum, Sarah
           Beth Christian

3:15 pm    Depart West Memphis for Helena via Marianna and St. Francis
           National Forest

5:00 pm    Arrive Helena – driving/walking tour of park, levee, cemetery

5:45 pm    Check into B&B, refresh, depart for River Road on foot at 6:45 pm

7:00 pm    Dinner at River Road on Cherry Street; Overnight, Magnolia Hill
           B&B, 870.338.6874


THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2006

8:30 am    Mid-visit meeting over breakfast at B&B (20 minutes) Beth, Cary,
           Amy, Dan

9:00 am    Helena – Main Street Helena, Delta Cultural Center, Centennial
           Baptist Church NHL, Pillow-Thompson House (3 hours, 30 minutes)
           Paula Oliver, Katie Harrington, Kim Williams, Phyllis Hammonds,
           Dr. Nichols, Rhonda St. Columbia

12:30 pm   Lunch in Helena at Phene’s

2:00 pm    Meeting with ASU Heritage Studies students at Delta Eagle Room,
           Helena Depot (1 hour), Ruth Hawkins

3:15 pm    Depart Helena for Dumas via Elaine and St. Charles
                                     31
4:30 pm      Dumas – Main Street Dumas walking tour (45 minutes) Marilynn
             Bradshaw

5:15 pm      Proposed International Gospel Institute at Desha County Museum
             (20 minutes) Marilynn Bradshaw, Don Livingston

6:30 pm      Catfish feeding and farm tour (1 hour) Marilynn Bradshaw

7:30 pm      Dumas – Dinner at Catfish Kitchen; Overnight, Days Inn (conf #
             SHARON), 870.382.4449


FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2006

8:45 am      Depart hotel in Dumas

9:00 am      Catfish processing plant agritourism tour (30 minutes) Marilynn
Bradshaw

9:30 am      Depart Dumas for Rohwer

10:00 am     Rohwer – WWII Japanese Relocation Camp NHL (15 minutes)

10:15 am     Depart Rohwer for Arkansas City

10:30 am     Arkansas City – downtown Arkansas City, John Johnson House (15
             minutes) County Judge Mark McElroy, 870.877.2426

10:45 am     Depart Arkansas City for Lake Village

11:15 am     Arrive Lake Village – driving tour, lunch at Lakeshore Cafe (1 hour,
             15 minutes), 870.265.0027

12:30 pm    Arrive Lakeport – Lakeport Plantation (3 hours) Ruth Hawkins,
Paula Miles

3:30 pm      Depart Lakeport for West Memphis

7:30 pm      Dinner and overnight in West Memphis, Hampton Inn (conf #
             84957684), 870.732.1102


SATURDAY, JULY 22, 2006

7:15 am      Depart hotel for Memphis International Airport
8:35 am      Amy Webb depart
9:45 am      Dan Spock depart
                                       32
                                  APPENDIX B

                                 Music Trails


           Music Trails in the United States

                                                        7   1.    Blue Ridge Music Trail
                                                            2.    Blues to Bluegrass
                                                                  Music Trail
                                                            3.    Country Music Trail
                                                    1       4.    Georgia Music Trail
                                              5    10       5.    Kentucky Music Trail
                                            2
                                           9 8              6.    Louisiana Music Trail
                                               4            7.    Mountain Music Trail
                                       3
                                   6                        8.    SE Tennessee Music
                                                                  Trail
                                                            9.    Tennessee Music Trail
                                                            10.   The Crooked Road




1) Blue Ridge Music Trail (www.blueridgemusic.org/AboutBRMT.asp)
The Blue Ridge Music Trails project grew out of the Blue Ridge Heritage
Initiative, a multi-state partnership of organizations, communities, and individuals
committed to promoting the cultural heritage of the region. The music venues
selected for the Blue Ridge Music Trails have been identified by folklife
fieldworkers. Though listeners may well hear an array of musical styles at a given
event, each site includes a substantial amount of traditional Blue Ridge music
performed by musicians native to the region. All of the events listed are on-going
and are open to the public.

2) Blues to Bluegrass Music Trail (www.10000trails.com/music/)
Efforts are underway to seek scenic byway status for the Blues to Bluegrass
Music Trail in Kentucky and Tennessee.

3) Country Music Trail (http://www.byways.org/browse/byways/2215/)
This National Scenic Byway begins in Meridian, Mississippi, the birthplace of
Jimmie Rogers, the "Father of Country Music." Tour the museum that honors this
talented individual. Also stop by the Peavey Electronics Visitor Center and see
the world's largest makers of amplifiers, keyboards and guitars in action. Head
north toward Columbus on Hwy. 45, then to Fulton on Hwy 45 and SR-25, where
you'll find Tammy Wynette's birthplace. On your way, keep in mind the songs of


                                             33
other country music stars. Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Marty Stuart, Faith Hill
and LeAnn Rimes are all native Mississippians.

4) Georgia Music Trail (www.georgia.org/tourism/music_trail/index.asp)
The Georgia Music Trail highlights music-themed destinations, including
attractions, restaurants, retail shops, venues and festivals in Atlanta, Athens,
Macon and Savannah. The destinations are featured in the Georgia Music Trail
brochure, designed to entice visitors and encourage residents to plan a Georgia
music-themed vacation.

Some of the suggested destinations on the Georgia Music Trail include Gladys
Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles restaurant in Atlanta, the
Athens Music Walking Tour, the Southern Gospel Nights riverboat tour in
Savannah, and in Macon, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which features
exhibits, events and educational programs and the Music Factory children's wing.
Georgia Music Trail visitors are also encouraged to plan a trip to coincide with
one of the state's many music festivals, including Atlanta's National Black Arts
Festival and Music Midtown, AthFest in Athens, the Savannah Music Festival
and Georgia Music Week in Macon.

5) Kentucky Music Trail
(http://www.kentuckytourism.com/history_trails_music.aspx)
The Kentucky Music Trail, in eastern Kentucky, highlights the state's broad
musical heritage and includes the new Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and
Museum at Renfro Valley, historic homes, the Appalachian Artisan Center, the
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park and more. From mid-June through mid-August a
series of concerts featuring Kentucky natives John Michael Montgomery, Loretta
Lynn, Ricky Skaggs and Montgomery Gentry among others are presented at the
Mountain Arts Center and the Paramount Arts Center.

6) Louisiana Music Trail
(http://www.crt.state.la.us/crt/tourism/music/musictr.htm)
The Louisiana Music Trail follows a path that meanders through countless
cultures and generations of history. It cuts its way through major urban centers
and then spreads out to the rural countryside, echoing the constant refrain of
diversity as it twists and winds its way through Louisiana. All along the way, it
carries the melodic dreams, hopes, laments and boundless spirit of Louisiana.

From the grand concert halls to the obscure roadside honky-tonks, from historic
Congo Square in Armstrong Park to places where Mardi Gras Indians roam,
travelers who travel this trail are treated to the rich and abundant musical legacy
that is distinctly and unmistakably Louisiana. If this sojourn had an official
anthem, it would probably be titled after a saying that best sums up the people
and the music of Louisiana- "joie de vivre," the joy of living.

7) Mountain Music Trail (www.kaht.net/tours/mou_tour.htm)
This is one of the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails.

                                         34
8) Southeastern Tennessee Music Trail
(www.southeasttennessee.com/www/activity_list/music_trail)

9) Tennessee Music Trail
(www.ismoky.com/mountains/whats-new/heritage-trail.html)
The State of Tennessee has developed three heritage trails: arts and crafts,
music, and history. The Tennessee Music trail showcases diverse styles evolving
from three cultural traditions. East Tennessee's Appalachian region is known for
its folk songs and bluegrass which evolved from the immigrant influences of the
1700's. In Gatlinburg, look for Music Trail features in three locales; The Old
Heidelberg Dinner Show, Smoky Mountain Travelers, and Sweet Fanny Adams
Theatre. The Old Heidelberg Dinner Show was established in 1975 in Gatlinburg
and has been entertaining guests in its Bavarian style ever since. One of the
most popular times to enjoy The Old Heidelberg, is during the annual
Octoberfest. The Smoky Mountain Travelers features live bluegrass and
mountain music, with shows nightly. Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre is billed as an
evening featuring an original musical comedy, with audience participation sing-a-
longs. Hillbilly Hoe-down (now located in Pigeon Forge) is a two-hour Country
"Comusical" down-home variety show.

10) The Crooked Road (www.thecrookedroad.org/)
―The Crooked Road‖ is Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, a driving route through the
Appalachian Mountains from the western slopes of the Blue Ridge to the
Coalfields region of the state. The trail connects major heritage music venues in
the Appalachian region such as the Blue Ridge Music Center, Birthplace of
Country Music Alliance, and the Carter Family Fold. The traditional gospel,
bluegrass, and mountain music heard today was passed down from generation
to generation and lives on through a wealth of musicians and instrument makers
along the trail. Annual festivals, weekly concerts, live radio shows, and informal
jam sessions abound throughout the region. In addition, this region is also rich in
other cultural and natural assets, particularly crafts and outdoor recreation.

N.B. The majority of this information is taken directly from the websites
referenced below. Additional information about these music trails is also
available on these websites.




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