AY About You May 2023

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your DESTINATION for something different © 2023 Brashears Furniture At Brashears we believe furniture shopping should be an enjoyable experience. That’s why we’ve created a relaxed shopping environment where you can find unique, quality items that fit your lifestyle and personality. We love being your destination for something different, and while we miss our Springdale location, we appreciate your continued loyalty by shopping at our Berryville and Branson locations— just a short drive for an exceptional experience. Visit us at Berryville and Branson. BERRYVILLE • 500 W Trimble Ave (Hwy 62) • Berryville, AR 72616 • (870)423-4433 BRANSON • 2750 Shepherd of the Hills • Branson, MO 65616 • (417)337-5028 SPRINGDALE • Temporarily closed due to tornado damage

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page 32

Where were you in March 1988? At AY About You we were just getting started! Well, it’s 35 years later and you still ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Read more: page 52.

6 WHAT’S INSIDE 10 Publisher’s Letter 12 Connect 14 Top Events 172 Murder Mystery 176 Arkansas Backstories HOME&GARDEN 16 The Springs at Cedar Court 24 Ari Crum: Evergreen Designs 26 Bentonville Garden Club FOOD&DRINK 28 Face Behind the Place: DeLuca’s Pizzeria 34 Recipe: BLT Pasta Salad 36 Eyes on the Pies ARTS&CULTURE 42 FreshGrass Music Festival 46 Arkansas Music Venues HEALTH 149 Go Red for Women 2023 Luncheon 150 Go Red for Women 2023 Survivor Showcase 158 Go Red for Women 2023 Circle of Red ABOUT YOU 52 AY’s 35th Anniversary 63 AY’s Best Of 2023 139 Super Moms Restaurant Readers Bucket List,

CLASS OF 2023 Congrats

Pulaski County Special School District wants to send a special message to our graduating seniors - the class of 2023. The following messages are from each of the high school principals.

Joe T. Robinson High

Throughout your years, you have experienced new and exciting adventures, learned many lessons and created memories that will carry you for years to come. Academic determination, dedication to extracurricular activities, and longlasting friendships have helped shape you into the young adults you are and will continue to be. As you move on into adulthood, remember the lessons you learned as a student at Robinson. Know your why and set goals for yourself to attain your dreams. Make excellence your expectation in everything you do. Give 100% of yourself on a daily basis. Lastly, always remember it is a great day to be a Senator!

Maumelle High

This year, I encourage you to embrace the spirit of service and continue to give back to your community, even as you move into the next chapter of your life. Remember that you are more than the labels society may place upon you, and strive to be "indefinable" in the best sense of the word. As you move forward, never forget the most important titles you hold - father, mother, spouse, friend - and let these roles guide you as you define your own story. Your words and actions have the power to build up or tear down, so choose them carefully.

Mills University Studies High

As we reflect on this past year, we know that we have experienced tests and trials. Yet, we made it. We overcame with discipline and morals. Yet, the best way that we overcome is through love. Love is the greatest motivation in life. Hate, anger, and revenge can drive our lives for a while, but eventually, we will run out of gas. When love fuels our lives, we have a source that never runs dry. As we encounter difficult times, we need to remember this. It can pull us through while giving us perspective and context.

Mr. Duane Clayton, Principal

Sylvan Hills High

The Class of ‘23 will do big things after departing the hallways of SHHS. Regardless of the obstacles you were plagued with, the Class of 2023 has been a special class. For many, you have conquered private challenges we could never have predicted. You all have truly excelled in outlandish times and because of that, the Class of 2023 has cemented itself as extraordinary. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors! Go Bears!


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Joe David Rice, born in Paragould and reared in Jonesboro, probably knows Arkansas as well as anyone alive. The former owner of an outfitting business on the Buffalo National River and the state’s former tourism director, his "Arkansas Backstories" is published by the Butler Center.

Amy Gramlich is a wife, mom, blogger, and public school educator, proudly planted in Arkansas. She loves to celebrate all occasions big and small with fun outfits, creative recipes and fresh home decor (which must always include plants). She enjoys all the details that go into planning the next trip or party.

Cassidy Kendall, born and raised in Camden, Arkansas, currently lives and works in Hot Springs as a full-time freelance journalist. In the past year, she has published her first book, “100 Things to Do in Hot Springs Before You Die.” She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Print Journalism in 2018.

Julie Craig began her magazine career while living in New York City as an intern at Seventeen. With fashion and home design as her forte for the past 15 years, Julie is a blogger, writer and editor who has reported stories for Us Weekly and written about and photographed New York Fashion Week.

Chris Davis was born and raised in Sherwood, but now resides in North Little Rock with his wife and 7-year-old son. When his son was born, his wife asked for a new camera to take pictures of their little one. From there, his love of photography grew, and he is proud to be one of the newest contributing photographers.

Angelita Faller is the news director for the Office of Communications and Marketing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. A native of Newton, Illinois, Faller holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in digital storytelling from Ball State University.

Jamie Lee, born and raised in Southwest Louisiana, now lives in Little Rock with her husband, daughter, two dogs and a cat. Jamie is a published senior photographer and shoots everything from portraits to branding to food. She has over 15 years of experience in the photography business and over 25 years in travel and tourism.

Jenny Boulden has been writing professionally for more than 25 years. She now works at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield but still enjoys freelance writing for AY and other publications. Her creative focus is writing about people, film, books and food, some of her favorite things.



rate is $20 for one year (12 issues). Single issues are available upon request for $5. For subscriptions, inquiries or address changes, call 501-244-9700. The contents of AY are copyrighted ©2023, and

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should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Products

AY Magazine is published monthly, Volume XXXVI, Issue 1 AY Magazine (ISSN 2162-7754) is published monthly by AY Media Group, 910 W. 2nd St., Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201. Periodicals postage paid at Little Rock, AR and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to AY Magazine, 910 W. 2nd St., Suite 200, Little
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It’s the Big One!

Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about “Go big or go home” and this month’s AY About You is just that – BIG!

This issue is a particularly big deal to us here at AY because it marks our 35th Anniversary since our founder, Vicki Vowell, hung out her shingle in downtown Little Rock. Starting with little more than a typewriter and a dream, Vicki steadily laid the foundation for the magazine we all enjoy today, the largest of its kind in Arkansas. We have taken what she started and run with it; branching into new forms of media that continue to keep us at the head of the column for all that’s great in Arkansas culture.

Speaking of things that are a big deal, inside you’ll find our muchanticipated annual Best Of listing of finalists! Making this list is a real accomplishment; out of all the people, places and businesses to be found in our great state, only three can rise to the very top of the heap, as voted on and determined by you, the loyal AY reader. We congratulate all of this year’s honorees and invite you to check on your favorites in health care, restaurants, shopping, media and many more categories!

There’s plenty of other great content here too, just in time for the start of summer. Get your burger fix at DeLuca’s in Hot Springs, which heads our Burger Bucket List and get the lowdown on some fine pies at Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets in Keo. Meet our Super Moms and help us cheer heart disease survivors profiled in our Go Red for Women feature. And you can even plan a concert date by checking out our look at the top music venues around the state.

I would be remiss if I didn’t wish all the moms out there a very Happy Mother’s Day this month. Moms are special and they have the hardest job in the world so whether your mother is still with us or if she’s smiling down from above, we send hugs and kisses to them all.

Finally, a big announcement in my world, I am overjoyed to share the news of my wedding with my soulmate, Ryan. Donning the flowing white dress from Unveiled Bridal, and sparkling with diamonds from Sissy’s Log Cabin, I walked down the aisle to marry the love of my life. Our dream honeymoon in Italy was an unforgettable experience that became more magical with each passing day. We owe our deepest gratitude to our dear friends at Small World Big Fun, whose dedication and attention to detail made our trip truly spectacular. We also thank our beloved Italian friend, Margie Raimondo, whose kindness and generosity made our stay in Italy an unforgettable one. True love has the power to awaken our souls and make us feel alive. Ryan and I are blessed to have such incredible friends and family who have made this journey possible. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your love and support.

Thanks for reading AY About You. As you get out and about, drop us a line about what you’re doing and where you’re going this summer.

publisher's letter
/ heatherbaker_ar

Grand Opening

SUNDAY MAY 21ST, 2pm - 6pm

21 Rahling Circle Little Rock

Refreshments and Cocktails

Live Entertainment by: Pat Becker and the Rex Bell Jazz Combo; The Creative Talent Council



“Wolfe Street Center is amazing. It’s a privilege and honor to be here to help raise awareness and funds so they can continue to do good work.”

Captain Sandy Yawn


“Woohoo! Congratulations to Byrd and Love! Arkansas proud!

Holly Grove proud- Lucy Love!”

Suzanne Yee, MD


“Very well done and interesting, informative article.”

Richard McKeown


“I love this story. I was so worried about this precious little doggy.”

Beth Rollins Hudson Davis


“My favorite dish back when they first opened was the beef stroganoff crepes! I can still taste them 45 years later!”

Gina Turner Terry

HGTV ‘FIXER TO FABULOUS’ STARS OPENING STORE IN ARKANSAS “Went there today!! So many neat items and one-of-a-kind furniture!”

Dana Morris


“Very impressive! A Gem for sure! We had the honor of working with Burt several years ago on a remodel for our house. Their whole family is so talented and a joy to work with.”

Liz Giles Johnson


AY’s Best of 2023

HGTV ‘Fixer to Fabulous’ Stars Opening Store in Arkansas

Benton Teen Gets Golden Ticket on American Idol

KARK Chief Meteorologist Keith Monahan Retires

Sunday Supper: Southern ‘Cathead’ Buttermilk

Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

If you’re a fan of pie – and really, who isn’t – then lattice tell you about the place to be on Saturday, April 29, as the Arkansas Pie Festival returns to Cherokee Village. The Little Rock Metropolitan area is home to one more up- and-coming band: Joan. Debbie Emery, server at Stoby’s in Conway, knows that good food brings people together and the server is the heart of every restaurant.
The city of Benton will soon be getting a new restaurant and beer garden: Revival.
Follow heatherbaker_ar on IG for weekly Bucket List restaurant giveaways.
Serving Seniors For Over 37 Years 26 Locations Serving ALL of Arkansas - 501-663-CARE 1st Nationally Accredited Caregiver Registry in Arkansas. Thoroughly screened,experienced caregivers can provide: •Housekeeping •Meal Preparation •Shopping/Errands •Transportation •Medication Reminders • Personal Care In-Home Care • Memory Care Provider Customer Service • Boss, Nicole Hurst Puckett CEO, Quincy Hurst • Overall Company Place To Work Thank You For Voting Us Best Of 2023



you just can't miss!


May 19-20

The Momentary // Bentonville

The third annual FreshGrass Festival will take place this May at Bentonville’s The Momentary. With bluegrass and roots live performances, the two-day, all-ages music festival will feature up-and-comers and world-renowned artists such as Elle King and CAAMP.


May 19-21

Robinson Center // Little Rock


May 26

Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion // Rogers

Coheed and Canbria will be joining alternative rock band, Incubus, for a tour stop in Rogers. “Southern Girl,” if it wasn’t “Just a Phase,” go ahead and “Drive” yourself up to the Walmart AMP, because you don’t want to get a “Wish You Were Here” text on May 26.


May 20

Simmons Bank Arena // North Little Rock

Scotty McCreery and Megan Moroney will be joining country music stars Brooks & Dunn to “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” on the Simmons Bank Arena stage for the “Reboot 2023” tour.


May 5-7

Baum Walker Hall at Walton Arts Center // Fayetteville

Travel back to the 1930’s this month with a Broadway favorite,“Annie,” and enjoy a celebration of family and optimism. As Annie says, “Sunshine is always right around the corner.”

14 agenda
“My Fair Lady,” the tale of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower seller and Henry Higgins, a linguistic professor, will be shown four times at Robinson Center in Little Rock this May.
aymag.com 15 1-7 “Bat Boy” The Weekend Theater, Little Rock 1-14 “Chicken & Biscuits” TheatreSquared, Fayetteville 5 Szlachetka Murphy Arts District, El Dorado 10 Central Arkansas Go Red for Women Health Expo and Luncheon Benton Event Center, Benton 12-13 Argenta Dogtown Throwdown Argenta Arts District, North Little Rock 5 Un Año Contigo - Bad Bunny Night II JJ’s Live, Fayetteville 5 Parker McCollum & Larry Fleet Walmart AMP, Rogers 12 Chrome HorseBob Dylan Tribute Murphy Arts District, El Dorado 15 Bright Eyes The Hall, Little Rock 13 Breakfast with a Twist: Turtle Little Rock Zoo, Little Rock 13 Magic Springs Water Park Opening Day Magic Springs, Hot Springs 13-14 Heather Headley Returns! Robinson Center, Little Rock 4 Cinco De Rhino 2023 Little Rock Zoo, Little Rock 6 Be Part of the Cure Walk War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock 6-7 Symphonie Fantastique Robinson Center, Little Rock 6-28 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock 4-6 Ballet Arkansas Presents “New Works” Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock 4 The Toadies JJ’s Live, Fayetteville 6 Magic Springs Opening Day Magic Springs, Hot Springs 9 Godsmack Walmart AMP, Rogers 12 Rival Sons The Hall, Little Rock events 19 Taylor Fest The Hall, Little Rock 19-29 Pulaski County Fair Arkansas Riverbanks, North Little Rock 26 Queens of Pop Dance Party JJ’s Live, Fayetteville 26 Smackwater Murphy Arts District, El Dorado 27 Yodaloo Music & Arts Festival Willy D’s Rock & Roll Piano Bar, Little Rock 23 Dave Matthews Band Walmart AMP, Rogers 2 MOE JJ’s Live, Fayetteville 24 Tab Benoit The Hall, Little Rock

The Springs at Cedar Court

Country Charm, Big City Amenities

at The Springs at Cedar Court have the option to completely customize their dream property.

The power to fully customize a home is fast becoming a lost art in many markets, but not as long as Mary Lewis of Lewis Contractors is involved. Lewis first began her career building homes in 1994 and has maintained a standard for success throughout the highs and lows of the industry.

Lewis, whose building experience ranges from high-end residential in exclusive Little Rock neighborhoods to commercial projects such as the new wrestling gym at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been working hard on a new project in Searcy.

“Searcy is a charming town that offers a lot of bang for your buck as a resident,” Lewis said. “You can have the house of your dreams in a location that is convenient. It is one of the best-kept secrets that Searcy is such an excellent place to live, with its own airport and hospital and all sorts of parks and biking trails. There’s so much fun to be had.”

As a Harding University graduate, Lewis is well-accustomed to the quaint White County community, and she is a passionate advocate for the area, which has been rapidly growing over the last few years. As part of this growth, she’s excited to bring something completely unique to the area. That development, The Springs at Cedar Court, is the culmination of her vision.

“Searcy has so much potential with a beautiful, robust downtown that’s gained national recognition and The Springs at Cedar Court is the perfect place for homeowners to build right now,” she said.

“It is a peaceful stretch of land where people can see gorgeous sunsets every day in the west, it has beautiful 100-yearold trees and it is in the perfect location for those of us who want to live in a home that feels like the country, with the access that comes along with living in town.”

Stylish design, smart layout and top of the line appliances make for a dream kitchen.

There are 20 lots in the neighborhood, which takes its name from the beautiful natural springs that run through the property. Lot sizes vary between three and five acres, with one lot already closed and one finished house on the property currently listed.

“The interest in The Springs at Cedar Court has absolutely blown us away; so many people have shown such great interest in what we have to offer here,” Lewis said. “The people who have come to check out the property have been raving about how really peaceful it is.”

The serene neighborhood will be a gated community, which Lewis said is a much-sought-after amenity in the area. She also noted the space allows for all the charm of traditional Southern homes alongside the endless potential for building customized properties. For example, Lewis said that the spaces are large enough to accommodate a backyard pool or entertainment space, or even a guest house or cottage.

“When I say completely customizable, what I really mean is that the buyer has a choice in creating the space from scratch.” Lewis said. “If someone is interested in buying a lot for us to build on, I am committed to working with them through every step of the process. There really won’t be anything cookie-cutter about these homes.”

“These spaces allow for an almost generational feel. It is truly such a special opportunity for homeowners who are big on creating memories as a family.”

Lewis also said that this neighborhood is perfect for those looking to establish their final home destination, as Searcy has proven to be an ideal place to retire as well. Nestled into the peaceful and rural setting, the neighborhood offers privacy and charm unlike anything else in the area.

The general steps for clients in creating a home they love begins with a meeting with Lewis. From there, clients pick a lot, create a house plan if not already established and meet with a range of professionals to bring their ideas to life. This includes architects and interior designers who sweat the details alongside skilled crafts workers who take the vision off of paper and build it for a lifetime of enjoyment with family and friends.

In using Lewis Contractors, clients can also expect constant communication and updates, from the personalized tour of the plot to the weekly meetings, either in-person or virtually, that update progress of the building stages. An avid communicator, Lewis ensures that her company delivers the best possible customer service.

Regardless of any challenges that may arise in the building process, Lewis is sure to communicate in whichever ways work best for the client, including text, pictures, email, Zoom, phone calls or in-person meetings.

“A lot of our clients are located in other states as we are working to build their new home in Arkansas, but this does not mean that they receive any less customer service,” she said. “I’ll still update them and meet with them weekly, even if it has to take place in a different way.”

While the process of building a new home can feel overwhelming at first, Lewis is committed to being there for her clients and walking them through every single step of the process. Whether it is a first house or final home, she said the goal is to create a space suitable for the client’s needs and aesthetically pleasing to their taste. To accomplish this, she utilizes only the best of the best when it comes to architects, interior designers and installers.

“Communication with our clients is paramount, and it is continued through the entire process from timeline to budget,” Lewis said. “Our second main focus is on providing our clients with the best subcontractors and vendors in addition to understanding the access to materials.”

One detail many homeowners overlook, but which is key to Lewis’ checklist of amenities, is the neighborhood’s connectivity. The Springs at Cedar Court homes will enjoy access to what Lewis refers to as the best, most reliable internet in town, Connect2First. Connect2First provides broadband internet and is a subsidiary of First Electric Cooperative Corporation.

“Internet connection is such an important tool in our world today, and part of what I love so much about The Springs at Cedar Court is that residents will be receiving really effective broadband internet,” she said. “This makes working from home or pursuing hobbies that require good internet connection so much more accessible. It allows homeowners to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with staying connected, even in a more rural location.”

Committed to being as modern as possible, Lewis uses experienced installers in all of her residential properties to ensure the most current audio, visual and security initiatives are placed inside the home.

“It is really important to me that everything stays up-to-date. Security is

Stylish design, smart layout and top of the line appliances make for a dream kitchen.

really important and when you have good audio and visual initiatives, you can have the very best security for your property,” Lewis said.

With decades of experience and a strict attention to detail, there’s nothing that Lewis Contracting cannot bring to reality for clients as they design their dream home. An example of a newer initiative Lewis has seen is custom-programmed panels that provide whole-home smart operation. All of the home’s systems can be controlled through these systems and even activated remotely via an app.

According to Lewis, when you use Lewis Contracting, you are guaranteed to have a great experience with communication and quality work. For that reason, she makes herself available virtually anytime to help answer clients’ questions or concerns.

“Building your own house is a major decision and I want to make sure that every client is receiving exactly what they want,” she said. “I let my clients know that they can reach out to me whenever they need to so we can handle any issue that may arise before it gets out of hand.”

Lewis and her team will be hosting an event later this spring for those interested in purchasing a lot to allow them to see the progress of the neighborhood. The event will also showcase landscapers, architects, bankers and other professionals who play a role in bringing one’s dream space to life.

“I cannot wait to see the progress of The Springs at Cedar Court. This entire project is such a big joy for me and all others who are involved,” Lewis said.

“It’s not just about building a big, lovely house, but it’s about creating a space where the house can truly be a home appropriate for your family. I’m big on creating spaces that contribute to reestablishing the fabric of society and making homes suitable for nourishing your family.”

aymag.com 21
A variety of stylish comfortable living spaces allows homeowners to bring the outside indoors and vice versa.

Bringing style

We have installed quality oriented manufacturing systems that insure a quality product every step of the way. Hanamint will continue to concern itself with product excellence. We are dedicated to serving the customer who wants quality, style and value.

10 Year Warranty on Aluminum Frames

One yard at a time
MAD Amphitheater
First Financial Music Hall

We are humbled and incredibly grateful to have been voted among AY’s Best of 2023. As a family law firm, we are honored to be recognized for our zealous representation of clients navigating the emotional waters of family law matters.

Our law firm takes great pride in the work that we do, and we are thankful for the opportunity to serve our clients with dedication, compassion, and professionalism. This award serves as a testament to the hard work and commitment that The Law Offices of Katherine Blackmon brings to our practice every day.

Thank you again for your loyalty and support. We look forward to continuing to provide you with the highest level of legal representation.

212 Center Street | 11th Floor | Centre Place | Little Rock 501.372.7636 | KEBlackmon

Ari Crum

From tablescapes to parties, a local designer gets a “fresh start” by opening Evergreen Designs.

After decades of gaining experience under the best designers in the community, designer Ari Crum started her own business, Evergreen Designs. Now sprinkling a touch of beauty all around Central Arkansas, she sat down with AY About You to share her inspiring story about gaining a second chance at doing what she truly loves.

AY: What is your design background?

Ari Crum: I was in the corporate world until I had my first daughter, Libby, who just celebrated her 17th birthday. I retired out of that when I had her. My husband was like, “Hey, why don’t you get out of the house and go do something,” and so I took a continuing education class for floral design at Floral Express.

It was kind of like a Monica and Chandler [of TV’s “Friends”], youshould-be-a-chef kind of thing, you know? And so, with my cousin, we started a company called Little Black Dress, where we did all the planning for more than 100 weddings over the course of the next six years before I had my second child.

AY: What happened after Little Black Dress ended?

AC: I worked as the head wedding and event designer for Tipton & Hurst for about six years. I learned so much, and that’s where I fell in love with Christmas. I’ve always done it in my house. I mean, I go over the top for all parties, but I really just fell in love with Christmas and how to decorate for it.

AY: Is that when you started your own design studio?

AC: Because of the non-compete stuff, I really couldn’t open a company, but I still designed friends’ houses on the side, and I planned parties

when friends called. I planned some weddings on the side, and then two years ago, I met Paul Guess. I felt like my world changed when I met him.

AY: How did your world change?

AC: Last year, he invited me to decorate and design more than 30 trees at his warehouse before the VIP Guess and Company Christmas at the Warehouse event, so that was awesome. I decorated more than 40 houses and two or three businesses where we designed the front store windows. We also shot four or five different videos with more than 100 photos, and it was wonderful to collaborate with him.

AY: What type of services are you providing, and what is your main focus?

AC: Our main focus is really seasonal, but all holidays, not just Christmas. If someone called and needed us to do a tablescape for Easter, we would come in and do that.

AY: What would you say inspires you, and do you have any books or magazines that you frequently keep on file?

AC: I grew up with Real Simple, and I feel like my whole life revolved around all of those magazines. I learned so many wonderful tricks of the trade.


What inspires me is, obviously, my children. But I also love walking into a meeting with a client and getting their vision, and then making them leave while we’re decorating their house, and they come in, and you get that look on their face of, “Oh my gosh, this was my stuff that you just turned into this?” It’s seeing our vision from their vision turn into reality.

AY: What’s your style?

AC: I would say classic, like wisteria in the garden. I try to tell my friends and brides when you go back and look at your photo in 20 years, do you really want curly roses or would you rather just have a pop of blue somewhere else? Do things that are classic and timeless versus what is in style right now. We can add that to the look, but just make sure the bulk of it is all classic.

AY: What type of questions do you ask your clients before you begin to work with them?

AC: We love to meet with clients before we plan Christmas, especially if they’re just a little tired of what they have, and they’re like, “I love these ornaments, but can we add in a different color?”

So, the first thing I ask is “What’s most important to you?” There are so many different styles when it comes to Christmas and weddings so when you walk in your home, do you want it to feel like you’re walking into a certain place or do you want it to be more family-focused?

AY: What else do you love about your process?

AC: We love shopping with our clients and them telling us what to buy. They give us a budget, and we go into shops and find pieces.

AY: That sounds like a fun part of your job, going shopping with “the list.”

AC: Yes, we call it our concierge service. Once we had 15 clients we needed to shop for, and our brains would go 900 miles an hour. So, we would walk in, shop for one and then check out, but go back in to shop for the other one. It was a lot of fun.

AY: Why do you think it’s so rewarding?

AC: [The clients] don’t even know what we’re buying, so when we show up and we’ve got what they said and got their vision, it’s that thing that the kids are saying right now, “She understood the assignment.” And that’s what I wanna hear.

All in all, I’ll say the No. 1 question we always ask is: How do you want someone to talk about your wedding or event the next day? What do you want them to feel? Do you want it to be elegant, romantic, enchanting or boho vibes? We want to know what you want your friends to be tagging and saying about your event the next day. That’s a very important question with our brides.

AY: How do you stay organized?

AC: If it weren’t for Google Docs, we’d probably be lost. My business partner, Clarissa McWherter, has a background in engineering so she has that brain. Not only is she a wonderful designer, but she’s the one that really keeps us on track and focused.

Another organizational tool that our clients really like is when we take down their Christmas decorations and when we’re storing it, we’re packing it properly. It’s not just thrown in there. We’re also saving stuff we didn’t use because after two seasons of not using it, I save it to donate. If you’re done with glitter, you’re done with glitter because in five years that may not be in style. So, we really push them to donate it because I know that a lot of those places would love new stuff.

AY: What would you say your favorite thing is about spring, and how does the season inspire some of the things that you’re working on?

AC: Oh gosh, I could be in tears right now. I mean I was driving on the street today, and I love that I can see green. It makes me so happy! And we’ve literally been talking about colors for three weeks. Yes, we’ve missed color.

I love that right now, you don’t have to have a $700 floral arrangement on your table. You can go out and actually cut some fresh floral from anywhere. All of this stuff is just growing like crazy in everybody’s backyard and, I mean, just use what’s around you to make these tablescapes. That’s kind of my favorite thing about spring; I can just go in my backyard and create something amazing.

AY: When you’re designing, do you think that the floral aspect is the most important?

AC: For a wedding, I would say my most important thing is you have to have a great linen, not just your classic white and black, but some texture and color. That’s what I feel sets a ballroom apart from anything else, is when you walk in and you see those linens that are just gorgeous and colorful. Then, you have a great simple, beautiful all-white arrangement on top. That’s a win-win for everybody.

AY: What are some techniques you would use to make an outdoor space come to life?

AC: I love all the natural things going on. I love a good set of cafe lights to make it look more like a room. I love to throw a rug on the grass and make it more like it’s living quarters.

AY: What is a project in particular that you’re most proud of?

AC: We knocked it out of the park with the Cattle Baron’s Ball for the American Cancer Society. I was really proud of our team.

AY: If you weren’t an interior designer, what would you be doing?

AC: Well, sadly, my husband passed away when my daughter was 2, and one of the things that I promised him was I would be happy. I quit the corporate world, and I got to do this because I want to do this. I honestly don’t think I would be doing anything else unless I could go and decorate homes in Italy, because that’s my favorite place in the whole entire world.

I really, really am so happy with what I do, and I love our little company, and I’m just so excited about the future of it. I think we’re on the right path to doing good things. It was a complete career change at 30, and that’s what I think is really cool. It’s almost like a second chance.

aymag.com 25
Ari and business partner Clarissa McWherter
I really, really am so happy with what I do, and I love our little company, and I’m just so excited about the future of it.

Warm Hearts, Green Thumbs


Garden Club celebrates 75 years of community beautification

Seventy-five years ago, as Bentonville began to flourish and grow, a group of 20 local women came together and decided to help make the community more beautiful. As a result, the Bentonville Garden Club was born, a group that over its history has done more than tend flowers and plant shrubbery. Three-quarters of a century later, the Bentonville Garden Club can look back on a proud legacy of community outreach, philanthropy and public service across the city.

In April 1947, some of the most prominent women in Bentonville came together with the sole mission “to make Bentonville the most beautiful and friendliest city in Northwest Arkansas.” The Bentonville Garden Club was federated in May 1948, with meetings originally held in members’ homes.

“The club did substantial work,” said DeLinda Mace, president. “They would have community clean-up days and plant different trees and flowers around the square, picking up trash along the streets and keeping things pretty, especially before events. The Bentonville Garden Club worked alongside other groups like the Rotary Club to plant a lot of the greenery that

still thrives around town today.”

The group was a precursor to the Bentonville Parks and Recreation Department and even after that office was founded in the 1960s, the Bentonville Garden Club remained a green force to be reckoned with by expanding its outreach even further than before. At the same time, the club continued to support the local parks and rec, which didn’t have its own building and fully developed staff until the 2000s.

Today, with 50 active members and 17 committees geared towards different endeavors and outreach, the Bentonville Garden Club supports a variety of programs. Among these are its scholarship and endowment opportunities.

“We have an endowment program with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. That endowment of $115,000 has allowed us to support horticulture students in the College of Agriculture for the last 20 years,” Mace said. “This year, we’ve decided to open up that opportunity to high school students. If they’re going to get their degree in horticulture, we want to help them.”

The Bentonville Garden Club has also expanded educational opportunities among local youth through horticultural programming.

“Our Youth Education Committee has a program that works with

The Bentonville Garden Club hosts a variety of classes, presentations and guest speakers throughout the year to educate its members on topics ranging from horticulture and plant species to flower arrangement.

students at Washington Junior High School about the basics of horticulture and gardening, why you plant the things you do and how pollination works,” Mace said. “We’ve also donated a solar-powered fountain to attract bees to the garden.

“We’re teaching these students that vegetables don’t come from the store, they come from the ground. We teach the students about making healthy soil, composting, about seedlings. Every year, students pick seeds from a catalog and calculate spacing and evaluate soil zones. If you don’t have the basics of how to plant stuff, community gardens will go away. Youth education is huge.”

The Bentonville Garden Club also works with well-known organizations around town during the holidays.

“We often work with the Peel Compton Foundation and the Peel House,” Mace said. “At Christmastime, the Peel House has a huge Christmas party and the Bentonville Garden Club decorates the Christmas tree and the front of the house. It’s another way that we give back to the community.”

Mace said the club also helps educate people on the area’s horticultural and agronomical history, such as Northwest Arkansas’s place as the one-time center of apple production in the U.S.

“We’ll have club members talk at events about apples, apple trees, the seeds that are rendered and how they grow,” she said. “We’ll also remind people about the history of the Peel Mansion and how they had their own orchard at one point. We work with the city as well as Compton Gardens, helping grow a tremendous number of seedlings during the winter and helping these facilities transfer them into bigger pots so that they can thrive in warmer weather.”

Even as its responsibilities have evolved over the years, especially following the creation of Bentonville Parks and Rec, the Bentonville Garden Club still works hand-in-hand with the city to prepare for spring and summer each year. The group helps make the city eligible to participate in the Tree City USA program, one requirement of which is to have an Arbor Day Program.

“We participate in National Garden Week every year,” Mace said. “This year, we’re honoring the Parks and Rec director and a local high school student who showed excellence in the environment. We’ve decided to start including younger people and students, hoping what young people learn is better than what we know. We’re really putting an emphasis on youth because if we can’t get them interested, there will be

problems in the future.”

Even after all this time, members continue to hone their knowledge as well as impart it. The club’s Botanicals Committee members, for instance, attend various flower shows and other educational events in order gain additional expertise.

“We do this because the members who attend these shows can come back and give us updated information about how to grow and how to arrange,” Mace said. “What was hip last year might not be hip this year. If we have an event where we’re doing the centerpieces, we want to make sure they’re in style.”

The Bentonville Garden Club’s Conservation Committee helps different facilities throughout the community with greenhouses. This work overlaps one of the club’s longstanding missions of integrating greenery as therapy.

“We put in small greenhouses at schools for kids and teach them how to do things in a greenhouse,” Mace said. “That’s different from our youth education [programs] because greenhouses are different from the outdoors in horticulture.

“We also have a group that does garden therapy, and we help the Circle of Life organization. They have little pods designed for elderly people. There are lots of planters at each pod, and we help make their pods really beautiful. It gives them something to do, and we bring joy to the people who are there. It’s important to us as a club to provide something beautiful for people to see as they visit with loved ones.”

Throughout the summer, the club serves to beautify the community during the peak of the blooming season. In June, during National Garden Club Week, the group plans to host Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman in conjunction with other activities.

“This is a big event for us and gives us an opportunity to publicly recognize this national occasion,” Mace said. “For the last couple of years, we’ve passed out packets of seeds and had small plant sales in the town square to celebrate. This lets people know that gardens are still a thing, how important they are, and why the work of the Bentonville Garden Club is pivotal.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And while a lot has changed in the 75 years since the Bentonville Garden Club’s creation, one thing has remained a constant: the club has been instrumental in making Bentonville beautiful and paved the way for a greener future.

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Garden club members are responsible for establishing much of Bentonville’s public greenspaces over the past 75 years. Today, members are visible and active in maintaining these spaces community-wide.

Medium-Rare, WELL DONE

What do you get when you take a guy from Brooklyn, teach him how to cook in Italy and then drop him into a Hot Springs pizza joint? If your first thought wasn’t, “the best burger in these United States,” no one could blame you. However, it is high time you meet one Anthony Valinoti, owner of DeLuca’s Pizzeria and the creator of a medium-rare cheeseburger that has locals making back-to-back reservations and out-of-towners driving hours just to get a taste.

Being the best in a category as subjective as food can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to the deep crowd of pretenders to that pickleand-cheese-crowned throne. Every region has a specialty, a preference or a sworn-by tradition that isn’t to be meddled with, and backyard grillmasters make up the spaces in between. Luckily, Valinoti’s burger had a leg up on the competition from the start, thanks to one essential, intangible ingredient.

“The DeLuca’s burger is nothing more than a spite burger,” he said. “Somebody wouldn’t make me a medium-rare cheeseburger one day, and I got pretty aggravated about that. I just can’t eat meat that’s well-done.”

Dressed as indignation, necessity once again proved to be the mother of invention. He asked, he pleaded, he even offered to sign a waiver, but still no one would serve Valinoti a burger any less than cooked through, prompting him to take matters into his own hands.

Never one to do things halfway, Valinoti remarked to Scott McClard of nearby McClard’s Bar-B-Q soon after, “I will go bankrupt doing this if I have to. I am going to make the greatest cheeseburger in America.”

“That was my intention,” Valinoti said. “And I think I’m pretty close.”

It’s hard to argue with his assessment. The DeLuca’s burger doesn’t rely on theatrics, a mountain of toppings or off-the-wall flavors, leaving the ingredients to shine for their quality instead. The bun is a potato roll originating in Pennsylvania. In the burger’s early days – that is, before he was selling 200 of them a week – Valinoti would have his sister buy packs of buns and ship them from Brooklyn to Hot Springs.

The meat is also specially made, a blend from a butcher in New York, who sent Valinoti sample after sample until he settled on the right one.

“I had been all across America and Europe, and I’d eaten cheeseburgers in many countries,” he said. “I had an idea of what I wanted it to taste like.”

Whereas Valinoti is painstaking and intentional with his flavors, his methodology is oftentimes experimental. But Valinoti’s high-

Anthony Valinoti, DeLuca’s Pizzeria and a burger that can’t be beat.
New York native Anthony Valinoti takes a rare break at his Hot Springs restaurant.

risk, high-reward persona means he’s not afraid to gamble. And, with the pizza oven already turning out perfect pies, why not see what else it could do?

“Everything’s an accident here. We just kind of figured out that we could cook other things in the pizza oven,” he said. “We realized that if you heat up a cast-iron skillet long enough, it would cook the same exact way, rare, medium-rare and well-done, in an allotted amount of time. That simplified the process, because if you have to keep guessing, there’s no way you could do it. It’s like a steak on a bun. We treat it with that kind of respect.”

Beyond a simple salting, a patty cooked in a pizza oven doesn’t need much else to sing. A slice of cheese melted on top and a handful of pickles on the side complete the outfit. Stripped of any pretense, the finished product is a flavorful, juicy bite that’s enough to send any overdecorated competitors running for the hills.

“Simple, to me, is the most elegant, beautiful thing you can do, but it’s the hardest thing to do. There’s no camouflage when you do it my way,” Valinoti said. “It’s even the same thing with the pizza; I think a plain pizza is the best one. You can put anything on top of it, and it’s going to taste good. It’s pizza, right? But I’ve literally eaten a hamburger for lunch every day of my life, so hamburgers are really my thing.”

During the testing phase, the burger was an off-menu item, but the response to it was still overwhelming.

“People tasted it, and they were like, ‘That doesn’t make any sense. This is so good,’” Valinoti said.

Most of the new dishes Valinoti tries go through rounds of backand-forth editing, but the burger was an immediate hit. Word quickly spread and soon, people were coming back day after day, having pizza

and pasta for lunch and a burger for dinner, or vice versa. Many patrons make multiple reservations in a row on their quest to try the whole menu, and the burger’s reputation has even brought people from across state lines to see what all the fuss is about.

“I had a woman drive from Dallas to eat it, because somebody asked where the best hamburger in Dallas was, and somebody else responded back, ‘The best hamburger in Dallas is in Hot Springs, Arkansas,’” Valinoti said. “She drove four hours each way, and she agreed with the statement that that was the best hamburger in Dallas. It’ll rival anyone’s. It truly will. You can’t fool me about food.”

That kind of passion – which could pass for delusion if he didn’t pull it off so well – suffuses all of Valinoti’s work and the story of DeLuca’s. Over a decade ago, the ex-Wall Street trader found himself disenchanted with the world after the loss of his parents. Something needed to change, and chance would have Valinoti spot a wine-tasting magazine while visiting a friend. The cover, a simple shot of wine and pizza, might as well have been a neon sign reading “Destiny: This Way.”

Once he decided what he needed to do, a lack of restaurant or culinary school experience wouldn’t be enough to deter Valinoti from giving the pizza business a shot. He traveled to Naples to learn straight from the source and, once back in the states, he was ready to open up a restaurant. Putting that restaurant in Arkansas, of all places, was pure serendipity. The pizzeria was originally planned for California, but after that fell through, a friend in Vegas told Valinoti, “If it wasn’t for my ex-wife, I would live in Hot Springs, Arkansas.”

“I came down the next day, and I fell in love with the city,” Valinoti said. “I told everyone I was moving here; they all thought I was crazy. My eyes saw everything I needed to see in one day. I went, ‘This is my place.’”

DeLuca’s opened in 2013 and has become a Spa City favorite in the decade since. Success has been hard-earned, and Valinoti isn’t shy about admitting the stumbles and missteps it took to get there.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done anything ‘right’ here. I think I’ve learned through a series of incredibly bad mistakes. The only thing I was smart enough to realize was that the mistake I made wasn’t a mistake I was going to make again,” he said.

“Failure has never been something that has deterred me in my life. Failure is that great building block. If you can pick yourself up after you fail, I think you have a stronger person.”

Having just settled into a new location farther down Hot Springs’ Central Avenue in early February, DeLuca’s is experiencing an even busier season than usual thanks to a visit from Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy. As a part of his “One Bite Pizza Reviews” YouTube series, Portnoy stopped by to see how Valinoti’s pizza stacks up. The verdict was an 8.7 out of 10 – no small feat, considering Portnoy has only ever handed out one perfect 10 and a mere handful of scores in the 9s.

The next day, Portnoy told Oaklawn’s Nancy Holthus that DeLuca’s could compete with anyone in the nation. Unsurprisingly, the restau-

"This isn’t work.
This is coming in and doing something fun every day.”

rant has been slammed as a result of the shoutout, making the need to call ahead and reserve your dough even more urgent.

“We don’t want to disappoint anyone, we don’t want to turn anyone away. We have a certain capacity, that’s it,” Valinoti said. “The pizza ovens can only make so many pizzas in a day. My staff can only make so much in a day.”

Though the recent buzz still has him on roller skates, Valinoti is looking forward to even bigger things ahead for DeLuca’s. Towards the end of this year, the restaurant will expand into Little Rock’s new-and-improved Breckenridge Village. In addition to his friend and business partner, renowned chef John Currence, Valinoti is excited to join forces with the likes of restaurateurs Jim, Tommy and Jay Keet and Mike Waldo.

“I’m pretty happy about how things are going to go. They understand what I do, and they don’t want to change any of what I do,” he said. “I started a six-table restaurant 10 years ago, never really thought it was going to work, and somehow it did. They provide this incredible, sturdy base that we can build something on.”

On the menu side, Valinoti is still throwing new ideas at the pizza oven and seeing what sticks, in addition to fleshing out more homemade Italian favorites.

“I always felt that I wanted to expand the menu towards the Italian side, to more of my roots in Brooklyn and that old-school, Italian Sunday gravy thing,” he said. “I’ve been playing around with some shrimp dishes and some fried calzones, just different things. I can make a veal chop in there. Things are coming.”

No matter where you find DeLuca’s, or how busy it is when you find it, Valinoti’s signature style is unmistakable. Similar to the feeling he had about the city when he first arrived in Hot Springs, each new spot DeLuca’s finds itself in has had that just-right vibe, something Valinoti can feel just as much as he can tell the right blend of meat in a perfectly medium-rare burger.

“How do you take four walls and make them talk? That was always the thing. I never really thought about it, because it just kind of happened. It was always different from anything, really, you can find here in the South,” he said of his newest space.

“I think people have kind of accepted that notion, that this is kind of fun. Maybe it’s crazy, how dark it is and how loud it is. Hey, I lived in Vegas for 13 years, you know? I like dark and loud. It may even match my personality – it definitely matches my personality.”

Valinoti admits freely and frequently that he’s no restaurateur or veteran of the culinary world. Though his Italian roots and Brook-

lyn upbringing certainly gave him an idea of the flavors he wanted to bring to bear on a place of his own, it’s Valinoti’s energy that makes DeLuca’s shine.

“This is not a business based on money. It’s a business based on being excellent, on providing people something that they absolutely love and want to speak about as highly as they do. As long as I have enough money to pay the bills, pay my staff and pay the taxes, I’m happy with whatever’s left over,” he said.

“How much more lucky can I be, to have what I have? I am thrilled to open the doors up every day. It’s a great joy. This isn’t work. This is coming in and doing something fun every day.”

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“Simple, to me, is the most elegant thing you can do.” DeLuca’s pies are consistently rated among the best in the United States.

Burgers Bucket List

l @ the Corner

Little Rock

l Benson’s Grill

Fort Smith

l Big Orange

Little Rock, Rogers

l Brood & Barley

North Little Rock

l Buffalo Grill

Little Rock

l Bulldog Restaurant

Bald Knob

l Chuck Wagon Restaurant


l Ciao Baci

Littler Rock

l CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers


l Copper Grill

Little Rock

l Cotham’s in the City

Little Rock

l Country Gossip


l David’s Burgers

Various Locations

l DeLuca’s Pizzeria

Hot Springs

l Doe’s Eat Place

Bentonville, Fayetteville, Little Rock

l Dugan’s Pub

Little Rock

l Ed Walker’s Drive

Fort Smith

l EJ’s Eats and Drinks

Little Rock

l Fat City Grill


l Feltner Brothers


l Feltner’s Whatta-Burger


l Flying Burger & Seafood


l Frye-Guys


l Gadwall’s Grill

North Little Rock

l Gee Street Kitchen



l Grill House Seafood & Burgers


l Hamburger Barn


l Hugo’s Fayetteville

l Hurley House Cafe


l Jackrabbit Dairy Bar


l Jerry’s Steakhouse


l JJ’s Grill

Various Locations

l JTown’s Grill


l Jude’s Delight

Little Rock

l K Hall & Sons Produce

Little Rock

l Leo’s Greek Castle

Litlte Rock

l M & M Burgers & Etc.


l Midtown Billiards

Little Rock

l Mike’s Place


l Morrilton Drive Inn


l North Bar

North Little Rock

l Oark General Store


l Old Tyme Burger Shoppe


l Open Season Sports Bar & Grill


l Ozark Cafe


l Reggie’s Burgers Dogs & Fries


l Rich’s Burgers

Pine Bluff

l RŌBER :: Cocktails + Culinary


l Rock Bottom BBQ


l Salem Dairy Bar


l Shorty’s Conway

l Skinny J’s

Conway, Jonesboro, North Little

Rock, Paragould

l Sportsman’s Drive Inn


l Stoby’s Restaurant

Conway, Russellville

l The Box

Little Rock

l The Burger Barn

Pine Bluff

l The Croissanterie

Little Rock

l The Ohio Club

Hot Springs

l The Root Cafe

Little Rock

l The Smokin’ Bull


l TLC Burger & Fries


l Tusk & Trotter

American Brasserie


l Two Sisters Catering & Cafe

Little Rock, Sherwood

l Ye Paul’s Soul Bodega & Grill

Little Rock

l Yesdog Grill


3 Check off the Burger Bucket List as you visit a small sample of our favorite new places.
See Memphis from new angles at Big Cypress Lodge in the iconic Pyramid. Relax in a cozy cabin nestled among hundred-foot cypress trees and explore all the Pyramid has to offer, like underwater-themed bowling or ride on the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator, which leads to The Lookout restaurant at the peak of the Pyramid. Call us or visit our website to book your summer getaway. AN UNPARALLELED SUMMER GETAWAY 855.602.7973 BIG-CYPRESS.COM

A Summertime Classic

The warm weather has arrived! Get ready to dig into this BLT pasta salad at your next family reunion or barbecue. Pasta salad is easy to prepare ahead of time, making for a perfect summer side dish. A bonus is that it uses some of the same ingredients you may already be purchasing for your cookout.


A BLT pasta salad marries the comfort of a pasta salad with the simplicity of the classic bacon lettuce tomato sandwich. Although there are now many variations of BLT sandwiches, a common BLT sandwich typically includes mayonnaise on toasted bread with layers of crunchy lettuce, tangy tomato, and crispy bacon.


In general, short pasta noodles with textures and curves for holding dressing work best for pasta salads.


Commonly referred to as bowtie pasta, farfalle adds a fun shape to a big bowl of pasta salad. The angles of the bowtie shape hold dressing well although the pasta is known to tear a bit when tossed with other ingredients. This is especially true if the pasta is overcooked and becomes overly soft and mushy. Farfalle pasta will hold up better in pasta salad if cooked al dente, that is, still a bit firm and chewy. In any case, you will want to take care to toss the pasta gently with other ingredients when preparing a farfalle pasta salad.


Very popular in many hot and cold pasta dishes, penne pasta offers a tubular shape which contains the dressing well.


A fun spiral shape, this pasta is also called rotini pasta. It can be purchased in typical pasta-colored form, or it can be purchased in a colorful veggie blend.

34 recipe
This salad is delicious any time, but especially when the weather turns hot

• It travels well. Just seal the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and be sure to keep it cool since the base of the dressing includes mayonnaise and sour cream.

• It’s easy! You can prepare this BLT pasta salad the day before.

• It’s versatile. As with most good pasta salads, there is room for substitution. If you don’t want to incorporate the bacon, you can leave this dish as a meatless pasta salad. Likewise, if you don’t care for tomatoes, you could include a different chopped veggie instead. Although the classic BLT pasta salad includes bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes, there is no hard rule that you can’t make some changes to suit your mood.


Choose ripe, flavorful tomatoes for this dish. BLT pasta salad shines with ripe, fresh tomato and dark green, crisp romaine lettuce. The green and the red also add some visual interest to the more muted tones of the pasta salad.

Dice the tomatoes into small pieces for better distribution throughout the pasta. The lettuce also needs to be chopped into small pieces.


This is an easy BLT pasta salad with classic ingredients.

• 16 ounces tri-color rotini, cooked and rinsed

• ⅔ cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

• ⅔ cup sour cream

• 1 teaspoon onion powder

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon dill weed

• 2 teaspoons parsley

• 1 teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon black pepper

• 1 cup diced tomatoes

• 1 cup cheese cubes (Colby Jack or Cheddar)

• 1 cup cooked bacon, chopped

• 1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped


The prep time for this BLT pasta salad takes about 20 minutes, and the recipe yields about 10 servings.

• While the pasta cooks, chop the lettuce, the tomatoes and the bacon. If the bacon you are using has not yet been cooked, you can also cook the bacon using your preferred method while the pasta cooks.

• Mix everything together in a large bowl.

• Place the Miracle Whip or mayo, onion powder, garlic powder, dill weed, parsley, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl.

• Mix until well combined.

Simply follow the cooking instructions on the pasta package for this recipe. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, pour it into a colander and rinse under cool, running water. This will help stop the cooking process so the pasta does not continue to soften. The rinse-off will also prevent an excess of starch from building up which sometimes cause the pasta to clump together.

• In the same bowl, stir in the cooked and drained pasta, chopped tomatoes, cheese cubes, chopped bacon, and chopped lettuce.

• Mix until well combined.

• Cover, chill, and serve.


Eyes on the Pies

New Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets owner keeps Keo as the center of pie universe.

eo, Arkansas is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of town, home to only about 200 people. A word of advice, though: don’t blink, or you’ll miss the town’s crown jewel, Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets, an iconic lunch spot with pies fit for a governor.

The history of Charlotte’s begins in 1993, but the building it occupies dates all the way back to 1926. The building was once home to Leak’s Drugstore, which closed in 1963, and because the spot remained closed up until Charlotte Bowl took over, much of the original hardware from that time is still intact, including an old-fashioned soda fountain and glass cabinets that display Charlotte’s famous collection of teapots.

Charlotte rented the location and started a restaurant from scratch with nothing but a few family recipes. She didn’t have the budget to advertise, but people came nonetheless, and they didn’t stop coming.

Over the next few decades, Charlotte earned numerous awards and visits from the likes of Southern Living, which named her coconut pie as one of the best in the South. Then the pandemic came, and times were not kind to even the best restaurants. Despite achieving far-reaching fame, Charlotte, who is now in her mid-70s, had to think about shutting down.

“My Achilles tendons in both feet convinced me it was time to get off the concrete,” Charlotte said. “I knew I could not and would not just close the doors. I had worked too hard for us to do that. I

started praying.”

This is where Maegan Norsworthy entered the picture. A dental hygienist by trade, Norsworthy hails from the nearby town of Sherrill, which boasted a population of just 84 at the time of the 2010 census. Charlotte’s had been her favorite restaurant since she attended high school in England, Arkansas, which lies barely 5 miles away from the eatery. Unable to bear the thought of Charlotte’s closing down for good, Norsworthy decided to make a radical career change.

“Maegan Norsworthy had called my cashier, Casey Jones, to see when we would be opening,” Charlotte said. “She wanted to know if Casey thought I might sell the business. Casey replied, ‘Now is the time to ask.’ She called me, and two weeks later she owned Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets. I was so happy it was [being bought by] a little girl that had grown up coming to eat at Charlotte’s.”

“She shut down in March, then I reopened it in July,” Norsworthy said. “Besides all the hurdles with COVID and whatnot, I just came on almost as an extra employee. Charlotte and her daughter, Misti Morris, taught me everything in those few months and then slowly started just letting me have it by myself, if you will.

“When I bought this place, I did not want to change anything. I wasn’t trying to turn this into Meagan’s or do anything different. I really wanted to keep a good thing going.”

That goal was made easier thanks to support not just from Charlotte and Misti, but from the restaurant’s employees, many of whom

food K

have longstanding ties to the place. One employee, Sandra Cox, has known Charlotte since she was 14 and has worked at the restaurant for well over two decades. Another employee who joined at about the same time retired only two years ago.

“I was honestly kind of the new guy coming in,” Norsworthy said. “So [the employees] took me under their wing and helped me. We all helped each other, and we made it work. It was hard; the business wasn’t booming for sure, as most restaurants know, during those couple years. But as far as learning everything, Charlotte was right there with me, and taught me. She was wonderful.”

Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets is famous above all for its pies. The three original flavors, coconut, chocolate and caramel, come topped with a veritable mountain of meringue that more than triples the height of the slice. The list of options has expanded to include pecan, egg custard, pumpkin, apple, chocolate peanut butter and more. A major fan favorite is strawberry pie, but getting your hands on one might take some patience.

“It’s really such a finicky pie,” Norsworthy said. “We have to have good strawberries, so we really don’t offer that until usually around May, June, July and into August.”

The most recent addition to the list is chocolate bourbon pecan, another old family recipe, though not one belonging to either Charlotte or Norsworthy.

“We had the wonderful honor to do the desserts for Gov. Sarah Sanders’ inaugural ball,” Norsworthy said. “The chocolate bourbon pecan was her family recipe, and she was so gracious and let us have it. We had to make 500 pies in three days, so it was a very large task, but it was one that we were just so thankful and so honored to be given.

“Our kitchen is very small and from the 1920s, so we really didn’t have the capability to do that many pies in such a short amount of time. And so the Marriott was so gracious and let us use their kitchen. We made 500 pies, and I was really proud of everyone. Everyone stepped up, and it was three hard days, but we got it done.”

Pies and other dessert options often sell out quickly here, and this goes doubly for the strawberry pies. Norsworthy recommends that if there’s a dessert that you just have to get your hands on, call ahead and

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I’ve always felt whenever I came here that I was getting my mom’s or my grandma’s food. Just good comfort food in a comfort atmosphere. It’s kind of homey.”
The beehive-high meringue of Charlotte’s signature pies tells you you’re in the right place.

have it reserved. Some days, all of the pies are spoken for before the restaurant even opens.

Charlotte recounted a story of a woman who once came to her and said, “I have been all over the U.S., and every time I have ever ordered coconut pie I have been disappointed. Today I found my mother’s coconut cream pie.” The wom an began to cry, and Charlotte cried with her.

Before the sweet treats, don’t forget the savory eats. The most popular lunch item on the menu is the Keo Klassic, Charlotte’s own personal take on a Monte Cristo sand wich, dipped in Parmesan garlic cream and grilled to a gold en crisp. Another favorite is the Rueben, which differs slightly from the standard by substituting the usual Thousand Island or Russian dressing for a mayonnaise-and-horseradish sauce.

It should come as no surprise that food at Charlotte’s is made the old-fashioned way. Things are done by hand wherever possi ble, from rolling out pie crusts to slicing sandwich meats. Every type of pie has its own pot; chocolate pies are always made in the same pot, coconut in another, and never the twain shall meet.

“We cook bacon on our grill every morning, and the grill is about 30 years old,” Norsworthy said. “The burgers that come off of it are just amazing.”

If you were hoping to get a few of their recipes, you’re unfortunately out of luck. Almost every recipe, especially the pies, is a closely guarded secret, and no one knows them all except for Charlotte, Misti and now, Norsworthy. That said, Norsworthy was willing to share a few tips.

“A lot of people ask what the biggest tip to do that meringue is,” Norsworthy said. “We say a stand mixer with a wire whisk. That’s the big thing. Don’t use a hand-mixer, you have to get those big stand mixers. And most people don’t do it long enough. You have to be patient.

“Charlotte always said with crust, you don’t flour the surface. You don’t want your crust to taste like flour, you want it to taste like crust. So we use a plastic wrap and roll it out. Crisco-based crust is always the way to go, we think. Some people don’t, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Another thing is, we don’t temper eggs. We mix them in with the sugar and all of the dry ingredients”

Someone who hasn’t visited Charlotte’s since before 2020 would notice very little change, save that Charlotte herself is not there as often as she used to be. Norsworthy explained that Charlotte and Misti still come to help sometimes when she needs it, and Charlotte can still wipe the floor with her when it comes to making meringue.

Norsworthy’s philosophy is: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” and few would argue that anything about Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets is in need of fixing. Many of the decorations are still Charlotte’s, from her teapot collection to the antiques and black-and-white photos that adorn many of the restaurant’s walls. Others have been added by Norsworthy, such as a wall adorned with paintings by her grandmother.

“One of my favorite things about this place is this table we’re sitting at now,” Norsworthy said of a long table in the back of the restaurant just outside the kitchen. “I’d almost call it the local table. I will look up and see one person coming in and then a few minutes later the next and it’s such a fellowship of different people around here. And they know each other; they don’t plan to come eat lunch here together, but they end up all congregating around here.

“I’ve always felt whenever I came here that I was getting my mom’s or my grandma’s food. Just good comfort food in a comfort atmosphere. It’s kind of homey.”

Though Charlotte’s has its local regulars, most of its clientele actually are not from Keo or the surrounding area. Many are from Little Rock, but it’s not uncommon for them to come from even further afield, such as Jonesboro, Fayetteville, Hot Springs and nearby states, with the occasional visitor from as far away as Hawaii or Africa.

“We get asked all the time, ‘Can you just open up a shop there [in

Little Rock],’” Norsworthy said. “We’re not that far! You can come down any time you want.”

Another significant portion of the restaurant’s clientele comes in the form of large groups, most often from churches and the like. Norsworthy noted that it is not unusual for the entire back room, roughly half of the space in the restaurant, to be booked for a group before standard reservations open. These large groups dried up entirely during COVID, but have since started to make a return.

“It’s definitely picked back up,” Norsworthy said. “I feel like it’s almost back to normal. We still have some issues with the supply chain. Prices of food are just astronomical. It’s definitely a hindrance to us, but we’re working through it. We’re getting there.”

Many businesses may claim their team is like a family, but the workers at Charlotte’s actually act like one, chatting playfully with other staff and customers alike. This is likely assisted by the unusually long tenure of most of the employees, not to mention that a few of them are actually kin. Multiple employees also made sure to mention that Norsworthy throws them the best birthday parties.

“I have stayed at Charlotte’s because this restaurant has been good to me and my family,” Cox said. “My whole family has worked here at one time or another. My husband cooked fish on Saturday nights, and both my son and daughter worked here on Saturdays and during the summers all through high school. My daughter is working here now and so is my niece. I like the way we treat each other, like family. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”

“When you’re in a small space like [the kitchen] for so many hours a day, you definitely become like family. We like to have a good time back there. Cooking is fun,” Norsworthy said.

This July will mark the 30th anniversary of Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets. While there have been hard times, full recovery is within sight, and all signs point to the crown jewel of Keo shining for many years (and many pies) to come.

Charlotte’s Pecan Pie (Photo by Kellie McAnulty)

There’s nothing quite like summer in the Ozarks. Whether you’re looking to kick back and soak up some sunshine or take the family on a good old-fashioned adventure, Silver Dollar City’s all-new Ozark Mountain Summer Celebration has everything you need to make the most of the season. On June 3, multi-platinum Christian music artist Michael W. Smith will kick off the festivities with a performance in Echo Hollow. After that, you’ll find can’t-miss experiences around every corner until July 30.

For the adrenaline-seekers in the group, it wouldn’t be a trip to Silver Dollar City without a tour of the park’s 40 rides and attractions. It’s a collection of record-breakers and heavy-hitters you won’t find anywhere else. Outlaw Run took the 2015 Guinness World Record for the steepest drop on a wood coaster, and Mystic River Falls features the tallest drop on a raft ride in the Western Hemisphere. Not to be outdone on superlatives, Time Traveler is one of the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning coasters. For a bit of nostalgia, hop on Fire in the Hole one last time; the iconic coaster is making its farewell run this season after more than 50 years!

For guests who prefer taking in their thrills from ground level, the much-acclaimed Nik Wallenda Zirkus will be back in town through July 16. Even if you caught this breathtaking act the last go around, you’ll want to see this year’s all-new show featuring daring high-wire acts, masterful acrobatics, comedy and more. Ready for more antics? The Silver Dollar Saloon Show will be celebrating 50 years of knee-slap ping comedy and sensational shenani gans – and, as ever, a touch of sophis tication. And don’t forget to stop by Rivertown and see if the Professor can make it rain during the allnew Rainmaker Show.

Away from the stage, street performers and classic bluegrass groups dot The City, making it easy for every member of the family to find their favorites and enjoy. When you feel like giving your feet a rest, grab a frozen lemonade and come sit a spell in one of dozens of rocking chairs in the new Rocker Garden. Relax, refresh and put on a bit of friendly competition with oversized twists on checkers and cornhole.

Of course, no visit would be complete without sampling the variety of treats, sweets and downright good eats Silver Dollar City has to offer. The Summer Tasting Passport is your ticket to all kinds of foodie favorites, including specialty funnel cakes, artisan homemade ice cream, mac & cheese pizza, mason jar desserts and more. Once you’ve had your fill, visit the talented craftsmen and artisans demonstrating throughout the park, and learn about the time-honored traditions that make Silver Dollar City “The Home of American Craftsmanship.”

Capping everything off is Summer Nights from July 15-30. Enjoy night rides, The Magic of Peter Gossamer show, dance parties, the ABBA Tribute: Dancing Dream in Echo Hollow and fireworks to The Summer

The City Kicks Off Ozark Mountain Summer Celebration June 3

Celebration also makes for the perfect family reunion. Find out about putting together a Summer Celebration family reunion package with special pricing for groups of 15 or more online.

Fun, food and legendary folklore all come together at Silver Dollar City to make memories worth repeating year after year. And remember: in The City, it’s never “goodbye,” just “see you next season!”

The Ozark Mountain Summer Celebration is presented by Arvest and runs from June 3-July 30, 2023. For more infor mation: www.silverdollarcity.com

Always Greener

FreshGrass | Bentonville Brings the Best of Roots and Bluegrass to NWA

this May 19-20, the sweet sounds of bluegrass and roots are making their return to Northwest Arkansas for the FreshGrass|Bentonville music festival. Now in its third year at The Momentary, the family-friendly, all-ages event is an inclusive celebration of big names, up-and-comers and local favorites, as well as a variety of experiences meant to shake up and expand festivalgoers’ perceptions of what the genres can be.

“It’s really exciting to be able to bring this back to the Northwest Arkansas region,” said Emily Neuman, associate marketing strategy director at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary. “It’s really intimate, but it also allows us to do a lot across the whole campus.”

Headlining this year’s festival are multiplatinum artist Elle King on Friday and Ohio folk trio Caamp on Saturday. The uninitiated might know King best for her 2015 hit “Ex’s & Oh’s,” but she most recently graced the Bentonville stage at FORMAT

festival last September. Her latest album, “Come Get Your Wife,” was released in January and sees the four-time Grammy Award nominee leaning even more into her country and Americana influences. Since their 2016 debut, Caamp has been amassing an impressive following, headlining sold-out shows and performing at major festivals from Shaky Knees to Austin City Limits.

Not to be missed from this lineup is living legend and cultural cornerstone Mavis Staples. A pioneer of soul, gospel and rhythm and blues, as well as a civil rights icon, Staples has made her presence known in collaborations with everyone from Prince to Arcade Fire. Lauded by NPR as “one of America’s defining voices of freedom and peace,” and with more accolades and honors than you can shake a stick at, you’d be remiss not to have her FreshGrass appearance at the top of your May plans.

Also making their way to NWA is Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, whose 2022 album “Crooked Tree” earned the group a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and Album of the Year honors at the International Folk Music Awards. The first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award, Tuttle has made a name for herself as a bonafide trendsetter in the genre.

Arkansas has left its fingerprints on more than a few must-see acts of its own, and FreshGrass just wouldn’t be the same without them. Fayetteville’s Arkansauce, described as a “genre-hopping” four-piece string band, puts on a show “riddled” with improvisation and tied together with “foot-stompin’ bass grooves.” Singer, songwriter and upright bassist Melissa Carper, a Nebraska native who has followed her wanderlust all across the country, made herself at home in Eureka Springs for several years before more recently landing in Austin, Texas. Willi Carlisle, self-described poet and folk singer for the people, made his way from the Midwest to the Ozarks in college and has cultivated a signature style after the tradition of “cowboys, frontier fiddlers and tall-tale tellers.”

Each day of the festival is packed with talent, including a selection of acts that are pushing the boundaries of bluegrass and roots music. Neuman pointed to New Orleans-based five-piece Tank and The Bangas, as well as “Afro-Cuban Rockstar” Cimafunk, as two prime examples.

42 arts&culture


“You don’t typically associate them with bluegrass music or roots music, but again, they’re kind of changing that narrative,” she said. “I think those will be surprise favorites for a lot of people.”

Facilitating those kinds of surprise favorites is one of the main ideas behind FreshGrass. The nonprofit FreshGrass Foundation produces both the Bentonville festival and another in North Adams, Massachusetts, with the aim of putting together diverse lineups that marry tradition and trailblazing. The grassroots music scene is an ever-evolving one, and FreshGrass|Bentonville is at the forefront of promoting continued collaboration and creativity.

Beyond the artist lineup, the festival will also feature entertaining musical projects including FreshScores and FreshGrass Concertos. FreshScores are new original scores to silent films commissioned each year by FreshGrass. The pieces premiere at the Massachusetts and Bentonville festivals, with the artists performing live to a screening of the film. The performances have become a signature element of the festival, and this year’s FreshScores will feature Brooklyn-based combo Mesafa, Melissa Carper and New York-based artist Michael Daves.

FreshGrass Concertos offer a roots-ified interpretation of the classical concerto music form. Concertos give artists the chance to highlight their individual prowess while simultaneously collaborating with the ensemble around them. Part solo, part showcase, all sure to be sonically superb, this year’s FreshGrass Concertos will feature artists Becky Buller, Jacob Jolliff and Brittany Haas with Paul Kowert and Jordan Tice.

But even those not in the official lineup will have the chance to throw their hat into the music-making ring. New this year to The Momentary’s version of the festival are instrument workshops focusing on bluegrass techniques for banjo, guitar and fiddle. Known to break into full-on jam sessions at previous festivals, these workshops will take place on Saturday and are free with admission on a first-come, first-served basis. If you don’t nab a spot in one of the workshops, though, The Momentary will also be full of dedicated spots for picking circles. Guests are encouraged to bring their fiddles, mandolins, washboard or other instruments of choice and help create a true community music-making experience.

Also screening throughout the weekend will be a “conceptual coun-

try music project” by first-generation immigrant and interdisciplinary artist Moheb Soliman titled “We’re Back!” Described as both earnest and absurd, the artists featured in this part-music video, part-meditation on the meaning of country will also be at FreshGrass doing live tableaus and other performances.

From the mainstage to the courtyard and all the lively greenspace in between, FreshGrass is filling The Momentary to the brim with ways to explore and connect with the music. Over in the Tulip Barn – and back by popular demand from last year – local callers and musicians will lead square dances on Friday and Saturday nights.

Food from NWA, Tulsa and Little Rock will also be around, with vendors including Southern Sippin, Wright’s BBQ, Nosh/ Delta Biscuits and plenty more. The festival will allow re-entry, so guests can peruse the snacking and dining options in downtown Bentonville as well. Retail concept WYLDE will be bringing a curated market to FreshGrass to give festivalgoers unique shopping opportunities. The Momentary’s art galleries will also be open for viewing, so no matter where fans find themselves, there’s sure to be something pleasing to each of the senses.

“As long as you have that ticket, you have access to everything: the market, the premiere commissions, the food, the retail, the art inside our galleries,” Neuman said. “A little bit of everything for everyone.”

Single and two-day tickets are available, with special prices for young fans and free admission for children 6 and under. The sooner you grab your ticket, the better the prices will be, so don’t wait. There will be parking both on-site and off-site, but The Momentary’s location also makes it easy to walk, bike or hop over from downtown.

“We’re really focused on making sure anyone and everyone is welcome to come to this festival,” Neuman said. “A spring day, music everywhere you can see across our campus – it should be an awesome weekend.”

aymag.com 43

Hit The Trail

We know the best places to experience the great outdoors! Whether it’s hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding or gearing up for your next adventure at The Grandaddy of All Outdoor Stores: Bass Pro Shops® Outdoor World®, we love our city and know the best places to eat, drink and play.


Gonna This TownRock

Arkansas music venues bring music to life

Live music is celebrated heavily in Arkansas at various venues, showcasing talent across the state nearly every week. Local artists to well-recognized headliners have sold out these locations, and while non-residents may not immediately associate Arkansas with music, musicians and booking agents are certainly seeing success within the parameters of The Natural State.

From large-scale venues such as Simmons Bank Arena and the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion – which both lead their respective markets in size – to more intimate locations such as El Dorado’s Murphy Arts District venues, The Hall, JJ’s Live, The Rev Room and George’s Majestic Lounge, fans have options for enjoying their favorite artists in their preferred viewing locations.

Large and in-charge, Simmons Bank Arena, located in North Little Rock, has been the leading performance venue in Arkansas since opening nearly 24 years ago. The only facility of its size in Arkansas, the arena has

been known under three different names; originally introduced as Alltel Arena in 1999 and later known as Verizon Arena.

The venue is unique in the fact that while it can, and often has, sold out 17,000-seat shows, it has configuration potential that allows for much smaller shows when needed. According to Michael Marion, general manager, the venue’s layout is determined by artist and demand for tickets.

Although technically North Little Rock falls as a secondary market, Marion and his team work to ensure every artist feels a first-class welcome and that crowds have a positive experience.

“I’ve always joked that not a single agent in Los Angeles is thinking if they don’t book North Little Rock they’ll be out of a job,” Marion said. “We are in a midsized market, but we work extra hard to make sure that talent leaves thinking it’s a really awesome place to play and places our venue on the map of where artists and agents alike know we’ll do right by them.”

Strategy is paying off; in addition to attracting a multitude of performers from all over the world, many have returned to Simmons Bank Arena again and again, including Kenny Chesney, who will play his seventh show at the venue this year, and George Strait, who has played here six times. TobyMac, Jason Aldean, Cher, Kid Rock and others are also well-familiar with the friendly confines of the venue.

Marion, an avid fan and concert-attendee of Bruce Springsteen, knows as well as anyone that there’s nothing quite like being in the same room as your favorite artist, and because of this, he is adamant about providing memorable experiences.

“We mostly have pretty positive feedback from

A familiar face at Simmons Bank Arena, George Strait has packed ‘em in six times.

46 arts&culture

our guests, and we see a little under 400,000 walk through our doors every year,” he said. “We make sure that we continue to make every experience as positive as possible. We have a great team, and Jana DeGeorge markets our space incredibly well.”

North Little Rock is also an optimal location for a venue of Simmons Bank Arena’s grandeur because of its routing potential. Marion explained that many artists consistently book Atlanta and Dallas, making North Little Rock an ideal tour stop.

Over the last couple of years, several notable performances have graced the arena, including Harry Styles’s Love on Tour stop in November 2021; Elton John’s two-year delayed performance that was still sold out in January 2022; 1980s stalwart Journey; and the aforementioned George Strait.

In 2022, Simmons Bank Arena saw its biggest year of booking shows, with 38 artists choosing to play there. While the jury is still out on how many shows will be booked in 2023, Marion predicted they will manage to hit their average, booking around 25 acts.

Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, commonly known as Walmart AMP, officially opened its gates in June 2015 with a performance by Blake Shelton and Hunter Hayes. Starting off with a bang, the venue has continued to book major artists, bringing live music of a larger magnitude to the area.

Brian Crowne, vice president, remembers believing they were building something really special in 2014, and looking back over the past decade, he knows he was right.

“I feel like I hid my stress really well while we prepared for that first performance,” he said. “I was literally watching the paint dry and hoping everything would be done in time for Blake Shelton and Hunter Hayes.”

Crowne describes Walmart AMP as a boutique concert venue – the amphitheater can hold approximately 9,500 guests, yet the venue maintains its intimate feeling.

“There is truly not a bad seat in the house. When I travel to see other shows at larger venues, I definitely miss the unique experience of being so close in proximity to the artists and bands,” Crowne said. “Walmart AMP definitely has more of a club feel than anything.”

Among its wide variety of performers, notable acts to have played Walmart AMP include Meghan Trainor’s highest-sold ticket count show in 2016; Travis Scott with Khalid opening in 2017; Niall Horan in 2018 and the Jonas Brothers in 2021, in addition to several other coveted performances.

“It all starts with our philosophy, which is that we win with people, and because of that, we want to continue to win with our region, and I feel strongly we will continue to grow it in our industry,” Crowne said. “We have always had a great team of people here who are all focused on making a pleasant experience.”

As far as ticket sales go, Walmart AMP continues to use the same ticketing software used for Walton Arts Center, avoiding the craze of larger ticketing websites.

“We were able to scale up with our ticketing software, meaning we have a little more control over the speed of ticket sales. This allows us to keep our expectation of good customer service in buying tickets and helps us to manage patrons’ expectations better,” Crowne said.

In addition to great customer service and the ability to draw a wide

aymag.com 47
Rocking out in Rogers — Walmart AMP. Simmons Bank Arena glitters on the shores of the Arkansass River.

Above: Walmart AMP has quickly become a must-stop for all kinds of musicians.

Below: The seminal George’s Majestic Lounge keeps Dickson Street hopping.

range of performers to the amphitheater, Crowne also credits the success of the AMP to always looking for ways to improve the guest experience and modernize where possible. In 2023, Walmart AMP is making massive strides in its technology. With completely paperless tickets accessible on smartphones, the venue is now accepting digital tickets and is continuing to experiment with Grab and Go mobile ordering from concessions, cutting down on the guest’s time spent in lines. The venue also announced AMP Underground, an all-ages experience club in a shaded space including a private bar, limited food menu, lounge seating, live concert video and audio feeds, private restrooms and priority early entry to shows.

Along with his vice president duties at Walmart AMP, Crowne and his wife, Day Crowne, own Fayetteville’s quintessential George’s Majestic Lounge, the oldest and longest-running club and live music venue in the state.

George’s Majestic Lounge opened nearly 100 years ago in the heart of Dickson Street. Well-known for hosting live music since the 1970s, the venue has been the place to be for social events, dances and music since the 1930s. Historically significant moments in its long reign include being the first bar to feature color television and the first establishment to offer pizza delivery in Northwest Arkansas, in addition to being the first bar in NWA to integrate in the late 1950s.

Throughout the past 20 years, the Crownes have hosted music royalty in the venue, such as Cody Johnson, Fitz & The Tantrums, Zac Brown Band, Shakey Graves, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Eli Young Band, Luke Combs Band and Old Crow Medicine Show.

According to Crowne, George’s Majestic Lounge books, on average, 230 to 250 shows a year, and doesn’t open unless there is a show or private event scheduled.

“After 95 years, you can see the commitment that every owner of this establishment has had. With legacy businesses, you have to maintain relevance and we

have earned a reputation of being a business where artists want to play,” Crowne said.

In 2010, the venue was nominated by the Academy of Country Music for Best Nightclub and in 2016, George’s was named No. 87 on Consequence of Sound’s 100 Greatest Music Venues list.

“One thing I love about live music is that it provides an escape from reality. It is always a comfortable experience whether you’re old or young,” Crowne said. “At George’s we have a great team that has created a space, that artists and guests can enjoy. If you’ve been, come back and see us; if you haven’t been, be sure to check us out. You can watch small homegrown bands or see groups as big as Fitz and the Tantrums.”

There are several other noteworthy venues in NWA including The Momentary Green in Bentonville, which has hosted several music events, including Freshgrass Music Festival, Big Boi and Run The Jewels and The Roots. It also plans to host Wu Tang Clan this October.

JJ’s Live in Fayetteville has booked multiple artists of significance, including Snoop Dogg, Yung Gravy, Bowling For Soup, Rick Ross, Hippie Sabotage and Waka Flocka Flame.


In 2022, CEO Bob Franklin announced the opening of Tin Roof Fayetteville on Dickson Street, citing the great live music scene in NWA, particularly on Dickson Street, as one of the main reasons to open the establishment. Based in Nashville, Tin Roof is known for bringing its own up-and-coming artists on live music tours throughout its network of brick-and-mortars.

In the midsized venue industry, The Hall in downtown Little Rock works to maintain intimate experiences for concertgoers and musicians alike.

“What we aim to do at The Hall is provide unique experiences, not only to locals who visit, but also to tourists who travel to see shows here,” said Jeremy Hicks, ticketing and branding manager.

According to Hicks, The Hall is also committed to providing great boutique performances, while remaining versatile in the type of events it hosts and the variety of artists who are booked to play. A relatively new venue, The Hall has booked everything from Eli Young Band, Lucero and Highly Suspect to Death Cab for Cutie and Wale in its 18 months in business.

Last month alone, The Hall welcomed Yung Nudy, Jxdn and Judah & The Lion, and in May 2023, Sleeping with Sirens and Larry June will both grace the stage.

Appreciative of the history of West Ninth Street, Hicks is passionate about continuing the tradition of entertainment. Originally known as West Hazel Street, a location with established housing for freed slaves, West Ninth Street was a well-known Black neighborhood in the 1920s. Dubbed the Mecca of Entertainment in the South, the storied district finally came down when the Little Rock Housing Authority initiated demolition of the street following the Federal Housing Act of 1949.

“I feel like we struck gold in opening The Hall, and I know this area needed a midsized venue to fill gaps in booking potential,” Hicks said. “We get a lot of great artists and a lot of really happy customers.”

Down the road in South Central Arkansas, El Dorado’s Murphy Arts District has made major moves in bringing music to the downtown area. With three venues, Murphy Arts District has brought a steady stream of

notable artists to concertgoers.

According to Pamela Griffin, president and CEO of MAD Corporate, First Financial Hall is the most-used venue, which was originally opened in the 1920s as Griffin Auto Company. In addition to First Financial Hall, concerts are also held at MAD Amphitheater and will later be held at Rialto Theatre, McWilliams Building and Trica Building, all of which are awaiting renovation.

The biggest advantage of a concert-going experience in MAD is the intimacy of the venues.

“The way our venues are set up, as well as the size, allows us to have some pretty big-name artists perform for smaller-than-usual crowds, making for an intimate setting,” Griffin said.

MAD kicked off its opening weekend in September 2017 with a weekend festival headlined by Brad Paisley. The festival weekend also hosted Migos, Smokey Robinson, Train and Justin Moore.

“When we were in our construction phase, we really focused on the artist experience, and we’ve continued to work with co-promoters in order to bring shows to our venues. We want performers to have a smooth experience during their workday,” Griffin said.

MAD has several upcoming performances, such as Tab Benoit and Smackwater in May and Dylan Scott and Dwight Yoakam in June.

Live music in the state doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, so be sure to check out AY About You’s Live Music Lineup weekly at aymag.com for more information about performances in the state.

aymag.com 49
“What we aim to do at The Hall is provide unique experiences, not only to locals who visit, but also to tourists who travel to see shows here.”
One of the state’s newer venues, The Hall fills a mid-sized niche in Central Arkansas
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A Legacy of Causes, Culture and Community

52 feature

On either side of the main hallway at its downtown headquarters, a short history of AY Media Group lines the walls in framed back issues. It’s a noteworthy collection of editions, culled from 35 years of narrating the life and times of The Natural State. On one end, a yellowed, fragile copy of Issue 1 No. 1 of Active Years; a little farther find a 20th anniversary edition of AY and a few frames more, there’s a copy of AY About You boasting Gov. and First Lady Mike and Ginger Beebe.

It only takes a few minutes to take in the covers comprising this whirlwind glimpse of three and a half decades of publishing history, which is itself aptly symbolic. For Vicki Vowell, who with scant resources and abundant determination started this enterprise, the years have passed nearly as quickly as a stroll down the hall of archives.

“I know the first 10 years were just a blur, because you’re just working, working, working, getting it going,” Vowell said. “I think when you start hitting the 15-year milestone or the 20-year milestone, you’re like, OK, cool. This is solid. This is working.

“To look back now, it blows me away. I mean, it really does. From our humble beginnings to where we are now, it is night and day with all our products. I think it’s just that love of what we’re doing and the stories we are telling. That love will always continue because it needs to; we’ve got a

beautiful state and we need to showcase it. We need to tell our story.”

As you might expect, the hallway contains only a fraction of AY About You history over the past 35 years. Anywhere you look throughout the maze of offices at AY Media Group, the heritage is on display, hanging framed on the walls, lining bookshelves, stacked wherever they fit. Each issue is an Arkansas mosaic of assembled snapshots and moments in time – a million keystrokes telling thousands of stories, captured between hundreds and hundreds of covers.

The voices are varied, reflecting the multitude of writing and artistic talent that have graced these pages over the years, but the themes are relatively few. There’s lifestyle, as expressed through beautiful homes, travel and taste; culture, channeled through entertainment, food and music; and activism, expressed in worthwhile causes and organizations. And there’s the people – the famous, the infamous and the in-between, whose triumphs and tragedies define the soul

aymag.com 53
Vicki Vowell

I have been buying ads from Vicki for pretty much all of those 35 years. Plus, I ate breakfast with her every Tuesday for decades at the LREA. I attended her open houses and watched her various ventures in publications. Thirty-five years later, they are quite successful, expanded greatly and outlasted much of her competition, something I have tried to mimic at Tipton & Hurst.

of the state and the state of humanity.

golden years.

“To me, the story is everything,” Vowell said. “We’ve always focused on the state of Arkansas, which meant events, people and places or whatever subject we were tackling. But it was also sharing stories of what people have gone through, whether it was breast cancer or families affected by suicide. Those stories and events are also the fabric of our state.

“So, when I think about the stories we’ve done, I think about how we’ve been able to tell them in ways that have changed lives or grown some community movement, as well as just entertained people. That’s been so huge.”

Any entrepreneurial venture is a gamble and nowhere more so than in publishing That’s as true today as it was in 1988 when the headstrong Vowell launched Active Years, just six years removed from graduating the University of Arkansas with a degree in journalism. It was an audacious idea, starting a magazine with little more than a typewriter, a computer and $10,000 in borrowed funds.

Working from a two-room office at the old Wrape Building at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Center Street in downtown Little Rock, Vowell set out to mine the Baby Boomer Generation as they began their march toward their

As a 2009 “High Profile” piece on Vowell in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette noted, the inaugural cover story, “Discover Little Rock’s Most Unique Attractions,” encouraged readers to “Enjoy a candlelight evening during the Quapaw Quarter’s Candlelight Tour of Homes. Or spend the afternoon with the grandkids at the Little Rock Zoo. Whatever your choice, you’re bound to have fun!”

Active Years not only faced the usual challenges of competing for eyeballs and advertising dollars with other publications, it also took some doing to capture the niche market upon which it was founded. Boomers have been a coveted market segment for decades, but in the late 1980s few were willing to see themselves portrayed as senior citizens.

“We really were targeting a specialized niche market,”

* * * * * * * * *
* *
Active Years produces first isue. The last issue of the Arkansas Gazette rolls off the press after nearly 172 years in print. 1988
Tyson Foods of Springdale is the largest broiler chicken processor in the nation.

Vowell said. “It was a little limiting off the start, because people would say, ‘I’m not a senior citizen, I’m not going to read that.’ There was definitely agism that we had to get past. But once we did, it just grew.”

Hindsight being what it is, Vowell’s gamble paid off but not simply on the strength of a good idea. A competing magazine also targeting the 50-plus reader had all but folded at about the time Active Years launched, so future success was hardly a given. Vowell’s nose for her audience’s taste was unquestionable, supported through relentless old-school marketing hustle through community involvement and word of mouth, helping the publication gain momentum.

“Vicki changed the publication landscape here in Arkansas and built a successful, profitable business,” said Mimi Van Pedro, chief strategy officer with The Venture Center of Little Rock. “I work with entrepreneurs every day here at The Venture Center and I understand firsthand their struggles. To me, Vicki Vowell epitomizes the heart and soul of what makes entrepreneurs successful.”

We were so young back then, but young and hungry we were! Some of the most innovative ideas came from that hunger! AY Magazine was one of them. To me, Vicki Vowell epitomizes the heart and soul of what makes entrepreneurs successful. Her vision, drive, passion, and her ability to build and maintain relationships are why we are today, celebrating her and AY’s 35th Anniversary!

“I’ve known Vicki for 35 years, going back to when she started her first magazine,” said Sandra Byrd, a longtime friend and vice president of public affairs and member services with Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “As an adventurous and creative storyteller, Vicki boldly stepped out to produce a new, dynamic lifestyle magazine. Fast-forward

to 2023 and Vicki’s 35-year legacy spans the gamut of showcasing thousands of creative, interesting stories about the people and places in Arkansas.”

Today’s technology belies how analog and manually intensive the publishing process used to be. What is now laid out digitally and transmitted via a few clicks into the cloud used to entail creating physical paste-ups called flats. Those flats then had to be transported to a production facility which converted them to oversized photographic negatives, in turn transferred to large metal sheets called plates. Plates attached to an offset press that printed and bound pages into a magazine.

aymag.com 55
To look back now, it blows me away. I mean, it really does. From our humble beginnings to where we are now, it is night and day with all our products.
— Vicki Vowell
Bill Clinton elected 42nd President of the United States, Lieutenant Governor Jim Guy Tucker becomes governor.
Ceremonies at Little Rock Central High School mark the 40th anniversary of the desegregation
crisis. 1992 1994 1997 Sharon Priest elected first woman elected to the office of Arkansas Secretary of State.

Not only was the production process more laborious, it required face-to-face handoffs, no matter where your printer was located. Like all small publishing startups, that meant Vowell the owner and editor also spent time as Vowell the courier and delivery driver.

“Originally, we were printed over at Twin City Printing, but we outgrew their press fairly quickly,” Vowell said. “When we went to four-color, we used a printer in Mountain Home, Arkansas, which meant driving up there to take the flats in and then hitching a U-Haul and driving the prod

Vicki and I have known each other for many years through an organization called LREA. This is a business group that meets for breakfast every Tuesday. I have watched Vicki continue to wisely grow her company. I have always been amazed by her energy level, and her ability to guide others in responsibility.

When my wife, Shirley, and I began dating in 2009, we were delighted to find a common friend in Vicki and we continue to be close friends to this day. Vicki is truly an enormous asset for the entire state of Arkansas. Congratulations on 35 years!

What a wild ride these 30-plus years. Vicki and I started our journeys almost simultaneously and she offered me standing within the publication that gave me a “leg up” within our community. I have not forgotten these many years Vicki’s kindness, business acumen and friendship that has left an indelible imprint on our surgical practice and me as well. Thank you so much for all that you have done and who you are.

he publishing business is fickle.

Gaining traction, the milestones began to pile up. The tabloid newspaper upgraded to full color in 1992 and switched to a slick magazine format in March 2000. In January 2005, with the tagline “All About You” and the editorial focus broadened to a wider demographic. is one of the largest-circulated and widest-read lifestyle publications in Arkansas. Built on the art of storytelling, every month brings readers stories of culture, causes and community that are uniquely Arkansas yet uni-

“I always knew people were reading us and paying attention to us because I was out in the community and people would tell me,” Vowell said. “Not only would they tell me, they’d quote the story to me. So, I knew that we were striking a nerve, if you will. I always knew that we were focusing on and showcasing great stories because of that feedback.” that was separate and apart in its purpose from other competing publications,” said Millie Ward, president of longtime Little Rock advertising

business is fickle.

reason, we celebrate accomplishment, Active Years’

May of 1988 that 20-page, black featuring Little cover. In 1992 converting the March of 2000 producing a slick we haven’t looked independently

Our readership

It is for that reason, we celebrate great accomplishment, Active Years’ anniversary. It was May of 1988 that rolled off the press—a 20-page, black tabloid-sized newspaper featuring Little unique attractions on its cover. In 1992 another milestone by converting the But it wasn’t until March of 2000 came into its own, producing a slick magazine. And, we haven’t looked Years is the largest independently magazine in the region. Our readership our magazine reaching more than each month.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart is identified as the world’s largest corporation.

reaching more than award-winning opportunity to say thank artists, energetic

effort to produce an award-winning to take this opportunity to say thank writers, creative artists, energetic advertisers for a job well done.

elected to first of two terms as governor.

Ivory-billed woodpecker sighting reported at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.
Dr. Jim English English Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center Bill Miller, Longtime Friend

firm Stone Ward. “She focused on quality editorial and was always mindful of helping nonprofits get their messages out at little to no cost. Vicki is a class act and her legacy lives on as AY grows and adapts to connect with today’s readers.” * * * *

As impressive as the magazine’s continued success and relevance is, it’s only half the story of AY About You. The other lies in the many charitable causes and support of nonprofits that magazine has given over the decades. Again, much of it all started with a compelling story, such as on the subject of breast cancer.

“We were doing interviews for the Komen Race for the Cure with women who were survivors,” Vowell said. “They were so happy to be together and share their struggles in battling the disease.

“I loved them being together and talking about how they just wanted to feel pretty and good again. That was the launch of Runway for a Cure.”

the beginning of Runway for a Cure.

“During this time, we developed a close bond, and I continued to watch her grow and change her company over the years. She’s a very caring, very successful businesswoman who I continue to be privileged to know.”

The experience of working with the women, and the stories that flowed out of them, was heady stuff. In bringing their survival stories to light, AY About You opened eyes and

I met Vicki while volunteering to support Runway for a Cause and found her, in sum, impressive. Not only did I admire her sense of service and community and how much she cared about the mission, I just loved working with her and supporting her in any way I could. I am proud to call her a friend and colleague.

Vowell mobilized people and resources in the community to launch the fundraising event, a fashion show where the models were all cancer survivors, raising $25,000 the first year. Over a decade, the event – eventually adopted by Komen as Runway for a Cause – would raise $1 million for cancer research, bolstered in no small way by the exposure provided in the pages of AY About You magazine.

“I met Vicki almost 23 years ago when she called me and asked for a cake recipe for her magazine. I baked a cake and took it to her office,” said friend and mentor Shirley Davis Miller. “While there, we discussed starting a charity for breast cancer survivors. We decided to start the charity, even though neither of us knew how to begin one and that was

hearts as easily as it opened donors’ wallets.

“Seeing these women, each of whom is fighting for her life, come down that runway and she looks beautiful and she’s sassy. That was just so cool,” Vowell said. “Then at the end of the runway they’re holding up signs – which I think was Penny Burkhalter’s idea – that read five years, 10 years, 25 years a cancer survivor.

“I’d look in the audience and there would be a young woman who had just been diagnosed and she’s like, ‘Yeah!’ I mean, just think of that, the electricity of that girl realizing, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ That moment gave people so much hope.”

aymag.com 57
* * * * * * * *
William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park opens. Big Dam Bridge opens, the longest purpose-built pedestrian/cycle bridge in the nation. 2004 2005 2006 Active Years magazine changes name to AY with tagline “All About You”.

In addition to showcasing other nonprofits’ stories through the years, Vowell also found creative ways to connect her business interests to fundraising for worthy causes.

“Something else I’m proud of, we used to do Singles in the City and that was really important because it was a network of people who were single who could meet and socialize and raise money we did,” Vowell said. “We’d have a singles auction and give money to Make-a-Wish and then we partnered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

“We also did AY’s Makeovers for a period of time where we would partner with some of our great advertisers and give makeovers to women who had suffered domestic abuse. I think we made a difference then and I think we continue to make a difference today. That’s everything to me.”

The drive to make a difference even led to the creation of an entirely new publication, Mental Health Guide of Arkansas.

“Mental Health Guide is a passion project,” Vowell said. “When it comes to mental health issues, it is epidemic in our

Vicki’s story is legendary, a role model for aspiring journalists and publishers. She started with very little and built a very successful business. I met Vicki when I interviewed her for “High Profile” and we have remained friends ever since. I will always treasure our friendship.

I am absolutely thrilled to recognize Vicki on her 35th year in business. She was the first person to give me a job as a graphic designer when I was fresh out of college and her willingness to give me an opportunity to grow and learn was invaluable, inspiring me to pursue a career in publishing that I truly love. Vicki’s passion, dedication and hard work have built a business that is not only successful but also deeply respected, a reflection of her incredible leadership and unwavering commitment to excellence. Congratulations.

communities and there’s a lot more situations now that we have to deal with, whether it was from COVID here recently or something else. In this world, there’s just a lot to struggle with. I think suicide needs to be talked about and I think we need to do more.

“What I know that we can do as a company is we can share stories helping people recognize the signs to watch for and share the associations and places to get help. I think that’s extremely important for any individual, let alone our kids. It’s just part of the brand of the magazine to do what needs to be done.”

Today, AY About You continues to be a bellwether of all that is happening in Arkansas culture, fashion, food, music, tourism and charitable causes, as well as showcasing personalities and human interest stories from one end of the state to the other. Its lifetime list of writers and designers is long, many of whom have gone on to careers at other publications or launched businesses of their own.

At the same time, the magazine has changed with the

58 Arkansas Travelers debut in their new home, Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. Mike Beebe elected to first of two terms as governer. 2007 2009 2010 Arkansas Scholarship Lottery goes into effect.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

times, adding an online component and greatly expanding its multimedia footprint under the leadership of President and Publisher Heather Baker, who joined the company six years ago.

“One of the things AY has always been known for is how it showcases what’s great about living in Arkansas,” Baker said. “There are so many things going on in our beautiful state that are worth celebrating and AY About You does it better than anybody. And then when you add on the social consciousness and the support of local nonprofits and worthwhile causes, that shows an even deeper level of commitment to our state.

“It’s relatively easy to just sit back and write about what’s already working, but at AY we strive to make our state better by shining a spotlight on the organizations that are doing such incredible work to improve the health, prosperity and happiness of people in their communities and across Arkansas. When you can put all that together in the same publication, the result is something special.”

“Our team and our staff are so important to our success, and Heather is doing such a great job” Vowell said. “She reminds me of me years ago. That’s why I think we get along, even in the occasional times we disagree, because we are yin and yang, we comple-

ment each other.

“Mostly, though, we love the product, we love the business. You have to; if you don’t love publishing, don’t get in it because it’s a grueling business. I have been blessed throughout my career to have found those people. I have been successful at including successful people, if you will. That’s been a big part of it.”

AY About You finds itself in a unique chapter of the magazine publishing industry. Over the course of its lifespan, it’s one of a select few magazines in Arkansas, let alone in Little Rock, to have survived as long as it has. But even as other

publishing ventures have come and gone in that time, others have sprung up to take their place.

Within this constantly changing environment, only a

aymag.com 59 Crystal Bridges Musuem of American Art opens. Arkansas Money & Politics debuts. 2011 2013 2014 AY About You celebrates 25 years.
There are so many things going on in our beautiful state that are worth celebrating and AY About You does it better than anybody.”
— Heather Baker
Vicki is a delight to work with, always courteous and patient and reports without an agenda.
Louis Cella President, Oaklawn

Vicki and AY Magazine have always been a huge promoter of Arkansas, its places, its events, its beauty, its people, its stories, everything that makes Arkansas special. In my opinion, this mentality has kept this publication relevant and successful when many others have failed.

handful of publications in Central Arkansas have persevered, AY About You among them. But it hasn’t been easy, nor has it happened without new thinking and bold leadership when it comes to brand exposure and innovation in marketing. Under Baker’s leadership, the profile of the magazine has been greatly enhanced through work with nonprofits, sponsoring community events and through relentless and skillful promotion through companion media platforms.

“The magazine has always been known for great writing and excellent photography and layout. That’s a constant,” she said. “But in today’s media market, that’s not enough to survive in a very competitive environment. One of the things I’ve tried to accomplish here is to leverage other outlets – whether it’s a TV segment, a radio guest slot or social media – to their fullest potential. This not only builds our brand, it also serves our readers by giving them another way to access content. And, in the case of nonprofit groups, it advances great causes in the community as well, which is

our legacy.”

Baker has also built the company’s social media presence from a relative nonfactor six years ago to an important and influential way to connect with readers and bring value to advertisers. She brought a deft touch to marketing the brand via TV and radio, partnering with various programs to promote local events and spotlighting restaurants via the magazine’s recurring Bucket List feature series. All of which has kept the AY About You’s name at the forefront of people’s minds and established it as an influential voice and trusted source of information.

“Like any business, we’re numbers-driven and the numbers say that we’re winning,” she said. “We continue to innovate and achieve great things as a company and as a team in partnership with our loyal advertisers. It wasn’t without its growing pains, but we stuck to a game plan and made it happen, together. I think that’s the biggest thing about this anniversary, because not a lot of magazines last this long un-

I have known Vicki since she started her business. She has always had my greatest respect. She earned her success the old fashioned way. She became successful as a result of her hard work and being savvy with her decision making.”

less they embrace change.

“I’ll be the first one to tell you, that’s not easy. In fact, change is often downright painful for organizations. But it’s something I try to inspire in the staff all the time, that mind-

Governor Asa Hutchinson begins first of two terms in office.
About You celebrates 30 years.
2017 2018 Riverfest music festival suspended after 40 years.

set that we’re going to continue to look forward and think creatively and do what it takes to evolve and succeed.”

Despite additional pressure to compete for advertising revenue, not to mention paper and printing costs spiking since the pandemic, the rumors of the demise of the printed word – to borrow from Mark Twain – are greatly exaggerated. Statista reported in 2020 the number of magazines nationwide is on a two-year uptick, and that doesn’t even include the explosion of online media in all formats in recent years. All of which underscores the magazine’s 35th anniversary as a major milestone worth celebrating. But also, in Vowell’s opinion, as an opportunity to ponder the best that is yet to come.

“Everybody has a backstory, everything has roots,” Vowell said. “That’s one of the things that I think we do so well is we tell the roots of history in Arkansas, and the events and everything else. You just don’t get that in most magazines every month and I think that’s very powerful. That is the brand.

“But it’s also about things that are bigger than yourself, bigger than a magazine. I remember people who’d come up and tell me we did a piece on surviving breast cancer and because of what we wrote they got a mammogram. All of a sudden, you go wow, this is a powerful thing that I’m part of, something that has made a big

difference in 35 years.”

At this Vowell pauses, as if summoning the words to fit the enormity of what she feels for what AY About You has come to stand for in the history of Arkansas publishing. Of remembering the palpable excitement of Day One’s potential and how a little bit of that spark has seeped into every issue since.

“I love the nostalgia of how hard it was but I do not want to go back to those days,” she said with a knowing laugh. “I’ve lived and breathed the company for a very long time but that was just part of my makeup and it’s part of me. To get from May 1988 and that first issue to today took a lot of tenacity and drive and know-how and, more importantly, having the right people in the right place doing the right job and having the love of it.

“That’s what I think has truly made this venture successful; finding that group, working our tails off and producing great, not only print products, but community events and online products. It’s not a formula, it’s almost magic that happens. But you have to be out there making it happen. I’m just really proud to have been part of this for 35 years.”

A third of American businesses close during their first two years, and half are gone within five. The fact that AY is celebrating its 35th anniversary is not only a testament to Vicki’s creativity and tenacity, it illustrates her steadfast devotion to AY’s readers and advertisers. I’m both honored and humbled to see my occasional byline in this fine publication.

aymag.com 61 COVID-19 pandemic hits Arkansas leading to 400,000 cases and 6,000 deaths reported in the state as of 2021. Ay About You celebrates 35 years. 2020 2022 2023 ARKANSAS’ LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE MAY 2023 AYMAG.COM OUTYOU ARKANSAS' LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE MAY 2020 AYMAG.COM VID-19 P. 71 Taco Bucket List Foster Care Month Burlsworth Foundation $5.00 U.S. ARKANSAS’ LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2022 AYMAG.COM Veterans Holiday Decorating Cattle Baron’s Ball
Sarah Huckabee Sanders elected first female governor of Arkansas.
At AY we strive to make our state better by shining a spotlight on the organizations that are doing such incredible work.”
— Heather Baker

It’s all come down to this — the FINALISTS of AY ’s Best Of Reader’s Poll!

The journey began months ago with thousands of nominations that narrowed the ballot to the top five in nearly 200 categories of retail, beauty, services, dining, media, health care and education. From there, more than 100,000 votes were cast statewide to determine the top three companies, organizations and individuals in Arkansas which we are proud to showcase here.

The finalists represent the very pinnacle of what Arkansas has to offer as determined by you, the loyal AY About You reader. Out of hundreds of thousands of businesses and groups, you have pointed the way to the ones offering the best service, the quality experience and the craftsmanship and care demanded of those who work to be the very best they can be in service to their clients, their communities and our state. To be nominated is an honor; to be a finalist — the a-number one, top of the list, king of the hill -- is something very rare and special indeed. Without further adieu, may we present FINALISTS of AY ’s 2023 Best Of Reader’s Poll.

Special thanks to our partners for this year’s awards celebrations:

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more than skin deep.

Voted one of AY’s Best Places to Have a Baby FOUR YEARS IN A ROW!

At Conway Regional, we provide all women and their newborns with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our Women's Center cares for mothers and newborns from admission to discharge, offering reassurance and support as you welcome your baby.

Parents can rely on Conway Regional to care for their babies with the highest quality of care. With the advancement of telemedicine, neonatal physicians can assess your baby alongside our neonatal nurses right here in Conway.

Conway Regional is proud to be the community’s provider of high-quality, compassionate care for more than 100 years.


“It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I said, ‘Okay, Lord, this is the day you were resurrected. It’s the day for my resurrection, too.”


74 RESTORING MOBILITY AND INDEPENDENCE SINCE 1911 800-342-5541 Little Rock n Bryant n Conway n Fayetteville n Fort Smith n Hot Springs n Mountain Home n North Little Rock n Pine Bluff n Russellville
11908 KANIS RD. G6 • LITTLE ROCK, AR • 501-725-5127 ekprofessionals.com
Edwin’s bond with Cara, his Snell prosthetist, was so strong that when she got married recently, she asked him to officiate.


For Voting Us One of Arkansas’ Best Dentist

Dean Dental Solutions has been delivering exceptional dental care to seniors, working families, and young professionals since 1994.

If you’re looking for a new dentist, talk to the practice that makes your comfort and care its #1 priority.

2524 Crestwood Rd., Suite 2 | North Little Rock 501.271.3588 | deandentalsolutions.com
76 904 Autumn Road Ste. 200 Little Rock 501-227-6363 autumnroadfamilypractice.com Thank you, Arkansas, for voting us one of the top in Family Physician Clinics. CONGRATULATIONS SAMUEL A. MOORE, D.O. Named one of Arkansas’ Best Orthopedists bowenhefleyortho.com | DrSamuelMoore.com LITTLE ROCK | NORTH LITTLE ROCK | JACKSONVILLE | CABOT | RUSSELLVILLE | HOT

Thank You, Arkansas!

For Naming Us Best Cosmetic Surgery in Arkansas

“I love Dr. Yee and her incredible staff! After getting back in the gym regularly, I still had some stubborn fat areas, so I did CoolSculpting at Dr. Yee’s office and love my results!”

Dr. Suzanne Yee is one of the Natural State’s most accomplished cosmetic surgeons. Dr. Yee graduated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and was ranked 1st in her graduating class. She completed her surgery internship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and her facial plastics and reconstructive surgery fellowship at the University of Texas at Houston. Dr. Yee has been serving the state of Arkansas through her medical skills and fashion sensibilities at her cosmetic and laser surgery center since 2003. Congratulations to Dr. Suzanne Yee for being named AY About You’s Best Cosmetic Surgeon in Best Of 2023!


Beauty and Health

Nurse Injector

• Paige Kelly, RN, BSN

Wright Plastic Surgery

• Amber Moody, APRN

Revolution Med Spa

• Hailey Smith, RN

Little Rock Plastic Surgery

Nurse Practitioner

• Zack Coco, MNSc, APRN, PMHNPBC New Path Mental Health & Wellness

• Danielle Lynch

Renew Mental Health and Wellness

• Pamela Volner, APRN, FNP-C

Painted Rock Health and Wellness

Nursing Home

• Briarwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

• Cabot Nursing & Rehab Center

• Greenbrier Nursing & Rehab Center

OB/GYN Clinic

• Conway Regional Renaissance Women’s Center

• Cornerstone Clinic For Women

• Saline Women’s Clinic


• Dr. Brad Baltz, M.D.

CHI St. Vincent

• Dr. Jamie Burton, M.D.


• Dr. Neelakanta Dadi, M.D.

Conway Regional Health System

Ophthalmology Clinic

• BoozmanHof

• Children’s Eye Care & Surgery

• McFarland Eye Care


• Dr. Shelby Brogdon, O.D. McFarland Eye Care

• Dr. Susan DeBlack, O.D. DeBlack Eye Care Center

• Dr. Russell Simmons, O.D. Simmons Eye Care

Orthodontic Clinic

• Daniel Orthodontics

• Vondran Orthodontics

• Westrock Orthodontics

Orthopedic Group

• Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Clinic (COSMC)

• Martin Orthopedics


• Dr. Mike McFarland, M.D. McFarland Eye Care

• Dr. Evan Newbolt, M.D.

McFarland Eye Care

• Dr. Edward Penick, III, M.D.

Central Arkansas Ophthalmology


• Dr. W. Scott Bowen, M.D. Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Dr. William Hefley Jr., M.D. Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Dr. Samuel A. Moore, D.O. Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

78 19 PHYSICIANS 23 ADVANCED PRACTICE PROVIDERS OVER 600 YEARS COMBINED EXPERIENCE #1 Urology Clinic Once Again (501) 219-8900 | ArkansasUrology.com Arkansas Urology thanks YOU for voting us the Best Urology Clinic and Doctor-Owned Hospital in 2023!
10801 Executive Center Dr, Ste 101 | Little Rock | drdevlin.com | 501.227.8811 Best 201 8 of Proud to be voted one of the BEST COSMETIC SURGEONS - Dr. Michael Devlin 7
80 501-753-3100 11723 Maumelle Blvd. North Little Rock, AR 72113 Thank You to our amazing patients for voting us one of Arkansas’ Best Family Dentists! Dr. Meg Dunn and her team are committed to providing gentle, quality dental care for patients of all ages. Have you been on the weight loss rollercoaster for decades? Do you feel like you’ve lost touch with your inner self along the way? Tuning back in to your body is where real success lives. I am grateful to be recognized as one of AY’s top health coaches in the state. My personalized program helps women just like you revitalize their metabolism, reset hormones for optimal wellness and get the body they deserve. Your body is trying to tell you what it needs; I can help you learn how to listen again. Meg Green, MS, RDN, LD, IFNCP 501.420.2921 For a free consultation email Meg@MegGreenRD.com Meg Green, MS, RDN, LD, IFNCP 501.420.2921 8315 Cantrell Rd Suite 120 | Little Rock 501.224.1300 | gsloanmd.com Thank You For Voting Dr Sloan One Of AY’s Best Of Arkansas’ Best Plastic Surgeons Gene Sloan, M.D., FACS
11501 Financial Centre Parkway Little Rock, AR 72211 Toll-Free Phone: 800-880-3322 Local Phone: 501-223-3322 pinnaclepointehospital.com On Being Voted One of Arkansas’ Best CEO’s Shane Frazier, CEO, CONGRATULATIONS Providing compassionate behavioral health care to children and teens ages 5 to17.
82 501-817-3923 16115 St. Vincent Way | Suite 300 | Little Rock CLINIC LOCATIONS: Clinton | Little Rock | Russellville PinnacleDermAr.com Thank you medical | surgical | cosmetic Hailey Arens, PA-C | Kayla Mohr, M.D. | Andrea Mabry, M.D. | Marla Wirges, M.D. | Alissa Huberty, PA-C | Chelsea Newey, PA-C to our patients! The Care You Deserve (870) 243-0424 renewmentalhealthandwellness.com 2815 Longview Dr. Jonesboro Our clinic is comprised of a team that is trained to form individualized treatment plans for every client.

Thank You

for voting us among the best! Best Cosmetic Dentist and Best Family Dentist

Healthy Smiles & BEAUTIFUL TEETH for the Whole Family


At Montgomery Heathman and Associates, our team is 100% focused on your oral health. We offer our patients the very best that dentistry has to offer through advanced technologies and procedures.

7 2021

Beauty and Health

Pain Specialist

• Dr. Christopher Mocek, M.D.

Mocek Spine Clinic

• Dr. Amir Qureshi, M.D.

Arkansas Spine & Pain

• Dr. Mikio Ranahan, M.D.

Conway Regional Advanced Pain Management

Pediatric Clinic

• All for Kids Pediatric Clinic

• Fayetteville Children’s Clinic

• Little Rock Pediatric Clinic

Pediatric Dentist Clinic

• Groovy Smiles Pediatric Dentistry

• Kitchens’ Pediatric Dentistry

• Leap Kids Dental

Permanent Cosmetics

• Blush Ink & Beauty Studio

• EK Professionals Permanent Cosmetics & Tattoo Institute

• Lucinda Posvar, RN - Aesthetic Ink

Physical Therapy Clinic

• Steve Longinotti, MSPT

Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Caleb Marsh

Conway Regional Home Health

• Mariano Zermeno, DPT

Lonoke Physical Therapy

Physician Assistant

• Anne Brown, MPAS, PA-C

• Christie Reid, PA-C

• Megan Santiago, PA-C

Plastic Surgeon

• Dr. Gene Sloan, M.D.

Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

• Dr. Michael Spann, M.D.

Little Rock Plastic Surgery

• Dr. Eric Wright, M.D.

Wright Plastic Surgery


• Dr. Jesse Burks, DPM

Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Dr. Terri Cohen, DPM


• Dr. Aaron Seiter, DPM

Seiter Foot & Ankle Specialists, P.A.

Prosthetics Clinic

• Horton’s Orthotics & Prosthetics

• New Hope Prosthetics & Orthotics

• Snell Prosthetics & Orthotics

Radiology Clinic

• Arkansas Surgical Hospital

• Conway Regional Imaging Center


Place to Have a Baby

• Baptist Health Medical Center

• Conway Regional Health System


Rehabilitation Hospital

• Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute

• Conway Regional Rehabilitation Hospital

• Lake Hamilton Health & Rehab

84 Thank you for voting us among the top Medical Spa/Nonsurgical Cosmetic Clinics in Arkansas! 10301 N. Rodney Parham C7 • Little Rock Kthomas@arkansas-aesthetics.com facesbykthomas the_lipinjector

Voted One of AY’s Best Fook & Ankle Surgeons Surgeons (Lower Extremity)

James Head, MD


Jay Howell, MD

One of AY’s Best Surgeons (Upper Extremity)
One of AY’s Best
MD Make an appointment with any of our award-winning surgeons by calling 501-329-1510. ConwayOrtho.com 550 Club Ln Conway, AR 72034
Hand Surgeons Bryan Head,

Congratultions MONICA COOPER For Being Named One of

Arkansas’ Best Estheticians

As a medical aesthetician at Sei Bella Med Spa, Monica focuses on more than just facials. Working closely with Dr. Trussell, she helps with scar revision using microneedling/RF and is primarily responsible for laser and IPL treatments, including skin rejuvenation, pigment and vascular treatment. She also offers laser hair removal for the entire body. She can treat skin tags, seborrheic keratosis, sebaceous hyperplasia and nevi with Skin Classic. Monica is very procedure and results driven, offering dermaplane, extractions and medical grade chemical peels as well. When available, she will jump in to help with Emsella, and Emsculpt Neo treatments. Monica also likes to focus on the quality of the skin, doing a full consultation for best treatment options, skincare and makeup

86 Physician Owned and Operated Anne R. Trussell, M.D. ABAARM FAARM 10310 W. Markham, Ste. 202 Little Rock 501.228.6237 seibellamedspa.net |
2200 N Rodney Parham Rd, Ste 200 Little Rock, AR 72212 501.219.8000 www.littlerockplasticsurgery.com My Passion. Your Results.™ ™ THANK YOU FOR VOTING OUR TEAM AY’S BEST OF 2023! Dr. Michael Spann, MD, Plastic Surgeon Hailey Smith, Nurse Injector
88 1106 S. Pine St., Ste C | Cabot 501.286.4055 CONGRATULATIONS AMBER MOODY, APRN ON BEING VOTED ONE OF ARKANSAS’ BEST NURSE INJECTORS CALL TODAY FOR YOUR PERSONALIZED TOUR (501) 868-6270 SPECIALIZED MEMORY CARE 8401 Ranch Blvd Little Rock, AR 72223 www.AvenirSeniorLiving.com Visit Us Online WHAT MAKES AVENIR UNIQUE? • Purposely Designed Community • Round Table Discovery Meeting Prior to Move-In • Unique Cognitive Placement • Resident Centered Care • Specialized Activities Program M E M O R Y C A R E at Little Rock Avenir

Gaylen McGee is the owner of the I-40 Auto Auction, McGee Land Developments and McGee Farms. He currently serves as primary auctioneer for the I-40 Auto Auction and has increased business revenue by four times during his tenure.

As a benefit auctioneer specialist, Gaylen has worked with many non-profit organizations over the years, including: Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute (CARTI), The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Baptist Health, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!

He is one of the highest grossing benefit auctioneers in the State of Arkansas, setting auction revenue records over the past three years.

Gaylen says he will continue to help those in need until his last breath.

He is serving LLS Arkansas in honor of his sister-in-law, who has been diagnosed with Essential Thrombocythemia (ET) – a benign Myeloproliferative Neoplasm (MPN).

aymag.com 89 Wisener, Cooper & Fergus, DDS Congratulations Dr. Jeff Wisener on being chosen as one of AY Magazine’s Top Healthcare Professionals. ALL PHASES OF DENTISTRY / GENERAL & FAMILY DENTAL / DENTAL IMPLANTS / COSMETIC DENTISTRY / INVISALIGN A healthy smile makes the best first impression! 479-636-7100 wisenercooperfergusdental.com Congratulations Dr. Jeff Wisener on being voted one of Arkansas’ Best Of Family Dentist.
1700 N. Center Street • Lonoke 501.676.6252 For
Us Among the Best in Arkansas
Thank You

Beauty and Health

Retirement Community

• Hot Springs Village

• Parkway Village

• Presbyterian Village Spa

• Ava Bella Day Spa

• Rejuvenation Clinic Day Spa


Specialty Hospital

• Arkansas Heart Hospital

• Arkansas Surgical Hospital

• Cabot Emergency Hospital

Sports Medicine Clinic

• Arkansas Bone & Joint Orthopedic Practice

• Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Conway Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center (COSMC)


• Dr. Logan Lynch, M.D. St. Bernard, Jonesboro

• Dr. Lewis Porter, M.D. Saline Surgical Associates

• Dr. Mike Stanton, M.D. Conway Regional Surgical Associates

Surgeon (Lower Extremity)

• Dr. C. Lowry Barnes, M.D. UAMS

• Dr. James Head, M.D.

Conway Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Clinic (COSMC)

• Dr. Larry Nguyen, M.D. Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

Surgeon (Upper Extremity)

• Dr. Jesse Abeler, M.D. Bowen Hefley Orthopedics

• Dr. Jay Howell, M.D.

Conway Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center (COSMC)

• Dr. Lewis Porter, M.D. Saline Health System

Tattoo Parlor

• 7th Street Tattoo and Piercing

• Love Spell Tattoo

• PsychoDelic Butterfly Tattoos


• Mindy Moore, EMDR, CPT & CBT

Mindy Moore Psychotherapy

• Margaret Ann Standridge, LCSW

Indigo Counseling

• Andreka Walker, LMSW, IMH Centers for Youth and Families

Urology Clinic

• Arkansas Children’s

• Arkansas Urology

• Washington Regional Ozark Urology

90 LITTLE ROCK 4220 N Rodney Parham #310 Little Rock • (501) 224-3421 302 N Phoenix Ave Russellville • (479) 967-3421 SHERIDAN 12 Opportunity Dr Sheridan • (870) 942-2131 Brace Yourself for a NEW SMILE www.arkansasbraces.com Thank You for voting us one of Arkansas’ Best Orthodontic Clinics Online Fitness and Nutrition Coach In Person Personal Trainer Creator of REPS Group Training THANK YOU FOR VOTING FOR ME AS ONE OF AY'S BEST PERSONAL TRAINERS! quenspencer@gmail.com Quen Spencer @coach_tapin

Voted One of AY’s Best OB/GYN Clinics

Voted One of AY’s Best Bosses

92 17627 Chenal Pkwy B, Suite 6, Little Rock, AR 72223 870-253-4365 Congratulations on being one of AY's Best of Permanent Cosmetics! Permanent Cosmetics and Paramedical Scar Camouflage I’m feeling incredibly thankful to be voted one of the top 3 in AY’s Best of 2023! It’s truly an honor to have my work recognized, and I’m incredibly humbled by the support from all of my clients! 1482 Petit Jean Mountain Road Morrilton (Petit Jean Mountain) For Voting Us One Of The Best Coffee Shops Thank You, Arkansas 501.306.5341 petitjeancoffeehouse.com LOCAL MEN’S CLOTHING THANK YOU FOR VOTING US ONE OF AY ’S BEST Mr. Wicks Gentleman’s Shop 5924 R St, Little Rock mrwicks.com
5813 Kavanaugh Blvd / 501-664-5646 charlottejohn.com April Findlay, The Charlotte John Company Realtor Thank You For Voting Us One of Ay’s Best Of Realtors and Real Estate Companies



• Simply Sweet Kids

• Tantrums


Asian Fusion

• Kemuri Japanese Restaurant

• Rock N’ Roll Sushi

• Three Fold Noodles + Dumpling Co.


• Community Bakery

• PattiCakes Bakery

• The Croissanterie


• Corky’s Ribs & BBQ

• Count Porkula

• Whole Hog NLR


• Big Bad Breakfast - Little Rock

• The Croissanterie

• The Toasted Yolk Café - Little Rock



• Lost Forty Brewing

• Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom

• Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie


• Big Orange

• David’s Burgers

• DeLuca’s Pizzeria


• Chicken Salad Chick

• DownHome Catering

• Rx Catering


• DownHome Catering

• Eat My Catfish

• Riverside Grocery & Catering

Cheese Dip

• Baja Grill

• Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

• Mockingbird Bar and Tacos


• Cypress Social

• Petit & Keet

• RŌBER :: Cocktails + Culinary

Coffee Shop

• 7 Brew

• Nexus Coffee and Creative

• Petit Jean Coffeehouse


• Copper Mule Table & Tap

• Mike’s Place

• The Faded Rose Restaurant

94 501.672.0023 / madeintheshadeLR.com Motorized Shade Experts! Congratulations on being in the Top 3 of Best BLINDS, FABRICS, AND DRAPES!
Men’s Clothing
• The Toggery Co.
Domestic • J. Duke &
Local Women’s Clothing
E.Leigh’s Contemporary Boutique
Fringe Clothing
• Mr. Wicks

Thank You Arkansas For Voting

2222 Cantrell Rd Little Rock (501) 221-2032
Us Best Interior Designer
96 3700 OLD CANTRELL ROAD, #101 LITTLE ROCK | 501.319.4554 Thank you for voting us one of Arkansas’ Best Hair Salons I would like to thank the readers and voters of AY Magazine for naming Crum Insurance one of Arkansas’ best. ben@cruminsuranceagency.com 501.516.6472 We Can Help You Get Your Property and Business Insured. Don’t Settle For Less. With our expertise and network of insurance providers. We guarantee the best policies on the market. Voted one of the best for Special Events Planner and for Seasonal Designer, thank you Arkansas!



• Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets

• PattiCakes Bakery

• The Croissanterie

Dining for Kids

• All Aboard Restaurant & Grill

• Big Orange

• The Purple Cow

Fine Dining

• Cache Restaurant

• Petit & Keet

• RŌBER :: Cocktails + Culinary

Food Truck

• Cheesecake On Point!

• Tacos Godoy

• The Breakfast Tray


• Deluca’s Pizzeria

• Pasta Grill

• Ristorante Capeo


• Baja Grill

• La Hacienda

• Local Lime


• Certified Pies

• DeLuca’s Pizzeria

• Old Mill Pizza


• Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill

• Valhalla :: Kitchen + Bar

• ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co.


• Mike’s Place

• Oceans at Arthur’s

• The Oyster Bar

Special Occasion

• Allsopp & Chapple

• Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse

• Sonny Williams Steak Room


• Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse

• Doe’s Eat Place

• The Bugler

Restaurant (General)

• Cypress Social

• J&S Italian Villa

• The Grumpy Rabbit

Restaurant (Newly Opened)

• Blackberry Market

• RŌBER :: Cocktails + Culinary

• The Croissanterie


• Kemuri Japanese Restaurant

• Oceans at Arthur’s

• Rock N’ Roll Sushi

+ MARGARITA BAR B A J A G R I L L SINCE 2012 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd. Little Rock 501.722.8920 Best Mexican Best Cheese Dip 224 W. South Street Benton 501.680.7109 THANK YOU For Voting Us One of the Best in Arkansas
100 501.374.6422 capitolglassinc.com 801 S Broadway, Little Rock Established in 1950, Capitol Glass Company Inc is the oldest locally-owned and operated glass company in the Little Rock area. A BIG THANK YOU FOR VOTING US ONE OF THE BEST! • Auto Glass Replacement • Rock Chip Repair • ADAS Recalibration • Sunroof Replacement • Door Glass Repair • Door Lock Repair • Rear View Mirrors • Bus and Big Rig Auto Glass Services • Water Leaks • Mobile Service • In Shop Service • Pickup and Delivery 2700 South Booker St. / P.O. Box 1700 Little Rock, AR 72203 / 501.663.9464 Pest Management Services for Home & Business. Call The Bug Man before you take drastic measures yourself! TheBugManInc Thank You For Voting Us One of Arkansas’ BEST PEST CONTROL 5817 Kavanaugh Blvd. Little Rock 501.614.7343 tulipsinlittlerock.com Thank You For Voting Us One of The Best Women’s Local Clothing in Arkansas Tulips
Serving all of Central Arkansas | 501.993.5232 | kellcocustomhomes.com KellCo Custom Homes Specializing in building one-of-a-kind custom homes and combining leading edge designs with exceptional functionality that speak not only to your aesthetic needs, but to your unique vision, through our remarkable attention to luxury in every detail. Innovation-Redefined. Pushing beyond the predictable to create truly unique custom homes.
ThePower of Custom Thank You for Voting Us One of Arkansas’ Best Home Builders

Entertainment & Leisure

Art Gallery

• Barry Thomas Fine Art & Studio

• M2 Gallery

• Red Door Art Gallery


• Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

• Saracen Casino Resort

• Southland Casino Resort

Cigar Lounge

• Cigar Republic

• The 1836 Club

• West End

Concert Venue

• Robinson Auditorium

• Simmons Bank Arena

• The Hall

Event Venue

• Rusty Tractor Vineyards

• Sassafras Springs Vineyard and Winery

• The Hall

Family Attraction

• Little Rock Zoo

• Museum of Discovery

• Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge


• Arkansas State Fair

• Main Street Food Truck Festival

• Wild Wines at Little Rock Zoo



• Dugan’s Pub

• Skinny J’s Argenta

• Valhalla :: Kitchen + Bar


• AC Hotel

• Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

• The Waters Hotel

Live Theater

• Argenta Community Theater

• Arkansas Repertory Theatre

• Murry’s Dinner Playhouse

Local Tourist Attraction

• Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

• Garvan Woodland Gardens

• Little Rock Zoo


• Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

• Museum of Discovery

• Old State House Museum


• Big Cedar Lodge

• Mountain Harbor Resort & Spa

• Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

Seasonal Attraction

• Garden Christmas Light Display

Garvan Woodland Gardens


Little Rock Zoo

• Holiday House

Junior League of Little Rock

Whiskey Bar

• Cache Restaurant

• ROBER :: Cocktails + Culinary

• Rock Town Distillery

102 Custom Home Builder Remodels, Additions, Screened in Porches Design Build Team 501.580.0612 | 501.607.1192 mencoconstructionllc.com MencoHomes THANK YOU FOR VOTING US ARKANSAS’ BEST OF FOR REPAIR & REMODELING!
104 501.399.9909 • 2322 Cantrell Rd., Little Rock Largest Selection Quality Installation • Best Prices It's an honor to once again be recognized among AY's BEST OF Columnist or Reporter for 2023. We're privileged to do what we do, telling stories about the people, places and things that make Arkansas so special. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! Need a writer for your publication, business or organizational communications? Use YA Words! Dwain Hebda, President Ya!Mule Wordsmiths 501.813.9559 dwain@ya-mule.com pastagrillrestaurant.com 915 Front Street | Conway 501.205.8751 319 West Main Street | Russellville 479.967.1707
Italian So many things to love.
Thank You For Voting Us Best
aymag.com 105 for voting us among AY’s Best Thank you A Natural State “Serving Arkansas with Dignity and Respect Extraordinary service. Exceptional prices. No exceptions. 501.982.3400 / anaturalstatefuneralservice.com / 2620 W. Main Street, Jacksonville anaturalstatefuneralservice / Funeral, Cremation & Cemetery / 24-Hour Assistance / Monuments Best 201 8 of AY’S TOP 3 LEADER nabholz.com 2023 AY BEST OF THE BEST We’re lucky to have a CFO that realizes people aren’t numbers. CONGRATULATIONS BRYAN BRUICH T O D A Y S P O W E R . C O M SOLAR POWER BATTERY STORAGE EV CHARGING Bringing clean energy and economic development to the communities that we serve, Today's Power is a long-term energy partner that you can count on Thank you for voting us one of AY's Best Of Solar Power!

Home, Home Services & Finance

• Bell & Company

• HCJ CPAs & Advisors

• Todd & Associates CPAs


• Arvest Bank

• Citizens Bank

• Simmons Bank

Credit Union

• Arkansas Federal Credit Union

• Telcoe Federal Credit Union

• TruService Community FCU

Electrical Company

• Gary Houston Electric Company

• Soda Valley Electrical Services

• Thompson Electric

Fabrics, Draperies & Window Treatments

• Cynthia East Fabrics

• Fabrics Etc.

• Made in the Shade

Home Accessories

• Debi Davis Interior Design


• mertinsdykehome

Home Builder

• Hines Homes

• KellCo Custom Homes

• Parkinson Building Group

Insurance Firm

• Ben Crum, Ben Crum Insurance Agency

• Charlotte Potts, State Farm

• Zach Johnson, State Farm

Interior Designer

• Debi Davis Interior Design

• Hunt Design Group

• Jill White Designs

Investment Firm

• April N. Pollard, CFP, Edward Jones

• Meridian Investment Advisors

• Cassandra Rector, Edward Jones

Kitchen Store/Supply

• Eggshells Kitchen Co.

• Krebs Brothers Restaurant Supply

• The Kitchen Store & More

Lawn Care

Home Contractor

• Hartness Construction

• River Rock Builders

• Top Notch Home Services

Home Security

• Alarmco

• Natural State Security

• Triple-S Alarm Co.

• Arkansas Elite Turf

• Fairway Lawns

• The Good Earth Garden Center

Mortgage Lender

• Arvest Bank

• First Horizon Bank

• Simmons Bank

WE w h y w e w e r e n a m e d a n d best family attraction


106 in community, innovation, diversity, collaboration and professionalism
Thank you, AY readers, for recognizing our commitment to excellence in our legal practice and in the community. Discover best family attraction museumofdiscovery. org
Accounting Firm

Voted One of AY’s Best Cardio Clinics

Voted One of AY’s Best

Ronak Soni, MD, Don Steely, MD, Rimsha Hasan, MD, and Yalcin Hacioglu, MD Gastro Clinics Martin Moix, MD, Owen Maat, MD, and Ron White, MD
226 W. South Street • Benton 501.317.1251 THANK YOU For Voting Us One of Arkansas’ Best Of Salads and Happening/Entertainment Venues valhallabenton.com valhallabenton

Real Estate Agent

• April Findlay, Executive Broker

The Charlotte John Company

• Casey Jones

The Janet Jones Company

• Robert Klein

The Property Group

Real Estate Company

• Lindsey & Associates

• The Charlotte John Company

• The Janet Jones Company

Kids & Education

Community College

• National Park College

• University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College

• University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton

Private College

• Harding University

• Hendrix College

• Ouachita Baptist University


• Menco Construction

• Precision Construction

• Scott Lucas Construction & Custom Homes

Solar Power

• Delta Solar

• Seal Solar

• Today’s Power, Inc.

Swimming Pools

• Diamond Pools of Arkansas

• KellCo Pools & Spas

• Lindsey’s Pool

Private School

• Little Rock Christian Academy

• Little Rock Montessori School

• Mount St. Mary Academy

Public School

• Conway Public Schools

• Little Rock School District

• Pulaski County Special School District

Public University

• University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

• University of Arkansas at Little Rock

• University of Central Arkansas

Special Education School

• ACCESS Academy

• Arkansas School for the Deaf

• Easterseals Academy at Riverdale

110 700 S. First Street | Jacksonville 501.982.1944 vaughantire.com Thank You For Voting Vaughan Tire One Of the Best Tire Centers in Arkansas www.eastersealsar.com Join Easterseals Arkansas in leading the way to 100% equity, inclusion and access through life-changing disability and community services. Thank you for voting us one of AY’s Best Special Education Schools Home, Home Services & Finance
Local or Abroad, We Design Spaces That Dreams Are Made Of “A Full Service Design Firm” • Residential and Commercial • Traditional and Contemporary • Small or Large • We design beautiful spaces for your individual needs! Call Today: Hunt Design Group 501.932.7608
112 Voted Best Of The Best Three Years In A Row! 3704 N. Rodney Parham & 12015 Hinson Road, Little Rock 501.225.2428 // lrmontessori.org
Montessori School “The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” — Maria Montessori Now Enrolling for 2023-2024 School Year! Little Rock Montessori School has been educating children for over 50 years. We are a private, nonprofit school offering education for ages 22 months through third grade.
Little Rock
aymag.com 113 501-376-1195 • DOESEATPLACELR.COM For Goodness Steaks! THANK YOU 1023 WEST MARKHAM DOWNTOWN LITTLE ROCK For Voting US One of the Best Steaks in Best Of 2023

Media, People & Places

Advertising Agency

• Dave Creek Media

• GWL Advertising

• Stone Ward

Columnist or Reporter

• Dwain Hebda

Ya!Mule Wordsmiths

• Rex Nelson


• Kevin Shalin

The Mighty Rib

Marketing Consultant

• Dan Sawyer


• Jane Embry Selig


• Lauren Ramsey

Puzzle Piece Media

Radio Personality

• David Bazzel

103.7 The Buzz

• Roger Scott

103.7 The Buzz

• Jon Williams

94.9 Radio Jon/Deek

TV Personality

• Bob Clausen


• Craig O’Neill


• Melinda Mayo


Weather Person

• Tom Brannon


• Melinda Mayo


• Todd Yakoubian



• Chocolate Fantasy Ball

Ronald McDonald House Charities

• Duck Derby Conway Regional Health System

• Women of the Year

Women’s Own Worth

Person of the Year

• Bobby Martin

• Eric Musselman

• Jim Keet

Place to Worship

• Calvary Baptist Church

• New Life Church

• Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church

Wedding Venue

• Rusty Tractor Vineyards

• Sassafras Springs Vineyard & Winery

• The Venue at Oakdale

Person of the Year


Congratulations to Bobby Martin on being named Person of the Year! Your contribution to conservation through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission deserves the highest honor. Thank you for helping us fulfill our mission of keeping The Natural State true to its name for generations to come.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Chairman
aymag.com 115 russellchevrolet.com Thank you for Selecting us in 3 Categories Service Used Car Sales New Car Sales 6100 Landers Road Sherwood, AR. (501)819-4875 russellchevrolet.com C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Russell - Best of Ay - 2023 - 3 categories.pdf 1 4/21/2023 9:18:13 AM
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aymag.com 117 ROLLER FUNERAL HOMES Arkansas’ Best Funeral Home for 3 Generations Renata Jenkins Byler Sue Roller Jenkins www.rollerfuneralhomes.com Check out our 2023 Summer Camps 2400 W Markham St | Little Rock 501.324.9506 hello@asdleopards.org asd.ade.arkansas.gov Thank you for voting us one of AY’s Best Special Education Schools @ASDLeopards @asd_leopards SCAN ME DONATE



• Amber Banks

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Sowell Architects


• Blackmon Auctions

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Customer Service

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Funeral Home

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Heating & A/C Service

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Jewelry Designer

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Law Firm

• Caldwell Law Firm

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Marketing Firm

• Dave Creek Media

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• Immerse Arkansas

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Party Planning/Products/Rentals

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Pest Control

• Empire Pest Solutions

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Promotional Services

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14710 Cantrell Rd, Little Rock 501-412-4244 chefs@thecroissanterielr.com Thank you for voting us one of the best in Arkansas Best Bakery • Best Breakfast • Best Dessert • Restaurant
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aymag.com 121 Providing linens and elements for table top design for over 4O years. 11121 N Rodney Parham, Suite 32B 501-224-3133 partytimerentalandevents.com THANK YOU! For Voting Us Among The Best in AY’s Best Of 2023 THE PERFECT SPACE FOR ANY OCCASION We are so grateful for your support! Thank you for voting us one of Ay’s Best. Best Wedding Venue and Best Event Venue.
10 Rusty Tractor Ln. • Little Rock • 501.916.2294
Kati Mallory Photography


Seasonal Designer

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• Cornerstone Construction

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Special Events Planner

• Anne-Claire Allen

Anne-Claire Allen Planning & Design

• Ari Crum

Evergreen Designs

• Gretchen Larkan

Gretchen Larkan Events


Arkansas Handmade Products

• Coy’s Southern Eats

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• Box Turtle

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Travel Agency

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• Sue Smith Vacations


• Lake Hamilton Animal Hospital

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Video Production

• 360° Filmworks

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Web Design

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Bridal Store

• Low’s Bridal

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CBD Store

• Healing Hemp of Arkansas

• Heights Apothecary & Hemp Co.

• Sunmed Your CBD Store - Hot Springs

Consignment Store

• Fashion Exchange

• Plato’s Closet

• Yours Truly Consignment, Inc.


• BoozmanHof

• Burrow’s & Mr. Frank’s Optical

• McFarland Eye Care

122 cacherestaurantlr 425 President Clinton Ave 501.850.0265 cachelittlerock.com Thank you for voting us one of the Best in Arkansas Fine Dining and Whiskey Bar
One of AY’s Best Fundraisers Save the Date: January 5, 2024 One of AY’s Best Fitness Centers Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center ConwayRegionalHFC.org MALLORY LEFFLER ARKANSAS DUCK DERBY
u u NCAA Division II Athletics adu ate & al Programs HARDING Y Thank you for voting for Harding University in AY's best of 2023! START H ER E info@coysoutherneats.com • coyssoutherneats.com From our family to yours for 50years. Thank You For Voting Us One of AY’s Best Of Handmade Goods
aymag.com 125
Thank You Voted One of the Best RV Dealerships in Arkansas Forest River Cherokee Travel Trailer 18925 Interstate 30E • 800-578-2489 • www.rvcity.biz • RV CityBENTON, AR CITY WAS VOTED BEST IN BUSINESS - 20 YEARS RUNNING! Dealer County! Brand Nation! Wolf Pup, Grey Wolf & Cherokee Travel Trailers and Toy Haulers Artic Wolf & Wolf Pack Toy Hauler Fifth Wheels FLAGSTAFF - Travel Trailers & Fifth Wheels IMPRESSION - Fifth Wheels PRIME TIME - Avenger Travel Trailers PRIME TIME - Sanibel Fifth Wheels BEATS OUR PRICES! FR4236 Prime Time Avenger Travel Trailer MSRP $36,376 Sale Price $23,300 Cherokee 264RL Travel Trailer MSRP $51,247 Sale Price $31,000 FR2906 Impression 280RL Fifth Wheel MSRP $79,573 Sale Price $51,000



• Akel’s Carpet One Floor & Home

• C & F Flooring & Rug Gallery

• Carpet Barn


• Cabbage Rose Florist

• Tanarah Luxe Floral

• Tipton & Hurst


• Brashears Furniture

• Down South


Garden Center

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• Plantopia

• The Good Earth Garden Center



• Brewski’s Pub & Grub

• Flyway Brewing

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Gift Store

• Haynes ACE Hardware

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• Tipton & Hurst

Grocery Store

• Bramble Market

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Home Improvement Store

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Jewelry Store

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Fine Jewelry

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Outdoor Living

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• Ken Rash’s of Arkansas

Shopping Center

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Happy Hour

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• Sauced Bar & Oven

Liquor Store

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• Legacy Wine & Spirits

• O’Looney’s Wine & Liqour

We value the trust that our clients place in us to represent them and we strive to be the very best each and every day! Thank you for the honor, Arkansas! Caldwell Law Firm, P.A. 25 Rahling Circle, Suite C Little Rock 501.500.5512 Main Line 501.500-5513 Direct Line 855.535-8485 Facsimile caldwellfirm.org
Andy L. Caldwell Attorney at Law
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We’re a custom home building firm that is focused on your needs and desires. We work with you to identify the perfect lot, design a plan and budget, and build a place you’ll love to come home to forever.

See our best work at ParkinsonBuildingGroup.com

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132 Little Rock 12800 Chenal Pkwy. 1224 South Main Street Conway 975 S. Amity Dr. Thanks for Voting Us BEST SUSHI and ASIAN FUSION! rocknrollsushi_lr rnrsushi.com 11827 Maumelle Blvd. North Little Rock 501.753.2211 mydoggiespa.com The Doggie Spa Thank You For Voting Us One Of The Best in Arkansas! Thank you to all of the readers of AY About You for voting Blackmon Auctions one of the Best in Arkansas for the last 13 years! 5423 Kavanaugh Blvd Little Rock, AR 501-664-4526 blackmonauctions.com Since 1938, Better Auctions Have Always Been Blackmon Auctions. blackmonauctions blackmonauctions
Serving All of Central Arkansas // 501.993.5232 // kellcocustomhomes.com & KellCo Spas Pools for Voting Us One of Arkansas’ Best Of Swimming Pools Thank You!
134 Sit, Stay & Play Awhile 467 US-64 | Conway 501.733.0005 | TheBarkingLotConway.com Best Of Doggy Day Care Thank You For Trusting Us With Your Furry “Kids” Thank you for voting Gary Houston Electric one of the best Electrical Companies in AY’s Best of 2023! (501) 375-8330 GaryHoustonElectric.com Bring Your Dreams To Light! Sports Fitness Center/Gym • Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center • McClure Fitness • The Athletic Clubs Golf Course • Chenal Country Club • Pleasant Valley Country Club • Rebsamen Park Golf Course Personal Trainer • Christian Troxler WorkHarder Gym • Mallory Lefler Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center • Quen Spencer REPS Sporting Goods Store • Fort Thompson Sporting Goods • Gearhead Outfitters • Ozark Outdoor Supply Top Employers Boss • Kim Clatworthy Elder Independence Home Care • Matt Troup Conway Regional Health System • Nicole Hurst Puckett Superior Senior Care Chief Executive Officer • Adam Head CARTI • Quincy Hurst Superior Senior Care • Shane Frazier Pinnacle Pointe Behavioral Healthcare System Chief Financial Officer • Mindy Atwood West Murphy USA • Jay Brogdon Simmons Bank • Bryan Bruich Nabholz Overall Company • Bowen Hefley Orthopedics • Conway Regional Health System • Superior Senior Care Place to Work • Bowen Hefley Orthopedics • Conway Regional Health System • Superior Senior Care

Thank you to the thousands of readers who nominated Conway Regional as a top 3 finalist in multiple categories:

Best Hospital

Best Overall Company Best Place to Work

Our team is also a proud top 3 finalist for

In-Home Care – Conway Regional Home Health

Physical Therapy – Caleb Marsh, Conway Regional Home Health

Conway Regional is committed to bringing you innovative services, new clinics, more specialists, and expanded access to care.

Voted One of AY’s Best Rehabilitation Hospitals

Vehicles Dealers and Services

Auto Dealership Service


• Everett Automotive Group

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Auto Glass Repair

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Auto/Truck Accessories

• Forestwood Automotive Squarebodys & More

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Boat/Marine Dealership

• Bradford Marine & ATV

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Car Salesman

• John Coulter

Red River Ford Cabot

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Mercedes-Benz of Little Rock

• Russell Crouse Everett Buick GMC

New Car Dealership

• Mercedes-Benz of Little Rock

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RV Dealership

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Tire Center

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Used Car Dealership

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Window Tint

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aymag.com 137 The Waters / 340 Central Avenue / Hot Springs 501-321-0001 / TheWatersHS.com Thank You For Voting Us One Of The Best Hotels in Arkansas. EXPECT MORE SCHOLARSHIPS | INTERNSHIPS | STUDENT SUPPORT ualr.edu/admissions VOTED ONE OF AY’S BEST UNIVERSITIES

AY About You is once again proud to honor the toughest job there is — that of being a mom — with our 2023 Super Moms. Herein you’ll meet some of the successful women who have taken on enormous responsibilities in the workplace, in the home, in the community and most importantly in the lives of their children.

Working moms represent an important and statistically significant segment of the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72.3 percent of all women with children under age 18 participated in the workforce and the number is even higher for single, widowed or divorced mothers with minor children. Among all women workers, working mothers represent nearly a third of the labor force.

But a mom’s contribution doesn’t end at 5 o’clock. Even more importantly in today’s world is the time she invests in her children to inspire, advise, teach and nurture the next generation of leaders and achievers. As the old saying goes, without mothers none of us would be here to pursue our own dreams, raise our own families or build our own lives on the principles our moms modeled for us.

Ay About You salutes all of the women who have taken on the sacred and time-honored responsibilities of motherhood in all of its glory. From the women portrayed in this section to the millions of other moms out there who share their story, we say thank you and Happy Mother’s Day.

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Ana Cristina Bridges

Between the real estate industry and motherhood, Ana Cristina Bridges has learned not to sweat the small stuff. After teaching for seven years and having her first child, she jumped into real estate for its flexibility. Though she wasn’t exactly expecting to get pregnant with her third, Gabriel, at the same time she was opening her own brokerage, AB Realty, as she explains it: “God’s plan is always perfect.” Now, she couldn’t imagine life without him or any of her three children, and she feels blessed to have been chosen as their mother.


“Only in Christ can imperfections bloom into beauty, for His love perfects even the flawed.” - Anonymous.


Working out is definitely my “recharge” button. But as far as “me time,” I love to play tennis, read, be outside when it’s warm and travel.


My mother, Cristina Selva, and my mother-in-law, Sharon Bridges. They are two of my best friends, and their constant love and support helps me be a better mother.


Thanksgiving is a huge holiday for our family. The festivities usually start that Tuesday and go all the way until Sunday. It’s definitely one of those holidays where you need a vacation after your vacation. I wouldn’t change it for anything; it’s my favorite time of the year.


Sleep when you can! Those first couple of months can feel like torture. Also, build a support system with other moms. You are going through the same challenges, and it’s nice to have someone to talk to.


I feel like moms-to-be are always afraid of not knowing what to do once their baby is born. Babies don’t come home with a guide, but it’s amazing how instinct kicks in and you just know what to do.


I’d love for my children to look back and know what a wonderful, loving family they grew up in. My husband and I really do our best to teach them good moral values, along with giving them the attention, love and care they need. I want them to remember the times we had together – laughing, traveling, sometimes crying – and that these memories will only bring joy and comfort to their lives.


Owner/Principal Broker, AB Realty

Principal Broker, Unwind Luxury Vacations

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education CHILDREN:

Isabella (9) Antonio (3) Gabriel (7 months)


Molly Butler

Molly Butler is passionate about helping others get healthy and be the best versions of themselves, so when she developed hip pain while training for a half-marathon, she knew she needed care from the best. At Auburn’s Cornerstone Family Chiropractic, she got much more than pain relief; she joined the team and learned that “true health happens from the inside out.” As husband Michael finished his own chiropractic training and residency in Atlanta and later Dallas, Butler put her studies in health promotion and business to use by working in different clinics. The pair moved back to Arkansas to be closer to family, founding Restoration Health in Little Rock. A stay-at-home mom for now, Butler says that being a mom is one of the hardest jobs she’s ever done, but it’s also the greatest gift she’s ever been given; she’s embracing fully the “responsibility to help develop my boys into great men and great leaders.”


It’s all about prioritizing things and working as a team with my husband to coordinate our schedules. Working out is an absolute must for me. A few days a week, I have more protected time where I can get my nails done, run errands or even meet a friend for lunch. My husband’s day-to-day is very busy, but we have been able to design a schedule that allows me to take care of myself so I can keep taking care of everyone else!


God gave you your “momma heart,” and I believe he speaks to you through it. You will know your family better than anyone else, so be careful not to compare your family or kids to others. Most things are “caught,” not taught, so let your kids catch you in greatness. Let them catch you having a quiet time, going on dates with your spouse, working out, investing in yourself, choosing a healthy lifestyle and being selfless.


We love to find a good park to go to and let boys be boys. Even at our home, if the weather is nice, you are going to find us outside. My husband and oldest, Hamilton, also really enjoy playing golf, so I can see that being something we do a ton of in the future.


“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.”


I pray my boys know how loved they are. I pray they become adults who serve God with all their hearts. I pray they understand that they both have a purpose in life, and to always work hard, be respectful, love others and stand up for what they believe.

OCCUPATION: Owner, Restoration Health; Co-Owner, Core Wellness

EDUCATION: Auburn University

CHILDREN: Hamilton (5) Hampton (2)

Bailey Faulkner

Bailey Faulkner spent her childhood summers at an all-girls camp in Texas; little did she know, that experience would evolve into a full-blown career. In 2012, Faulkner became the executive director of the Ozark Mission Project, a nonprofit that hosts summer mission camps to serve people across Arkansas. For Faulkner, volunteer work is a family affair – literally. Though her daughter, Sydney, still has another year before she can stay overnight at camp, she’s attended meetings, fundraisers and mission trips, and she even pitches in around the office, stuffing envelopes and organizing supplies.


It really depends on the time of year. I could spend the morning writing a grant and the afternoon visiting jobsites. Our teams work on various projects, including painting houses, building wheelchair ramps and porches and assisting with storm cleanup. This time of year, most of my evenings are at the softball field watching my husband, Will, help coach our daughter’s softball team.


My mom, Nancy Newcomb, was a nonprofit executive director, and I remember thinking to myself I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. During my childhood, she was the executive director at the March of Dimes and the Stephens YWCA. Every day after school, I’d go to the Y and visit with the senior citizens. At the time, I didn’t have the best attitude about spending my time that way. Now, I appreciate the life skills those visits taught me, and I get to see firsthand the importance of intergenerational communication through OMP.


Other than my mom, my mother-in-law is my role model. Ceile lives out what it means to be a servant leader. Her love for our family, friends, church and the world is contagious. She makes everyone feel as if they’re her best friend, and honestly, they are. She’s compassionate, humble and one of the strongest people I know.


Don’t try to be like someone else; be you! It’s OK if you’re not the best cook or the most creative. The most important gift we can give our children and others is for them to know they’re loved.


My favorite part about being a mom is all that I learn from our daughter. I am a better person because of her.

OCCUPATION: Executive Director, Ozark Mission Project

EDUCATION: Arkansas State University Mount St. Mary

CHILDREN: Sydney (11)



Gabrielle Greene Fennessee

In both work and life, Gabrielle Greene Fennessee knows the importance of quality care. While studying as a health information technology professional, she became a health care customer herself after her son, Trey, was born with periventricular leukomalacia and cerebral palsy. In addition to gaining even stronger motivation for her career, Greene became an advocate for children with special needs through Easterseals Arkansas. Greene and her son both have come to value a life of service thanks to their experiences, and Trey is now an honor student and National Honor Society inductee, proving for Greene that “regardless of how you start, the finish line of your life is your most important priority.”


I started out as a Unit Secretary/Certified Nursing Assistant in critical care at night. One night, 10+ providers needed to view past EKG films to make a major decision concerning a patient. Those films were in medical records in over 20 boxes. The EKG films I found ended up saving the patient’s life! That night, I had a huge revelation: Even with the best skills, a provider’s expertise cannot be put to best use without the right information. This led me to a career in software development for health care; I have been blessed to serve in the care of Arkansas’ children by providing custom software solutions at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for over 22 years now.


I strongly believe that the hand that rocks the cradle raises future leaders that will impact the world. I raised my son with full transparency of my mistakes, failures and weaknesses so that we will both break generational curses and create great success for generations to come.


I love napping, walking and bicycling the trails at Two Rivers Park, going to the gym, getting massages, reading books, cooking and facials.


I owe my success to my late grandparents. They were very hands-on people, and they were approachable, loving and kind. I went fishing with my grandfather and visited the sick with my grandmother at hospitals and homes. We spent quality time reading books, conversing, reading in the family room and traveling.


We love card games, board games, action movies, watching BibleProject videos, cooking and traveling together.

OCCUPATION: Systems Analyst III

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

CHILDREN: Cornelius Fennessee III “Trey” (18)


Stacy Hamilton

Stacy Hamilton is pushing back against the idea that family and career shouldn’t mix. Instead of presenting obstacles, having children actually enriched Hamilton’s real estate work, from honing her time-management skills to giving her more intuitive insight into the needs of others. She’s also fortunate to have a strong and loving friend group, whom she describes as some incredible moms in their own right. At the end of the day, Hamilton just wants to leave a legacy of love for her children, to prove that strength and success go hand-in-hand with patience and compassion.


My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. I love the stillness of the early morning. My days flow between real estate appointments and hotel management meetings. I love a long lunch with friends, and I hurry home at the end of each day for a great family meal with my little people.


Like anyone, I take the positives and negatives of my own upbringing and adapt them so I can raise my children in an environment that strengthens and uplifts them. I always reflect on how my parents would have handled a situation and consider how that made me feel as a child. If it was a positive experience, I incorporate that technique into my parenting style.


Worrying never changes the future, and regret never changed the past.


My favorite activity is hanging out at home and playing in the front yard. I love watching my kids run around with neighborhood friends and ride their bicycles and scooters. A great front yard is a must for me in any home.


Birthdays are my favorite! We start celebrating a birthday as soon as my kiddo wakes up. I love starting their special day with cake and happiness.


My children are the most precious people on the entire Earth. If you don’t know them, you should make it a point to meet them sometime. You will love them – I swear.


Realtor and Owner of The Baker, Boutique Inn

EDUCATION: Master of Public Administration

CHILDREN: Ellis (6) Calvin (9)


Jill Jennings

As an OB/GYN at The Woman’s Clinic in Little Rock – and a mother of three – no two days are ever the same for Jill Jennings. From the clinic to the operating room to labor and delivery, she can see one patient for the birth of a baby and another for menopause issues without breaking stride. When she’s not tackling the day head-on at the clinic, Jennings and her family love being outside and enjoying everything The Natural State has to offer, whether that’s hiking, camping or spending time at the lake with family and friends.


I finished residency in 2011 and moved back home to Little Rock. I joined The Woman’s Clinic in 2012 and became a partner in 2014. We opened EverGlow at The Woman’s Clinic this past February!


Medical school and residency were eight years combined. I really wanted to be done with my training before we started a family, so we started a little later in life. Juggling kids and work is a challenge for most moms, but I have great support with family and friends that make it possible.


I just want them to know that they are so loved and supported. I hope they see how hard I work to provide for them, and I hope they feel empowered to make a difference in the life of someone else.


I am off on Monday, so those are my reset days: I exercise, organize and recharge for the week.


My mom and mother-in-law. They are both selfless caregivers and always willing to help.


The constant love from my kids, even on my worst days! I love watching them learn new things and take on new challenges.


I was an only child with the most supportive parents. Being an only child, however, is quite different than having three kids. I have had to learn to embrace the loud evenings and chaotic schedules. I hope I am providing my kids the same love and support that my parents showed me.

OCCUPATION: OB/GYN, The Woman’s Clinic; Owner, EverGlow Med Spa

EDUCATION: Hendrix College; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; University of Oklahoma Health Science Center

CHILDREN: Cayden (16) Ella (9) George (7)


Barbie Jones

To see their full house now, you wouldn’t know that Barbie Jones and husband Darren’s dream of being foster parents was sidelined when she was diagnosed with cancer. But, as Jones puts it: “Hodgkin’s lymphoma picked the wrong girl,” and she’s now a 10-year survivor. As soon as they were able, the couple jumped into fostering. Foster care and adoption are deep passions for Jones, and she hopes to foster a few more “if Darren and I aren’t too tired when we get all these kiddos raised.” Regardless of how many children she’s able to raise, Jones hopes to leave a legacy full of love, teaching them that no matter what you have, you should always make room for more at your table.


Do the right thing, even when no one is watching.


A little over 14 years ago. I’ve always loved capturing moments that become treasured memories. We have recently opened a wedding/event venue, so my photography business is currently expanding.


Recharge – what is that? Kidding … my favorite thing to do is just be home; it’s my happy place.


Busy. We have a small hobby farm, so we start the day with chores. Then we do our school. Sometimes that means sitting at a desk doing work or attending our local homeschool co-op, but we learn the most by just doing life outside of our “classroom.” The afternoons are filled with whatever sport we are currently involved in.


My niece, Elissa Ford. She is a phenomenal mama to her three babies. She also happens to be my photography partner.


With such a large family, one-on-one time is hard to come by, so we use birthdays to spend that extra quality time with each child.


That our kids come first. My husband comes first, and we do our best to make time for one another. We want to be an example to our kids that we loved each other first, and when they grow up and start their own lives, it will just be us again. It’s important that married couples don’t let the busyness of raising kids come between them.

Full-Time Homeschool Mom; Photographer; Business Owner


Tate (23)

Garret (21)

Brier (16)

Brynn (15)

Griffen (12)

Elliet (10)

Tripp (10)

Emrie (7)


Kristen Kennon

For Kristen Kennon, good things come in twos, and that goes for both her children and her career. After getting her master’s in sports administration at Henderson State University, Kennon served as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Jacksonville. She decided to change things up after the birth of her first son, Steele, however, so she jumped into the wide world of real estate. Kennon attributes much of her success as a “super mom” to the strength of her relationship with her “super husband,” Jon – and adds that there’s a “Jon” out there for everyone.


Add value to those around you, and through reciprocity, it will come back.


Totally changed it up! When I had Slater, I was on a path to be the best realtor there ever was, so I kept working after my C-section. My mom picked me up and drove me to a showing; I had Slater strapped to me and remember him spitting up on me while we were there. I should’ve been home and present enjoying those moments. I work really hard now to try to have a more harmonious home/work balance.


I have to be intentional about it, so I schedule it in advance. I love to get a massage and play tennis. This year, I got my best friend and I tickets to the Rep, so we know for a fact we’ll have a “mom’s night out” to see every show.


For birthdays, on Christmas Eve or even random gifts, I will put together a scavenger hunt all over the house.


People say old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but ask my husband and he would disagree. If I am having a hard time with getting my child to listen or am feeling overwhelmed, I will read and apply it to my life. It has made such a huge difference. Most of the time, we try to change the people around us, but really it’s us who needs to change.


There is nothing quite like the laughter of your child. When we talk about favorite memories, most of mine aren’t the big ones: it’s the time we stopped at a hotel on our way to the beach and laughed so hard we cried. The small, intimate moments and inside jokes are my favorite.


Owner, iRealty Arkansas


Master’s in Sports Administration from Henderson State University

CHILDREN: Steele (10) Slater (7)

April Pollard

April Pollard got her introduction to investing in high school, thanks to the Economics Arkansas Stock Market Game. Now, after almost a decade in practice as a financial advisor, she still considers it a “pretty amazing” career that allows her to prioritize her family. When she’s not collaborating with CPAs, attorneys and other professionals to give her clients the best strategic plan for their financial goals, Pollard and her family are all about spending time in nature. A drive into the Ozarks, hammock camping, kayaking or an annual family road trip – “If it’s something outdoors, that’s where we’ll be,” Pollard says.


“Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.” - Jim


It’s absolutely OK to talk about depression, anxiety and societal expectations that cause “mom guilt.” If you don’t have that space, look into finding a therapist. One other thing: these are your children. That’s your career. It’s your life with your spouse or life’s ambitions. No matter your headspace, you are needed and valued by someone in your life. Find them, and create the space for deeper communication and a relationship that will lift you up when you’re struggling.


I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD, so I would say I have a predisposition to never really wanting to “recharge.” I’ve always been high capacity, so any new project or something to accomplish actually energizes me. I am very thankful for a husband who understands this and supports me as much as he does.


That as moms, we should be IG influencers, showing off our beautifully dressed kids who never get dirty or make mistakes. That’s just not life, and it’s definitely not a life well-lived, where lessons are learned. Raising our children into successful adults capable of handling failure means we need to model those things for them. Sometimes, that means we ask forgiveness from our kids when we make our own mistakes.

OCCUPATION: CFP®, ChFC®; CRPC™, Financial Advisor

EDUCATION: College for Financial Planning; University of Central Arkansas

CHILDREN: Luke (11) Beau (6)


American Heart Association’s Central Arkansas


TheAmerican Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, will conduct its 2023 Central Arkansas Go Red for Women Luncheon this month under the theme “Be the Beat.” The organization is challenging families and households everywhere to have at least one person who knows life-saving CPR.

The signature luncheon – chaired by Dr. Anthony M. Fletcher FAHA, an interventional cardiologist with CHI St. Vincent Cardiology and Medicine Clinic, and his wife, Dr. Paula Fletcher, a retired ortodontist who currently serves as health director at Shorter College – is scheduled for May 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Benton Event Center. Go Red for Women is designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women locally, nationally and globally.

While the majority of cardiac events may be prevented, cardiovascular disease continues to be a woman’s greatest health threat. One in three women in Central Arkansas live with some form of cardiovascular disease, and it’s on the rise in younger women.

Many Go Red for Women Luncheon attendees fight heart ailments of their own or know someone who does. Others have lost loved ones to cardiovascular disease or work in the health care industry, diligently trying to reverse the trend. More than two dozen of these women – and a few men – are members of Circle of Red, a giving group born of the Go Red for Women initiative.

“It is important for me because my mom, two brothers and my husband all have heart issues,” said Gina Pharis, chairperson of the local Circle of Red. “As an 11-year member of Circle of Red, it’s critical to share with family and others the importance of heart health and knowing the warning signs and symptoms of heart disease.”

Members give $1,000 annually and attend events that give them an exclusive look into what the American Heart Association is doing across the area to improve women’s heart health.

“Our financial commitment goes toward research and lifesaving programs for preventing heart disease,” Pharis said.

To prevent cardiovascular disease, women should understand family health history; know their key personal health numbers that help determine risk for heart disease and stroke, including total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass in-

dex; and make lifestyle changes such as moving more, eating smart and managing blood pressure. Risk factors within women’s control include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity/overweight and Type 2 diabetes.

The Go Red for Women Luncheon will include a health expo, a Red Dress fashion show, a silent auction and words from an inspiring heart survivor.

“As the daughter and main caregiver to my mom, who suffered a stroke a few years ago, I know firsthand how devastating and debilitating heart disease can be,” said Carmen Parks, development director of the Central Arkansas Go Red for Women Luncheon.

“It is my hope to work alongside others here in Central Arkansas to significantly decrease heart disease so that it no longer remains the No. 1 killer of women.”

Prior to the 2004 inception of GRFW, only 30 percent of women knew that heart disease was their greatest health threat, causing more deaths than all forms of cancer combined. A decade later, close to 56 percent of women recognized this fact, nearly a 90 percent increase in awareness. What started as an awareness campaign grew into an international movement and has become a platform for real change.

Go Red for Women is nationally sponsored by CVS Health and is presented locally by platform sponsor Saline Health System. Media sponsors include B98.5, Power 92.3 and AY About You Magazine/Arkansas Money & Politics.

Tickets for Go Red for Women are $250 and can be purchased at CentralArGoRed.heart.org or by emailing Carmen.Parks@heart.org

aymag.com 149 health
Drs. Anthony M. and Paula Fletcher
‘Be the Beat’ luncheon raising awareness and funds to end heart disease and stroke.


Maddie Finn

Maddie Finn is a young teen determined to do all she wants in life despite having been born with a critical congenital heart defect, or CHD, known as tetralogy of Fallot.

Tetralogy of Fallot affects normal blood flow through the heart and can cause a baby to turn blue. It happens when a baby’s heart does not form correctly as the baby grows and develops in the mother’s womb during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year about 1,660 babies in the United States are born with tetralogy of Fallot.

Luckily for Finn, she never turned blue. Her rare condition was discovered during an echocardiogram the day after she was born. She underwent open-heart surgery at three months of age.

“Even though I had a complete repair, I still have a leak in my pulmonary valve, causing me shortness of breath at times, and it is possible that I will need more surgery at some point,” she says.

An interesting fact about Finn is she was one of the first children in Little Rock to have a horizontal incision rather than the conventional vertical one. Her mom was the one to suggest it to her surgeon.

“She knew someday I would want a wedding gown or a pageant or prom dress, and this way it does not show,” said Finn. “If I had needed it to be a regular, vertical incision, I would have worn it loud and proud. It saved my life and is part of who I am.”

Maddie’s sister, Hannah, is an American Heart Association advocate. She said the family was told Maddie would be a “lethargic kid.”

“Despite the odds, she was, and still is, able to do all the activities of a perfectly healthy child,” Hannah wrote in a blog for the American Heart Association. “Maddie has taken dance lessons, played numerous sports and competed in pageants.”

Maddie’s dreams are at her fingertips and she’s not going to accept any limitations.


Sunni Ackley

Medical research such as that conducted by the American Heart Association has led heart patients to live more active lives. Such is the case with Sunni Ackley.

Ackley was born with a congenital heart defect, or CHD, known as tetralogy of Fallot. This complex condition requires surgery at a young age, followed by additional medical procedures later in life.

Ackley underwent surgery at four months old to repair a hole between the lower chambers of her heart – one of the four defects that comprise tetralogy of Fallot. At age 11, she underwent an ablation to treat dangerous heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, followed by another open-heart surgery at age 12 to replace her right pulmonary valve with a pig valve.

Unfortunately, replacement valves don’t last a lifetime and by 2014, when Ackley was 28, her implanted valve was only functioning at 20 percent. This time, however, open-heart surgery wasn’t needed. Over the 16 years since her previous valve replacement, research and technological innovation had produced a less invasive method – the Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve – which is inserted into a catheter guided intravenously to the heart.

“For me, this was a prayer answered,” said Ackley. “I knew I didn’t want to have openheart surgery again, and I always prayed that technology would advance somehow so that my valve could be replaced another way.”

Now, nine years later, she said she is feeling great and doing things she hadn’t done in years.

“I have even had a child – something I thought I’d never be able to do because of my heart condition,” she said. “I am thankful for this heart journey because it has allowed me to become a stronger person and has given me the opportunity to help others who are facing the same thing. I am proud to be a heart warrior.”

Charity Smith Allen

For as long as Charity Smith Allen can remember, her heart has hurt. In childhood, doctors dismissed it as heartburn.

Year after year, she experienced rapid heartbeat, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain, even with minimal exertion. She was not allowed to participate in physical activities in school for fear it would cause her pain.

One day while working as assistant commissioner at the Arkansas Department of Education, her heart pain became unbearable. She drove herself to the hospital, but by the time she got there, she was unable to get out of her car without help. (The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 in a medical emergency to receive immediate treatment.)

Smith Allen learned that she was born with a dysfunctional heart valve, which explained the pain she had experienced her whole life. Two more surgeries and 59 days later, she was finally able to go home.

“Today, I am thankful and excited to be a 25-year heart survivor and a proactive supporter for women who wish to get and remain heart healthy,” she said. With her renewed health post-surgery, she has dedicated her life to improving academic achievement in Arkansas as a teacher, principal, consultant, executive educator and college dean.

The American Heart Association is working to better support survivors of congenital heart defects, or CHDs, through increased awareness of their specific health challenges, access to specialty care and recognition of the unique physiological and psychological impacts of their condition.


Lana Roach

Lana Roach suffered the first of two strokes in September 2018. She remembers her husband waking her for work and when she tried to speak, “only gibberish came out.” He asked her a series of questions and when she couldn’t answer, he drove her to the hospital. (The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 in a medical emergency to receive immediate treatment.)

Roach learned she had suffered a stroke in her sleep. After more tests and weeks of physical therapy, she was able to return to work in 2019.

Her second stroke was in September 2022.

“I had been feeling strange for a few weeks and could not figure out what was wrong,” she said. “I had gone to the doctor a few times in August, but nothing had shown up on the tests.”

Shortly after that, she blacked out while at the movies with her mother. Roach remembered having a bad headache that lasted overnight and into the next day. After another trip to the hospital, she was told she had had another stroke, this one more debilitating.

“I lost feeling in my right side for 10 hours,” said Roach, who is still in recovery. “My vision has been my biggest struggle as I lost vision on the right side of both my eyes.”

Every day brings a new set of physical challenges. Roach now walks with a cane and a rollator, but she is grateful to be alive.

“My friends, church and, most of all, my family have been my saving grace,” she said.

One in four stroke survivors will have another. The American Heart Association conducts multiple educational campaigns throughout the year to educate the public about the risks for stroke and how to prevent stroke. Up to 80 percent of strokes may be prevented with a combination of medication and healthy habits, such as a healthy diet and physical activity.

Donna Eastham

Donna Eastham of Benton had been dealing with a sinus infection in late 2022 and thought that the discomfort in her jaw was an extension of the infection. She wouldn’t know until later that jaw pain is a common sign of a heart attack in women.

She and her daughter had been texting from separate rooms at home when the daughter heard a gurgling sound coming from Donna’s bedroom. Her daughter found her in bed, unconscious and not breathing. Donna’s face and tongue were swollen. The daughter pressed her fingers into Donna’s mouth to clear her airway while Donna’s son called 911.

“The 911 operator instructed them to get me off the bed and start chest compressions,” recalls Donna. “After a hard landing on the floor from an overzealous, but effective tug, my son took over managing my airway while my daughter started chest compressions.”

EMTs arrived and shocked Donna’s heart twice to get her heart started; they would have to shock her nine more times before they could stabilize her enough to take her by ambulance to the hospital.

A thin catheter tube was inserted into Donna’s heart through an artery in her wrist, and the doctor found Donna’s circumflex artery was completely blocked. Her left anterior descending (LAD) artery was about 60 percent blocked. She was given a stent to permanently open the circumflex artery, and she received a second stent to fix the LAD artery a few days later.

Doctors will continue to monitor Donna’s progress with regular checkups, but just four months later, she said she feels like she’s fully recovered.

“I’m back at work and planning my future,” she said.

The American Heart Association conducts educational campaigns to better inform the public about the differences in heart attack symptoms in men and women. As with men, womens’ most common heart attack symptom is chest pain (angina) or discomfort. But women may experience other symptoms that are typically less associated with heart attack, such as shortness of breath, nausea/ vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Brenda McKeever

Despite having had two strokes, Brenda McKeever lives a fulfilling life, to which she credits a positive disposition, careful planning of activities and the help of a caregiver.

Her first stroke came several years ago, while she was home alone.

“When it happened, I did not know what was wrong … I just felt strange,” she said. She walked across the street to a neighbor’s house, and the neighbor rushed her to the hospital. (The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 in a medical emergency to receive immediate treatment.)

At the hospital, Brenda realized she couldn’t talk. She would later learn that speech difficulty is the “S” in the F.A.S.T. warning signs of a stroke. Others include “F” for face drooping, “A” for arm weakness and “T“ for time to call 911.

She eventually recovered, though a second stroke impaired her ability to walk. She now uses a cane.

“I keep myself going by starting my day with my routines and making sure I have everything that I need handy,” she says. “I am able to remain living at home with the help of a caregiver and by carefully planning my activities.”

Brenda reads to keep her mind active. She also enjoys regular outings with family and friends.

“I want people to know that while having a stroke can be scary,” she said. “However, it is possible to remain active and to continue doing the things you like despite the challenges.”

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Our doctors listen




Natural State, but ours is a rural state, which places Arkansans at risk.

Heather Baker

once again on being honored in the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red group this year.

Every month is “heart month” for AY Publisher Heather Baker. As someone with a family history of heart disease and her own personal struggles, it’s a topic that will always be near and dear to “her heart.”

Empathetic Care is Available. We offer compassionate care to people of all ages.
Suicide rates are higher in rural America than in urban America, and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. This trend is alarming, but we are here to help. Our physicians help adults with mental health or substance use disorders and adolescents and children with behavioral health issues. Also, our services are available at any time. 1-800-245-0011 TheBridgeWay.com
Quality Care Rooted in Arkansas
Physicians are on the medical staff of The BridgeWay, but, with limited exceptions, are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of The BridgeWay. The facility shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians.

UAMS Health.

Top 5% in the Nation.

Each year, Healthgrades, a leading resource connecting doctors and patients, identifies the top-performing hospitals for specialty care. In addition to being recognized for a second year in a row as a Cranial Neurosurgery Excellence Award™ recipient for 2023, UAMS Health was also recognized as one of the Top 5% in the Nation for Cranial Neurosurgery by Healthgrades. This achievement reflects UAMS’s commitment to exceptional healthcare and distinguishes UAMS as one of the nation’s leading hospitals for brain surgery.

We’re Arkansas’ first neurosurgery center to:

 Treat brain tumors with a tumor killing virus plus immunotherapy

 Use robotic assisted surgery

 Navigate the brain with amazing clarity via a computerized navigation system

 Find the best path for accessing and removing a tumor safely utilizing surgical planning software

 Precisely target tumors using high-dose radiation treatments

Don’t trust your brain surgery to just anyone. Our team of brain tumor experts, neurosurgeons, and radiation oncologists are utilizing the latest, innovative technology to create personalized treatment plans. Learn more at uams.health/BrainExperts

For appointments, call (501) 686-5270.

An award-winning, innovative approach to brain surgery.

Circle of Red

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s (AHA) signature initiative. It’s a platform focused on women and designed to increase awareness of women’s heart health while encouraging change to improve women’s lives. Taking on this challenge requires a village, which is why Central Arkansas’ Circle of Red is vital to the mission.

The Circle of Red is a diverse group of individuals who have joined the Go Red for Women movement and work together to drive and influence change to improve the lives and heart health of women in their communities.

Here are this year’s Circle of Red members:

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Dana Dussing Barry Philanthropist and PR Lead Stone Ward Heather Baker President & Publisher AY Media Group Arnessa Bennett Director of Special Projects City of North Little Rock Mayor’s Office Photos By JASON BURT
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Kim Lee Financial Inclusion Officer Hope Credit Union Jean McSweeney, RN Professor and Associate Dean of Research UAMS Jacey Guthrie Owner Gipson Guthrie Dermatology Lisa Gaddy Dr. Anthony M. Fletcher, FAHA Cardiologist CHI St. Vincent Clinic Dr. Paula Fletcher Health Director Shorter College The Hon. Tjuana Byrd Pulaski County Circuit Judge
Over 60 million women (44%) in the United States are living with some form of heart disease
Nikki Smith Executive Director American Heart Association-Central Arkansas Cassandra Steele Director of Special Programs Little Rock Special School District Marla Sams Carmen Parks Development Director - Go Red for Women American Heart Association Gina Pharis Circle of Red Chairperson Sharmin Moody Chief Operating Officer Moodswings Group Pam Mobley President and CEO The RSI Group
Nearly half of all adults with high blood pressure are women. In fact, women that are just 20 pounds or more overweight, have a family history of HBP or have reached menopause are known to increase a woman’s risk.

NOT PICTURED: Katrina Banks; Debi Barnes; Trish Birch; Char Boulch; Lori Conley; Dr. Thomas Conley; Dr. Brian Eble; Rick Fleetwood; Sharon Heflin; Sharon Kemp; Karla Montgomery, APRN; Olivia Ramsey and Barry Simon.

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Kasey Summerville VP of Marketing, Communications and Community Engagement Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau Danielle Walker Attorney Law Office of Danyelle Walker
A R K A N S A S B L U E C R O S S B L U E S H I E L D L E G A C Y T E R M I T E A N D P E S T C O N T R O L CENTRALARGORED.HEART.ORG M A Y 1 0 , 2 0 2 3 | B E N T O N E V E N T C E N T E R Presenting sponsor Match sponsor Silver sponsors Media sponsors Go Red for Women® is nationally sponsored by © 2 0 2 3 A m e r i c a n H e a r t A s s o c i a t i o n I n c a 5 0 1 ( c ) ( 3 ) n o t - f o r - p r o f i t A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d G o R e d f o r W o m e n i s a r e g i s t e r e d t r a d e m a r k o f t h e A H A T h e R e d D r e s s D e s i g n i s a t r a d e m a r k o f t h e U S D H H S U n a u t h o r i z e d u s e p r o h i b i t e d CENTRAL ARKANSAS GO RED FOR WOMEN® HEALTH EXPO & LUNCHEON F O R S O M E O N E Y O U L O V E
Sarah Thomas Community Relations Specialist Healthy Connections
M D , F A H A
Co-Chairs Paula Fletcher and Anthony Fletcher,
162 Voted Best Assisted Living and Best Retirement Community • Independent Living • Residential Care • Short term Rehab • Skilled Nursing Care • The Vista • Southern style meals • Daily social activities • Beautiful outdoor courtyards • Transportation 501.225.1615 www.presbyvillage.org $5.00 U.S. ARKANSAS’ LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE MARCH 2023 AYMAG.COM PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDING CYCLING NW ARKANSAS ARKANSAS STATE PARKS INVADES LITTLE ROCK PHENOMENON EXPLODES CELEBRATES 100 YEARS Cache The Art of Dining SUBSCRIBE TO AY ABOUT YOU MAGAZINE 12 ISSUES ONLY $24 A YEAR! AYMAG.COM Click the “more” tab and then the “subscribe” tab. aymag.com

Lakewood Health and Rehab offers skilled professional care in a supportive and compassionate atmosphere.

Lakewood Health and Rehab offers skilled professional care in a supportive and compassionate atmosphere.

We invite you to experience the difference our facility has to offer from the moment you walk through our door.

We invite you to experience the difference our facility has to offer from the moment you walk through our door.

Call us to today to schedule your tour!


Call us to today to schedule your tour!


Lakewood Health and Rehab, LLC.

Lakewood Health & Rehab

Lakewood Health and Rehab, LLC. offers an inhouse team of professionals providing specialty services to better serve the specific needs of our residents.

2323 McCain Blvd, North Little Rock • 501.791.2323

Rehabilitative Services providing Physical, Speech and Occupational Therapy.

Our team is passionate about bringing the latest programs and techniques to our patients. They utilize therapy modalities combined with a comprehensive therapy program for strengthening, balance training, pain reduction, wound healing, and increasing range of motion.

Lakewood Health & Rehab

• IV Therapy • Wound Care provided by our Wound Care specialists

2323 McCain Blvd, North Little Rock • 501.791.2323


Lakewood Health and Rehab offers skilled professional care in a supportive and compassionate atmosphere.

• State of the art Rehabilitation Gym

• Physician Services 24/7 by Specialized Staff

• 24-hour Nursing Services

• Wonderful Activity Program

We invite you to experience the difference our facility has to offer from the moment you walk through our door.

• Beauty Salon Services

• Daily Housekeeping and Laundry Services

Call us to today to schedule your tour!

Lakewood Health & Rehab

Lakewood Health & Rehab 2323 McCain Blvd. North Little Rock 501.791.2323


WE SEE YOUR At Baptist Health, we see you.

Baptist Health has served more women than any other health care provider in the state. From preconception to pregnancy to life with a baby, we support women through each stage of their journey. We understand their needs as they navigate caring for themselves and their family. We see them. We know them. We celebrate them. And we’re honored to provide the trusted health care they deserve.

Whether women go through pregnancy without any difficulty or experience complications, Baptist Health is equipped to care for both them and their child through advanced services, including maternal-fetal medicine for high-risk pregnancies and one of the state’s leading neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock.

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock is one of four hospitals within the health care system to participate in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Through the initiative, new mothers receive the information, confidence and skills necessary to successfully breastfeed their babies.

When You’re Considering Pregnancy

Baptist Health offers women the resources they need to prepare to conceive and carry their baby. If women are considering trying to conceive and would like to discuss pregnancy with an expert, they can request a preconception check-up with one of our OB/GYNs.

When You’re Preparing for Your Baby

From the moment a woman finds out she is expecting until the day she gives birth, Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock provides the right tools to help support her along the way.

Classes & Resources

Baptist Health offers monthly classes focused on topics such as pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. We also offer sibling classes for future big brothers and sisters.

A variety of online resources are also available for expectant and new parents alike. Through educational guides, birthing and parenting classes and maternity literature available through our BHealthy Blog, patients at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock are able to fully prepare themselves for the arrival of their new family member.

Information about available classes is listed at BaptistHealthClasses.com.

Pregnancy Wellness Center

Baptist Health Pregnancy Wellness Center-Little Rock provides free health education, screenings, resources and referrals to expectant and new mothers until the child is 18 months of age. The center is staffed by a registered nurse.

Baptist Health Pregnancy Wellness Center-Little Rock, at 10117 Kanis Road, is open by appointment MondaysWednesdays from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m.6 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Virtual Hospital Tours

Baptist Health offers virtual tours of the labor and delivery unit at our medical centers, including in Little Rock. Tours at Baptist-Health.com/VirtualTours allow expectant parents to become more familiar and comfortable with the labor/delivery/recovery (LDR) rooms, while also giving them an opportunity to map out where to park and checkin when they arrive at the hospital.


In order to better serve our expectant mothers, Baptist Health asks that they pre-register for labor and delivery at one of our medical centers several weeks prior to their due date.

Pre-registering will speed up hospital admission by collecting medical history and insurance information in advance. It will also save time and minimize the paperwork on the day of delivery.

When You’re Delivering Your Baby

Baptist Health is fully committed to helping expectant parents safely and comfortably welcome their newborns into the world.

Maternity Suites

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock is proud to offer maternity suites for families looking for additional space, privacy and amenities. Designed to mimic the comforts of home, maternity suites are equipped with a range of features such as private bathrooms, rocking chairs, sleeping sofas and ample seating for visitors.

Based on availability, expectant parents can reserve a suite through a donation to the Baptist Health Foundation.

Halo Sleep Sacks

Baptist Health has taken a strong step toward helping reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) with the use of Halo Sleep Sacks and safe sleep education for all parents. Sleep sacks, which are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are wearable blankets with built-in safety measures to prevent suffocation.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Babies in need of intensive care may spend weeks, or even months, in the NICU in Little Rock before going home.

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock, along with our Fort Smith hospital, offers Angel Eye Camera Systems for parents and families who cannot be with their baby in the NICU. This innovative technology enables loved ones to log into a secure account and check in on their newborn from any location at any time of the day. In addition, the Angel Eye enables parents to watch physicians as they visit their baby during rounds.

Baptist Health’s Neonatal Transport Team is available 24/7 to travel by ground transportation or MedFlight helicopter to any hospital in Arkansas in order to bring a baby to the Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock NICU.

When You’re With Your Newborn

New mothers have unlimited responsibilities. Our goal at Baptist Health is to alleviate the pressure when unexpected issues arise.

Newborn Care

Newborn care classes at Baptist Health address needs such as safe methods of diapering, holding, bathing, taking temperature, suctioning nose and mouth and feeding a newborn. Additionally, the class covers infant cues and characteristics, signs of illness and methods of enhancing an infant’s development.

To sign up for a class or to learn more, visit BaptistHealthClasses.com

Breastfeeding Support

When women come in for their postpartum checkups, one of the most common topics of discussion involves breastfeeding. In many cases, a woman’s physician will recommend contacting a lactation consultant for breastfeeding-related issues. Baptist Health’s Expressly for You is a resource for new mothers in Little Rock.

Staffed by registered nurse lactation consultants, Expressly For You is Arkansas’ breastfeeding resource center. Specialties and services include lactation consultation, breast pumps, nursing bras and breastfeeding products.

When it’s time for expectant mothers to bring a baby into the world, they can find out why more women choose Baptist Health compared to any other health care system by visiting BaptistHealthWomen.com.

For any questions about our pregnancy and childbirth resources, how to pre-register for labor and delivery or help requesting an appointment with a provider, please call Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-BAPTIST

BaptistHealth Women .com

Colonel Glenn Health & Rehab is central

13700 David O Dodd Rd, Little Rock, AR 72210 501.907.8200 • colonelglennhr.com LONG-TERM CARE REHABILITATION RESPITE CARE
premier-skilled nursing and long-term care facility. Our skilled team is focused on serving
and your family with excellence.

Briar wood Nursing and Rehab is a 120-bed skilled facility located in an urban setting within the heart of Little Rock, in the neighborhood of Briarwood. We are located just minutes from downtown Little Rock and are only one block off interstate 630.

We provide long-term care and short-term rehab care. All residents are monitored throughout the day with assistance in providing daily care as is needed: bathing, dressing, feeding and providing medications. Briarwood staff also work at ensuring the best care for residents through individual care plans of residents' needs, as well as daily activities, which allow for a variety of interests and abilities.

Nearly all - 98 percent - of our rehab residents return to the community as a result of positive, caring therapists. Briarwood's approach has provided healing to many people in the community.

At Briarwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, we are committed to ensuring that the best possible care is given to you or your loved one in an atmosphere that is calm, quiet and focused on healing. We endeavor to ensure that all aspects of your well-being — mental, physical and spiritual — are cared for in a peaceful and safe environment. Our staff strive to promote dignity, respect, and independence as much as possible, in a beautiful, soothing enviornment that was designed with our residents' comfort in mind.

Briarwood's service-rich environment is made possible by its dedicated staff, from our nursing staff and therapists, to our operations and administrative employees. At Briarwood, our residents enjoy three generations of staff and families. That is over 30 years of service to the community! 501.224.9000 • 516 S. Rodney Parham Rd., Little Rock

• briarwoodnursingandrehab.com NURSING & REHABILITATION LIVING PROFILE

“Stalking the Great Killer” Chronicles Arkansas’ Fight Against Tuberculosis

Six stories high and with 500 hospital beds, the massive Nyberg Building, named after Arkansas Representative Leo E. Nyberg, opened in 1940 and served as the point of admission for tens of thousands of tuberculosis patients at Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium south of Booneville.

(Courtesy of Booneville Historical Preservation Society)

In late 2019 – just months before a global pandemic would turn the world on its head – two men began work on a book about a disease far more insidious than COVID and far more deadly than any true crime tale. The result, published this April from the University of Oklahoma Press, is “Stalking the Great Killer: Arkansas’s Long War on Tuberculosis.” Co-authored by historian Larry Floyd and renowned public health figure Joe Bates, MD, MS, the book traces the history of the world’s deadliest infectious disease through an Arkansan lens, from the establishment of the state sanatorium outside Booneville in 1909 to the pioneering work of Bates and his colleagues to revolutionize TB treatment in the 1960s and 70s.

“People don’t realize how bad tuberculosis was. It kind of reached a peak after the industrial revolution, as people started working and living more closely together,” Floyd said. “Arkansas and many southern states, back in the 19th and early 20th century, were hit very hard. It was as bad as COVID was, year after year, for over 100 years.”

Though the disease dates all the way back to the Stone Age, developed countries have only been able to effectively treat tuberculosis in recent generations. For a long time, tuberculosis was the most common cause of death in Arkansas, and it remained a leading cause of death well into the 1950s. Before the development of effective drug therapies, the only real option was to isolate the infected by sending them to the sanatorium, where the fresh mountain air was thought to be beneficial. The Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium, once the largest in the nation, only officially closed in 1973.

“Stalking the Great Killer” creates a nuanced and compelling telling of this history by weaving together all of the interests at stake, from the social and political to the medical and personal. The book opens in 1949, with a then-teenaged Bates driving his favorite uncle – not much older than Bates, Advertorial

Larry Floyd Joe Bates

and more like a brother – to the Booneville sanatorium.

“He lived in a little town called Waldo in southwest Arkansas. I drove down there from Little Rock and met him,” Bates said. “He was married and had three young boys, all less than ten. I remember vividly them waving goodbye.”

This experience piqued Bates’ interest in the disease, and as he was coming through college and then medical school in the 1950s, new drug treatments for tuberculosis were being developed. Bates studied tuberculosis and other infectious diseases in graduate school before beginning his research and clinical career, first at the VA Hospital and then at UAMS, where he still works today as a professor of epidemiology and associate dean in the College of Public Health.

In the 1960s, Bates and colleague Paul Reagan began working together to take on the disease. Having seen studies in other countries suggesting the use of drug therapy to reduce infectiousness, Reagan and Bates proposed an experiment of their own: they would treat tuberculosis patients for just two or three weeks at Pine Bluff’s Jefferson Hospital before sending them back home.

“At the time, I was beginning to achieve national recognition for my research in tuberculosis. I became president of the American Thoracic Society; I was the president of the American Lung Association and got all kinds of awards for my work in tuberculosis,” Bates said. “Even as a young man, I had some national status as a legitimate tuberculosis investigator when we were trying to do this.”

Despite the treatment’s potential to be lifesaving for families and communities, vested political and economic interest in keeping the sanatorium open posed obstacles.

“Paul contrasted me; he liked confrontation. He didn’t mind that the legislature was upset and he had to go before legislative committees,” Bates said. “The medical society officials had their meetings, asked him hard questions and didn’t agree with what we were proposing. But both of us had confidence in what we were doing, that it was a good thing to do.”

The pair successfully proved that tuberculosis sufferers could be treated in general hospitals, often in their own communities, rather than being torn from their families and livelihoods for months or years on end at the sanatorium. This was a radical development in the treatment of TB, and Bates and Reagan gained international attention for their findings.

“We presented our report to the American Thoracic Society, which is the leading chest disease organization in the world, and it was chosen as the best paper at this very big meeting,” Bates said. “We were asked to present it in England. Others tried it, and over a two or three year period, most of the sanatoria in the United States closed. People were treated for tuberculosis at selected general hospitals throughout their state.”

This groundbreaking course of treatment propelled Arkansas to the forefront of the fight against tuberculosis; even today, the state’s case rate remains below the national average.

“There were a number of medical authorities at the Centers for Disease Control that were looking at and actively praising Arkansas,” Floyd said. “Many of them visited the state to talk about the pilot program and the success that Arkansas was having under Dr. Bates and

From left, medical researchers and treatment pioneers Paul Reagan, Joe Bates and William Stead reminisce a year or so after Stead’s retirement from the Arkansas Department of Health in 1998.

(Courtesy of Dr. Joseph H. Bates)

his colleagues’ direction.”

Both Floyd and Bates pointed to the critical role of community involvement in this history; even in the decades before drug therapies, political, medical and community leaders were coming together to bolster Arkansas’ health infrastructure and educate the public. Throughout “Stalking the Great Killer,” Floyd and Bates highlight the other heroes of this fight, all of whom had a hand in helping the state – and the nation – come out on top against TB.

“I was persuaded to do this, in part, because if I didn’t tell this story, it would never be told. I was the one remaining person that had experience and memory and documentation of how we got it done,” Bates said. “Larry provided the professional historian flavor to it, and I provided the medical knowledge and experience.The two of us together, I think, made a pretty good team.”

Vitally, the book also serves as an important reminder for future generations as the work goes on to eradicate tuberculosis and other diseases worldwide.

“I think in medicine, like many other professions, there are certain traditions. It’s been done that way for a long time, and then some young squirt comes along and introduces a totally different approach,” Bates said. “It takes a long time for fundamental changes in medicine to be broadly adopted. It doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years. A vaccine – if it’s effective – is lifesaving. There’s work going on on HIV, on malaria, on TB. These are the three big killers in infectious diseases, where we need a vaccine. There’s progress, good progress, on all three.”

The Lancet, a prestigious international publication in circulation since 1823, recently reviewed “Stalking the Great Killer” in its respiratory medicine journal. In addition to commenting positively on the book’s “fascinating account” that is “neatly balanced between the local, regional and global,” reviewer Talha Burki remarked, “Bates and Floyd have an astute grasp on the contingency of history. The progress they describe is not presented as inevitable or even irreversible.”

Whether you’re interested in the history, the science or the deeply human moments, “Stalking the Great Killer” is a poignant recounting of a major chapter in the stories of Arkansas and the world.

Floyd and Bates will have their first book signing at the Logan County Public Library, where Floyd spent many hours digging through what he describes as “the finest repository of information about the sanatorium,” in May. There will be another signing at the UAMS Historical Research Center planned for a later date.

To purchase “Stalking the Great Killer” or for more information, visit the University of Oklahoma Press online at oupress.com.

aymag.com 169

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NURSING & REHABILITATION CENTER at GOOD SHEPHERD Chad Curtis, Administrator 3001 Aldersgate Road, Little Rock AR 72205 • Phone 501-217-9774 • Fax 501-217-9781 www.goodshepherdnr.com At Good Shepherd Nursing and Rehabilitation we are committed to providing the highest quality of patient care. Our qualified staff is here giving support for the tasks of day-to-day living, allowing for the enjoyment of more pleasant and carefree activities.

MURDER MYSTERY: The Valedictorian

The crowd had assembled – the students, families and friends of Watson Chapel High School’s graduating class of 1994. Outwardly, this Pine Bluff gathering might have seemed typical. It most certainly was not. She was gone – their valedictorian. Had been for several weeks now. Those who knew her were sure of one thing: She would never have disappeared willingly. No, not this girl.

Cleashindra Denise Hall’s life was one grounded firmly in family, faith and education. In the home Willie and Laurell Hall had made for Clea and her three brothers, expectations, goals and love resided. Already, Clea’s older brother was in the engineering program at the University of Arkansas. As the next child up, Clea would start the pre-med program at Tennessee State University in the fall. Someday she would become Dr. Hall, pediatrician.

Putting aside money for college, Clea worked after school and weekends for a nonprofit that wrote federal grants. On May 9, Laurell dropped her off at the house that served as the organization’s office. Although it was close to their home, Clea’s parents always drove her back and forth.

Around 8 p.m. Clea called, but not to ask her mom to come get her. Had anyone called for her? They had not. OK, Clea replied, she would call back when she finished with the rest of her work. That wasn’t unusual; sometimes she’d work until 10:30 p.m. or so.

Laurell closed her eyes, confident the phone would awaken her when Clea called again to come home. But when she woke up on her own, she was startled to see it was well past midnight. Immediately, she called Clea’s employer.

Around 8:30 p.m., he told her, Clea clocked out. Someone else had picked her up. This wasn’t like Clea, but Laurell thought that maybe her daughter was feeling more independent than she was ready for her to be. On the other hand, Clea had to know not calling was going to get her in trouble when she got home. Laurell couldn’t go back to sleep.

The Halls saw morning come, but not their daughter. Her purse and books were still waiting there for her, too. And when one of her brothers got to school, he called home. Clea wasn’t there either. Now the Halls

knew they had a big problem.

Within law enforcement, the first 48 hours in an investigation are considered crucial to a case being solved. Conversely, there was a 24hour wait time before a missing persons case could be filed on an adult. Clea had turned 18 just five weeks before.

Upon making the call, the Halls were assured Clea would probably meander on home in a couple of days, despite their firm assertation that Clea wasn’t that kind of a kid. At 5 p.m. Tuesday the paperwork was filed, but it was safe to say the investigation didn’t race out of the gate.

The Halls’ efforts, however, happened at warp speed – calling, searching, contacting the media. Clea’s height (5-foot-8), weight (120 pounds), black hair, brown eyes, a chipped front tooth and a surgical scar on the left knee, graced flyers, as did her attire that night – navy blue and white two-piece shorts set with polka dots on the shorts, stripes on the top, white socks, sneakers and a bow of the same color in her hair.

Meanwhile, her employer was now gone too, having left town that same day. The visuals weren’t good on this. Subsequently, he stated publicly that his trip was preplanned, adding it was also by plane. And he had not been, he clarified, alone with Clea that night. It would be two weeks before Pine Bluff officers interviewed him and did a search of the office, located in a house. While he cooperated with both, what he wouldn’t agree to was a complete search of the house or a polygraph.

“I don’t understand why police could not search the house immediately to make sure there was no sign of a struggle there,” a frustrated Laurell would tell the media. “Maybe they would have found her press-on nails or hair extensions there. Who knows?”

The employer’s wife corroborated her husband’s statements, including his assertion that Clea left without saying goodbye to any of them. It seemed odd behavior from someone with Clea’s good manners. Her employer said he only knew she had left because he heard the garage door close and saw her getting into a car. But no, he couldn’t describe the vehicle. Nor could he or anyone else provide information as to what the driver might have looked like or whether there were other passengers.

– By Sarah Russell – Cleashindra Denise Hall

But in an odd and seemingly contradictory twist, an employee, leaving at 8:30 p.m., claimed to have offered Clea a ride home. This person said that in response, Clea had said she was going to walk home. Clea had never done that before. Why would she tonight, especially knowing her mother was waiting for her to call? The public record does not indicate any independent witnesses coming forward to provide verification for either of these stories.

With no evidence found at Clea’s workplace, the investigation seemed to pivot to what the employer had suggested, that Clea got in a car. Who was she expecting a call from that night? She hadn’t mentioned a name to Laurell in that call. Did any of her friends know who that person might have been? Was it one of them? Was it possible that Clea was going out with someone or going somewhere she knew her parents might not approve of? Did she think that she could go out for a couple of hours, then call her mother, the latter being none the wiser?

There is no information available publicly as to how extensively the police talked to those around the missing teen. Her close circle would have told them that she didn’t have a steady boyfriend, although she did date. In fact, she had just that weekend attended her prom and a sorority dance. Media reported that a young man came in willingly for a police interview, allowed a search of his car and even consented to a polygraph.

Was this someone who came to police attention through conversations with people in Clea’s circle or did he become known to them in another way? It was Laurell’s impression that he failed the polygraph, while the media reported it as inconclusive. Polygraphs are used as a guide, if you will, for law enforcement. Lacking the credibility of forensics, the results are not admissible in a court of law.

Regardless, no charges were ever brought against this young man or anyone else. Police also have never publicly named any other suspects if indeed they existed. A long hard silence set in for the Halls.

In 2012, 16 years later, a search warrant was executed on her employer’s property. For the first time, the entire house, yard, and an adjacent home owned by the employer were searched. Several years after Clea’s disappearance, her employer had vacated the house from which she disappeared, though he retained ownership. It’s unclear if it was still uninhabited at the time of the search.

The search was prompted by two men coming forward who had done work on the property sometime in the 1990s. One said that an area of brick and concrete in the back yard was the source of a terrible odor. The other man said that inside a wall, he had seen blood on the insulation. Based on these accounts, officers, crime scene technicians, cadaver dogs and geo-thermal imaging equipment were all deployed to the scene.

Potential evidence was gathered that day, but this is where the case grew warts.

Although CSI was present, their vehicle was not, instead inexplicably parked down the street. Between the house and the vehicle were the media. As later explained by the lead detective on the case, it was because of the media presence that he took possession of the evidence, including some that was too big for an evidence bag, putting it into the trunk of his car.

But rather than transfer it to the CSI team at headquarters, it seems everyone just went straight home. Thus, the evidence sat in the back of the officer’s police vehicle overnight, a stunning breach of protocol. The evidence had now been compromised forensically and legally.

The Halls assumed the evidence had been promptly handed over to the Arkansas State Crime Lab; in fact, the police chief had personally assured them it was being processed by the lab. That was not true, a fact the Halls discovered more than a month later. Despite the fact that it is a legal requirement for such evidence to be transferred to the lab within 24 hours, it was still in the possession of the Pine Bluff Police Department.

Thus, a major gap in time occurred between the gathering of the evidence and the Arkansas State Crime Lab being able to process it. Officially, the final report was that no evidence was found from the articles submitted.

In the years since, the case has received exposure on national media, podcasts and videos. Statutes have changed, such as the implementation of Suzanne’s Law. This requires missing person cases for those 18 to 20 years old to be handled as they would for younger children, including the alleviation of a 24-hour wait period.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has also become active in such cases, putting their extensive resources to work for families, including the Halls.

As another May unfolds with it proms, graduations and other celebrations, the Halls continue to hold out hope and lean on faith. On May 9, just as they have year after year, the skies over Pine Bluff will fill with pink balloons heading upward in a gentle reminder that once there was a valedictorian who was likewise heading up in life. A young woman who would have become Dr. Hall, pediatrician.

If you have any information about Clea’s case, please call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tip line, 1-800-THE-LOST. There is no expiration date on doing the right thing.

aymag.com 173

When you walk into the Robinson Nursing & Rehabilitation Center you will feel a comfortable atmosphere different from any other facility you have visited. We feature tall ceilings and an open floor plan. We have a lovely dining room and a covered outdoor patio area.

When you walk into the Robinson Nursing & Rehabilitation Center you will feel a comfortable atmosphere different from any other facility you have visited. We feature tall ceilings and an open floor plan. We have a lovely dining room and a covered outdoor patio area.

We specialize in short-term rehabilitation and long-term care services. The short-term rehabilitation area has its own dining area and day room. From the moment you enter our facility, we want you to experience the difference our facility has to offer. From our light-filled day areas to our beautiful outdoor areas, we want you and your loved one to feel comfortable and safe when staying with us. You will also notice the pride we take in our facility by keeping our building sparkling clean from the inside out.

We specialize in short-term rehabilitation and long-term care services. The short-term rehabilitation area has its own dining area and day room. From the moment you enter our facility, we want you to experience the difference our facility has to offer. From our light-filled day areas to our beautiful outdoor areas, we want you and your loved one to feel comfortable and safe when staying with us. You will also notice the pride we take in our facility by keeping our building sparkling clean from the inside out.

Our team is dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable environment. Robinson Nursing and Rehab offers modern conveniences in a gracious setting. We provide daily planned activities led by certified activity directors, like social events and outings and pastoral services with spiritual care for all religions. We strongly encourage family participation in group activities, meals and celebrating family birthdays and special days.

Our team is dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable environment. Robinson Nursing and Rehab offers modern conveniences in a gracious setting. We provide daily planned activities led by Certified Activity Directors, like social events and outings and pastoral services with spiritual care for all religions. We strongly encourage family participation in group activities, meals and celebrating family birthdays and special days.

To help you plan your visits, we provide a monthly event calendar and a monthly meal planner. Robinson Nursing and Rehab does not have set visiting hours. We view this facility as the “home” of each resident.

To help you plan your visits, we provide a monthly event calendar and a monthly meal planner. Robinson Nursing and Rehab does not have set visiting hours. We view this facility as the “home” of each resident.

We try our best to communicate with patients and families to help alleviate the anxiety that accompanies this journey. Our team of nurses, therapists and support staff work closely together to develop a plan based on the individual needs of each person. We recognize that rehabilitation involves not only the patient, but the entire family.

We try our best to communicate with patients and families to help alleviate the anxiety that accompanies this journey. Our team of nurses, therapists and support staff work closely together to develop a plan based on the individual needs of each person. We recognize that rehabilitation involves not only the patient but the entire family. 501.753.9003 • 519 Donovan Briley Boulevard, NLR • www.robinsonnr.com

501.753.9003 • 519 Donovan Briley Boulevard, NLR • www.robinsonnr.com
Best 201 8 of


We specialize in Short-Term Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care services. From the moment you enter our facility, we want you to experience the difference our facility has to offer. From our light-filled common area to our beautiful outdoor patios, we want you and your loved one to feel comfortable and safe when staying with us.



My disdain for ticks is exceeded – but just barely – by my disgust for chiggers. The distinguishing difference between these abominable parasites is that invading ticks can at least be spotted and removed before they settle in for a human feast.

Ticks aren’t insects but are arachnids, or relatives of spiders. Contrary to popular rumor, ticks don’t jump, hop or fall out of trees onto unsuspecting victims. They’re found in woods, pastures and brushy areas – and can be active 12 months a year in Arkansas. In most cases, they inhabit a vertical environment, from the ground level up to 2 feet or so, where they lie in wait for host animals. They’re surprisingly versatile at identifying their prey, using body odors, animals’ breath, vibrations, sensing body heat and moisture – or even responding to a passing shadow. Ticks may spend hours or days in what’s called a “questing” position, where they keep their lower pairs of legs attached to grass or bushes and hold their first pair of legs outstretched, just waiting to latch onto a passing mammal.

When they’ve climbed aboard, ticks seek soft areas where the skin, is thinner (and you know where those are). Once the tick selects an appealng site, it burrows a mouth-like feeding tube into the skin where it will slowly suck blood for several days if left undiscovered. Its saliva includes an anesthetic agent, which makes detection difficult. Some of the particularly disgusting varieties have barbs in their feeding tubes, firmly anchoring them to their hosts.

Ticks carry several kinds of nasty maladies (ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Lyme disease, just to name three), but the actual transmission of diseases cannot occur until they’ve been attached for several hours. Prompt removal – using clean, fine-tipped tweezers – is highly recommended. Grab the little bastard as close to the skin as possible, and pull upward with steady pressure. Thoroughly wash the wound and your hands with soap and water, rubbing alcohol or an iodine scrub. Should a tick bite be followed by rashes, fever, numbness, nausea, flulike symptoms, breathing difficulty or paralysis, seek medical attention immediately.

Tips to avoid tick bites include:

• Steering clear of likely tick-infested areas, especially during the April-September period;

• Wearing light-colored clothing (making the stowaways easier

to spot);

• Tucking pant legs into boots;

• Using a bug spray with no more than 30% DEET;

• Performing a thorough tick check of your body using a mirror; and

• Taking a hot soapy bath or shower no later than two hours after possible exposure.

Should you be looking for an indicator for a bad tick season, keep an eye on the local acorn supply. Two years after a bumper crop, there’ll be a population boom in field mice – an ideal host for baby ticks. A mild winter also contributes to increased numbers of these irritating bloodsuckers.

Strangely enough, a “tick war” broke out in Arkansas in the early 1920s. In an effort to eliminate Texas fever (or babesiosis), the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a tickeradication program requiring farmers and ranchers to have their cattle dipped every other week. Many rural residents of the Ozarks balked at the program, some out of basic mountain cussedness, but most because of the hardships it imposed. It was difficult for them to round up their small herds of free-ranging cattle in the remote hollows and then drive them across rough terrain to the nearest dipping vat. Also, the nickel-a-head fee charged by the federal government to finance the program hit the subsistence farmers in the hard-scrabble hill country much harder than the wellheeled cattlemen with large-scale operations. In Izard County, upset but anonymous farmers destroyed several dipping vats in 1912 with dynamite. Shortly thereafter, the federal tick inspector narrowly escaped bodily harm when chased by 25 hooded nightriders.

A few years later, the dynamiting of dipping vats became a regular occurrence in the hills of western Independence County. Handbills with threats against the inspectors were posted on fence posts and tree trunks throughout the county. And then on the morning of March 20, 1922, USDA Inspector Charles Jeffery – who’d already received several threatening letters – was ambushed as he made the 1-mile walk from his home near Jamestown to the local dipping vat. Shot in the chest by an unknown assassin, he died an hour later, his lungs riddled with buckshot. Law enforcement authorities arrested six suspects within a day and searched for more. But with an uncooperative populace and no clear-cut evidence, the prosecution had no choice but to drop the case. To this day, the murder of Charles Jeffery in Arkansas’s tick war remains unsolved.

Joe David Rice, former tourism director of Arkansas Parks and Tourism, has written Arkansas Backstories, a delightful book of short stories from A through Z that introduces readers to the state's lesser-known aspects. Rice's goal is to help readers acknowledge that Arkansas is a unique and fascinating combination of land and people – one to be proud of and one certainly worth sharing.

Each month, AY will share one of the 165 distinctive essays. We hope these stories will give you a new appreciation for this geographically compact but delightfully complex place we call home. These Arkansas Backstories columns appear courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System. The essays have been collected and published by Butler Center Books in a two-volume set, both of which are now available to purchase at Amazon and the University of Arkansas Press.

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