NWA is and is not a lot of things. We are a community that likes to celebrate things, we love welcoming company to our table and we love embracing different cultures. What we are NOT is a community lacking in opinions and very little polarizes us quite like the annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally each fall.
There is so much that can be said about BBBBQ. Some love it, some hate it and others just prefer to clear out until it’s over. But what you can’t do is ignore it. The rumble seems to start earlier every year as more people opt to get here early and spend the entire week with us. As the days roll on towards the official start date it’s hard to go a spare minute without the sound as a forced film score to your life. Traffic starts to get thick and parking downtown pushes further and further out as the streets get blocked for vendors. Just as some residents opt to pack up and leave town, many local businesses follow suit. I, for one, subconsciously associate the rumble with the beginning of fall.
While in recovery from our whirlwind Labor Day weekend we sat down to discuss our plans for our next outing. After a big to-do like what we put ourselves through last weekend we were very tempted to retreat into the woods for some quiet time. But as much as we brag about being world class campers, the clean up after the trip was daunting in my already exhausted state.
While going through our Pinterest boards, however, we noticed that Rogers was being neglected. There are numerous sources for re-pins for Fayetteville and Bentonville, we contributed original pined content to our Springdale and Siloam Springs boards but Rogers didn’t have much of either. So we set out to find the most Insta and Pin worthy places that we could find in the town of Rogers.
Where Reality Is Better Than Perception
I remember back in 2000 being in Jr. High and going to Rogers on the school bus for an away football game. It felt like we drove for hours through the pastoral country side. In reality it might have been 45 min but as a teen perception is reality.
A short 3 years later that same farmland had started it’s transformation into the Pinnacle Hills Promenade or one of the hundreds of other shiny, squeaky clean facades of the Rogers corporate take over. That’s what I’ve thought about Rogers for a long while, corporate. A place to be what you picture a grown up looking like when you were a teen…. In my mind, kind of lame. I was so wrong.
We found a unique and breathtaking park, local shops to fit anyone’s fancy, several breweries and one of the best meals I’ve (maybe ever) had.
Labor Day in Northwest Arkansas can conger up many images in one’s mind. The first thing that I think of is color, vibrant color. The second is sound; a dense cacophony of music, laughter and maybe even screams of delight. Third are the smells of food cooking, wet pavement, fresh air and the green smell of grass. These, to me, are the ingredients for the perfect Labor Day weekend.
You Don’t Have To Be Good At Everything… Just Something
Let’s face it, these days in your early 30’s it’s not uncommon to not have everything figured out. I, for one, still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I do think that it’s important to have one thing no matter how big or how small that you can say with some certainty that you have mastered. We have mastered the indispensable and uncanny knack for putting together a comprehensive, hiccup-free, last minute camping trip in the most underrated place in Northwest Arkansas.
Last weekend was the equivalent of going to the grocery store on an empty stomach. Everything looks good and if you’re not careful you’re going to try to put two of everything in your cart. Just when I was feeling completely overwhelmed I found myself checking the local river levels, a habit I developed years ago.
I was shocked to find both the Buffalo and the Mulberry at peak levels which is unheard of in July much less August. So in spite of all of the goings ons in our area our decision was made for us. This left us with two days to plan, shop and pack. Luckily this wasn’t our first rodeo.
Five days ago if you had asked me if I knew Siloam Springs I would have said something to the effect of “You mean the 5 miles of strip mall next to the Casino on the way to the Cherokee Turnpike?” and to be fair I wouldn’t be alone in this assessment. The view that most people get is along 412 which is flanked by strip malls, car lots and fast-food joints doesn’t leave the strongest impression. So when we discussed taking our next post to Siloam Springs my husband gave me the “ok, but I think you’re crazy” look. When we got there, however, we both had to scrape our jaws from the floor.
A Case for Inclusion… But Only if When They Want To Be Included
Siloam Springs is the 30-40 min. drive from most places in the greater NWA area down a long stretch of highway 412 with very little on it other than farms, grass and trees. Though pretty, I think this drive is why Siloam Springs is often left out of the NWA metro area and thought of as a stand alone town. A sentiment I’m not sure the locals disagree with because they seem to being holding fast onto an old world charm that most of the “metro” area has lost or is losing. But with the commute from South Fayetteville to Bentonville easily clocking 30-ish min. the distance isn’t really shouldn’t be an issue.
Most of us know at least one person that has purchased or inherited some amazing old house, decided that he (or she) could restore it back to it’s glory days, found out that it was going to be far more complicated than first expected and when life got in the way the house began to really crumble. This is the perfect analogy for so many Arkansas towns.
Springdale Arkansas felt like it might be headed in that direction for a long minute. The strongest illustration, perhaps, being the downtown area. The streets were in need of repairs, the buildings were quickly becoming dated and eventually empty and there was very little pull for any tourism at all.
But then, like little seeds being planted outsiders started to hear about things happening in downtown Springdale. Free outdoor movies, breweries opening, street events and open air markets. Then, all of the sudden, it’s like Brooklyn to New Yorker’s they said they’d never go there but now they feel like they HAVE to! Well, we went… and it was amazing.
In 1985 Fayetteville Arkansas had a population of around 37,000. Most roads west of I-540 were dirt (I-540 is now I-49). There were a couple of Walmarts that didn’t even have groceries back then and going Rogers or Bentonville was like going to the far side of the universe (not to mention there really wasn’t much of a reason to).
Northwest Arkansas is basically a greater metropolitan area that includes Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and the surrounding areas. People commute daily to and from for work, shopping, appointments and leisure. We are showing up on national lists as the best places to live, work and start a business.
With all of this moving and grooving going on I want to share my townie experience. It’s easy to get lost in the throng of all of the shiny new corporate facades (irony of photo not lost here), so I want to chronicle my day to day and then some. I want to share with anyone who would care to listen what it is that makes this place pretty great from the grass roots all the way up to some of the *shiny*.
There will be more to come so please like and share. Feel free to let me know what you’re NWA is too by dropping a line.