Monday, August 8, 2016

Alpena, Arkansas

        A word of caution: you might lose yourself in a good conversation while traveling through Alpena, Arkansas. It may not be the biggest or most recognizable town in the Ozarks, but on our travels through Northern Arkansas, we discovered that it may be the friendliest.
        Last month, Ryan and I took the scenic route on our way to Eureka Springs. We ended up in Alpena during the Old Alpena Pass Crafts and Antiques Show. We pulled over immediately when we saw a long row of vendors selling soaps, jewelry, and homemade desserts. Across the street there were several stores that would turn out to have very friendly and talkative store owners. Everyone was very welcoming, and we could sense that this was a tight-knit community. The crafts show being hosted that weekend was part of a fundraiser to build a new community playground. Alpena is also part of Ozark Byways which is a regional revitalization project of the Rural Community Alliance. RCA is a non-profit organization that aims to help rural schools and communities "survive and thrive" in the Arkansas Ozarks. "The Winding Road" is the route that can be followed around northern Arkansas to get an off-the-beaten-path experience. 


        After looking through the vendor booths, we meandered across the street to an art gallery. Alpena Chainsaw Art is a shop full of chainsaw carvings, wall hangings, concrete statues, and handmade walking sticks. Ryan and I enjoyed seeing those statues of who we assumed was Momo, Missouri's own Bigfoot, posed in mid-stride near the road. Along with this local legend, there were several carvings of morel mushrooms, bears, and eagles. Kay Jackson is the chainsaw-wielding woodcarver who works outside next door to her shop. People strolling by can stop and watch her turn tree trunks and blocks of wood into detailed works of art. Alpena Chainsaw Art is one of several unique shops along Alpena's main drag. As we made our way down Main Street, we were greeted by store owners welcoming us to look around. 
        There are several events coming up this Fall in Alpena that would be worth checking out. September 23-24 is the Ozark Byways Buy-Days which is a region wide yard and sidewalk sale. Individuals and businesses that are part of the Ozark Byways are all welcome to participate. October 8 will be the Smokin' in the Pass BBQ Cookoff and November 24 is the Gallop for the Gravy 5K Run. Last year the proceeds went toward Rural Community Alliance and Children's Charity Ministry. 
         Learning about the local things going on in this small community solidified my belief that the Ozarks region is the perfect place to take a drive and get lost. Ryan and I find something new and interesting every time we do. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Slide the City

     Slide the City took over Springfield’s Park Central Square last weekend, hosting an all-day block party and waterslide for locals of all ages to enjoy. Local vendors and food trucks lined the streets while the center of the square was used for Ultimate Bubble Sports where participants entered giant inflatable bubbles and rolled around. The hill down Boonville Ave. off of the square was transformed into the main attraction, the block-long waterslide. This waterslide was what I thought my Slip N’ Slide was in my backyard before I outgrew it. I’m sure I’m not the only adult who felt like they were being taken back to their childhood.

       Ryan and I bought the Triple Slider package that included three rides down the slide, a mouth guard, and a Slide the City drawstring bag. Each slider was provided an inflatable tube, which made sliding fast and easy.  There were three lanes to choose from, the far left being the "Power Lane" or "Party Lane" where sliders could expect a speedier ride down. The middle and right lanes were intended for groups and kids.
      The slide was padded underneath, and the sides were inflated. The end of the slide was a pool of water about a foot deep, and it seemed like that’s where most of the colliding happened. After my first turn I crashed into one girl who had just stood up to leave. After my second run a girl plowed into my legs, and I fell flat on my back. Ryan and I witnessed several crashes, but all of them seemed to end in laughter, including my own.

      While Slide the City is a for-profit organization, a portion of the proceeds from the event was given to the Downtown Springfield Association and to the City of Springfield for Route 66 projects.
       Slide the City also aims to raise awareness about water conservation. The slide is designed to recirculate the water it uses throughout the day which can be 7,000-12,000 gallons, according to Slide the City’s website. After the event is over, the water can be recycled back into the community depending on what city officials advise. Some options include treatment plants, city parks, or reclamation centers.
       If you didn’t get the chance to ride the slide in Springfield, Slide the City is making one more stop in Missouri. The slide will be in Kansas City Saturday, August 6th! You can register on their website and also see the other locations where you can Slide the City in 2016.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fresh from Farm to Table

     When you walk down Main Street in Eureka Springs, Ark., your eyes may not know where to look first. Main Street has many unique and extraordinary places edged up to the road with colorful signs and buildings seemingly stacked on top of one another. There seems to be something for everyone in this historic town, and it's definitely one of the places that comes to mind when you think of the Ozarks. Nestled on the corner of North Main Street and Mill Hollow Road is a one-of-a-kind restaurant that's found a niche in offering farm-to-table dishes, bringing another great dining option to downtown Eureka Springs.

    Fresh opened its doors a few years ago with the goal of serving organic food, fresh from local farmers. They're vegan-friendly and believe eating healthy is part of living healthy. The staff is kind and welcoming and the atmosphere is relaxed and airy. Large windows line the side of the dining area, allowing natural light to stream in. The day we visited there was live music - one guy playing piano, guitar and singing - which added to the relaxed mood. Ryan and I both ordered a spinach and arugula salad tossed with cranberries, feta cheese, roasted pecans and an orange poppyseed vinaigrette. The combination was bright and refreshing; it was just the thing we needed after being out in the hot, humid Ozarks weather. Even though we only ordered salads on this visit, there are many other delicious items they offer that will have us coming back for more. Their lunch and dinner menus feature appetizers, soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and housemade pastas. The dinner menu also presents savory entrees, and there is a wine and beer menu available. The wine and beer are sourced locally as well.  

     In addition to the items on their menu, Fresh also offers breads, pastries, and gourmet cheeses. They also cater, so if you're aiming to serve organic and healthy options at your next event, give them a call. One thing you'll notice when you first walk in is all of the art and hand-crafted decor being sold at the front of the main entrance. As a local business, they support other local artists and vendors by letting them sell their works out of the front of the restaurant. This part of the restaurant is a shop called Deja Vu. You can shop local and eat local all in one unique venue.

 Fresh is located at 179 N. Main St. Eureka Springs, Arkansas