Small Arkansas town plans Beatles sculpture at airport
WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (AP) – For the Beatles in 1964, it was only a landing site for a 36-hour rest-and-recuperation stop between concerts in Dallas and New York.
For Walnut Ridge in 2010, it’s an opportunity to draw in tourists and their money.
The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in the town of 5,000 is planning to erect a sculpture at the municipal airport to mark the site where the Fab Four landed Sept. 19, 1964, as they sought some time to rest at a dude ranch in nearby Alton, Mo.
Walnut Ridge is on U.S. 67, designated by the Legislature as Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway 67 from Newport to the Missouri state line. The route traverses a region of northeast Arkansas where early rock stars like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley played in nightclubs and honky tonks in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Local boosters hope tourists will come to have their pictures taken with the representation of the Beatles.
“I think there will be people who will go to the Walnut Ridge Airport just to have the chance to walk across Abbey Road with the Beatles,” Harry Truman Moore told Jonesboro television station KAIT. The sculpture will use the iconic image from the Beatles’ album Abbey Road.
Moore, now a lawyer at nearby Paragould, told The Associated Press he grew up in Walnut Ridge and as a 17-year-old covered their brief visit in 1964 for the local weekly newspaper.
The sculpture will be only roughly three-dimensional, using silhouettes of the Beatles striding across Abbey Road, said Brett Cooper, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Committee.
Four life-sized, black steel cutouts will be displayed against an aluminum backdrop three feet behind the silhouettes to give a feeling of depth.
Cooper said the sculpture’s estimated cost is $7,000, most of it in materials since a local metal-working business, West Machine Co., is donating labor and design expenses.
West Machine owner Danny West said the silhouettes will be made from sheets of black steel, three-eighths of an inch thick to make them durable and weatherproof.
The chamber unveiled a replica of the planned sculpture on Thursday, with several people attending who remembered when the rock stars visited 46 years ago.
“I was less than three feet away from Paul McCartney,” Carrie Mae Snapp said.
Moore recalls the Beatles’ visit vividly. Only three people were at the airport before dawn on a Saturday when the group’s chartered Lockheed Electra, a four-engine turboprop, touched down at the airport. The airport, a former Air Force base, was the closest landing site to the dude ranch with a runway long enough to allow the big plane to land.
But when the Beatles were picked up again the following Sunday afternoon, a small crowd of locals gathered to catch a glimpse of the international stars, Moore said.
And a glimpse is all they got, he said, since it was a “fast operation” that saw two of the quartet fly in on a small airplane from the Alton area, while two others were driven from Alton to Walnut Ridge in a pickup truck.
Moore said the group then quickly transferred to a larger plane _ not the Electra _ that had flown in to pick them up for transport to New York.
“Paul did not want to fly in a small plane,” Moore recalled.
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