WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) – In September of 1964, the Beatles landed at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport for a few days of relaxation in Alton, Missouri. The trip was supposed to be quick and secret, but it didn't take long for residents to realize who had come to town.
"On September 18th, they played in Dallas, Texas. After they finished that up, they had a couple of days off. Obviously, it had been a long stressful tour. They needed a couple of days," said Brett Cooper, Vice President of College Relations at Williams Baptist University. "They intended to come in very secretly and leave very secretly, but word got out."
Cooper, a member of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce's Tourism Committee, said the Beatles was flown to Walnut Ridge by a man who owned a ranch in Alton. Two employees of a local dairy shop spotted members of the Beatles after the plane landed in Walnut Ridge.
"They got there to see John, Paul, Ringo and George get off the plane. Word got out after that. Obviously that the Beatles were around," said Cooper.
After their trip to Alton, the Beatles traveled back to Walnut Ridge to fly to New York City.
"Late Sunday morning, that would have been September 20th of 1964, they returned. By that time, it was no longer a secret," said Cooper.
"We see a tiny airplane. We hear it. It lands and all of a sudden, every young girl goes running out there towards the airplane. It turns out to be a local crop duster that had come in, who is swarmed by 100 girls running out there screaming," said Carrie Mae Snapp.
Snapp, who has lived in Walnut Ridge all her life, was 14-years old when the Beatles stopped in her town. She was just like all other American teenage girls in the 1960s, in love with the Beatles.
"The next morning, we started the great Beatles chase. If we had missed them, mother was still going to make sure I still had a great Beatles experience," said Snapp.
Snapp said she stole a pillow from the plane the Beatles landed in. She said her father was furious.
"We left with five pillows. It was terrible when I got home that night. Somebody told dad, you're daughter broke into the airplane and she took a pillow," said Snapp. "I had to give back the pillow, but he did let me keep the pillow case."
To remember the special event, "Beatles at the Ridge" was invented by the chamber of commerce.
"We want some attractions to where people will come downtown, park their vehicle, get out and see the attractions we develop and hopefully spend a little time, and spend some money," said Cooper.
The events kick off Saturday night at the Regions parking lot in Walnut Ridge with "A Hard Days Night" played on a projection screen at approximately 7:15.
On Sunday, authors of "Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles" will be present to sign their book. Also, starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, musical performances will begin in downtown Walnut Ridge. The events wrap up with a performance by the Liverpool Legends and the unveiling of a special sculpture. The events conclude at approximately 5:00 Sunday night.
"The sculpture is amazing. That's one of the neat aspects of this story. It has pulled everyone together in a way. We've been absolutely delighted by the way the community has rallied around this effort," said Cooper. "It's one of the most recognizable album covers in the history of music. This is an artist's representation of that album cover."
The sculpture, which is nearly complete, is an aluminum structure ten feet high and 20 feet wide. The sculpture weighs more than one ton and took 500+ hours to build.
"This is a life-sized sculpture of the Abbey Road album that the Beatles put out. It's a very iconic album, probably one of the most well known albums on the planet," said West. "When you see it, it's one of those things that's hard to describe. The detail makes it interesting, I thin,. There are some very minute details that would almost take a magnifying glass to see. Then there's things that you won't see until you're 40 feet away."
West said there are several song titles and items the average Beatles fan would recognize.
"You get the shadow of the silhouettes moving across it. You get the reflection of the sky. Whatever color the sky happens to be, if it's dark blue, light blue, you get that. Rain. It looks different when it's wet," said West. "There are about 30 to 40 song titles or references to albums that's in this thing. One of the ideas I had is that it looks good from a distance, but if you get up close, the details, people can say, hey, I know that song, and then maybe make a 5 to 10 minute game out of it. See how many albums you can find."
"We've reclaimed this part of our history. Those of us who live around here have always heard the Beatles landed at the airport, but until we started doing interviews with a number of people that were there that day. We didn't know a lot of those details. A lot of those have been lost to our local history," said Cooper.