Beatles festival not dampened by rain - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Beatles festival not dampened by rain

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WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) – Not even the rain could dampen the fun that organizers have planned for the third annual Beatles at the Ridge festival in Walnut Ridge.

The festival kicked off Friday night despite the wet weather, and organizers were determined to have a good time whether or not the rain stopped.

"Everybody that comes to the Beatles at the Ridge or has in the past is used to the weather," Charles Snapp said. "This is about The Beatles and they're from Liverpool, so we put up with a little bit of weather."

Snapp serves as tourism director for Walnut Ridge, and says the rain just adds what he calls a feel of Liverpool.

"This is as close to Liverpool as you'll ever get in Arkansas this weekend," Snapp said.

 Crews braved the rainy weather to finish setting up the festival on Friday morning. The event honors the brief time that The Beatles spent in Walnut Ridge back in 1964. That year, the band caught a plane at the local airport – a moment that Ashley Burris said her mother never forgot.

"My mother was actually one of the original kids that went out there to the airport, so this is something that I have heard about my whole life," Burris said. "She was a teenager, and it was the 1960s so yeah it was standing on the fence and getting to see them pass by, which it wasn't much but it meant a lot at the time."

Burris is now director of the Lawrence County Library, which painted members of The Beatles with library cards on the building's windows and shut down an hour early Friday for the festival.

"We're playing Beatles music. We have a Beatles and rock ‘n' roll display of materials here in the library," Burris said, "so we're just doing our part."

Organizers expect attendance to break records this year. They hope the festival to attract somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people this weekend.

"Last year, we identified 22 different states that were represented here at the event, and that was in drizzling rain," Snapp said. "Plus, we had one foreign country here last year. We expect to top that this year."

Snapp hopes everyone will sign a petition, too, that organizers plan to send to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr asking them if they'll attend the event next year.

"2014 will be 50 years since they last visited Walnut Ridge, and we're trying to get the petition to them and see if we can get them into town," he said. "You can't win the lottery if you don't have a ticket. They're not going to come if we don't ask them."

A few musical acts will entertain crowds Friday evening, but the fun picks up again Saturday at 9 a.m. with a full schedule of events.

"It's going to be a fun day," Snapp said. "We've got entertainment for kids – bring the whole family. [It's] free admission, free parking and we want you in Walnut Ridge."

To view the schedule of events, visit the Beatles at the Ridge Web site here.

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