Beatles festival not dampened by rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burris is now director of the Lawrence County Library, whichpainted members of The Beatles with library cards on the building's windows andshut 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 justdoing our part."

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

"Last year, we identified 22 different states that wererepresented 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 organizersplan to send to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr asking them if they'll attendthe 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 intotown," he said. "You can't win the lottery if you don't have a ticket. They'renot going to come if we don't ask them."

A few musical acts will entertain crowds Friday evening, butthe 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 gotentertainment for kids – bring the whole family. [It's] free admission, freeparking and we want you in Walnut Ridge."

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

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