"Rooted on the Square"
It was a scorcher that summer day in August 1983. Mom & Dad & I were traveling from Fort Worth to Eureka Springs for our annual visit to the Ozarks. Or bi-annual, or tri-annual, or as many times a year as we could get away from the North Texas triple digit heat, concrete mix-masters, & sensory overload pollution. My mother’s side of the family has roots here. For the past 5 generations, our family reunion has been spent on the White River, providing the Sawyer Family with a sense of grounding. Clean water. Oxygen. Trees. Before heading east to the hills, we always spent a day or two in Fayetteville.
That hot afternoon, we checked into the Hilton on the Square, now The Chancellor Hotel, and I immediately headed straight to the pool. It was the week of my 14th birthday and I was mostly concerned about my tan. Although afflicted with full-blown teenage-itis, I looked forward to spending time in this hip college town with my parents.
We walked to Flying Possum Leather, a place we frequented each year. I would wait with an acceptable level of adolescent sullenness while they visited with Bruce and bought some Birks. I remember how it smelled - the shop dog, the leather, and a touch of incense. I knew if we were in Bruce’s store, we were on vacation. Daddy swore the beer tasted better in Arkansas, so a trip across Dickson to George’s Beer Garden was also a required stop on our Fayetteville excursions.
It was early evening, and the three of us headed back up the hill to have dinner on the square. I recall staring up at the posh high ceilings when we entered The Old Post Office. Waiters in traditional black and whites were scurrying around, tables were draped with white linen tablecloths, and a combo of soft rock and classic jazz played low in the background.
Mom and Dad ordered a bottle of wine and 3 glasses. Cheers– a tiny sip for me to toast my birthday! As the waiter placed a birthday cake in the middle of our table, the three of us laughed, and our faces glowed against tiny candle flickers in the dimly lit historic dining room.
This town continues to intrigue me with its magic sense of place. I’ve enjoyed a Mediterranean lunch made with love at Petra Café, salivated over my white bass dinner at Vetro 1925, and now consider myself a regular at Alchemy Macarons. I’ve experienced powerful art shows reflective of the current social discord at The Fayetteville Underground, Stage 18, and The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. I’ve enjoyed a children’s art show at the Fayetteville Public Library. Cold pints from brewer Casey Letellier at Tim’s Pizza, couture cocktails and the ultimate popcorn snack at Maxine’s, and glasses of Prosecco at Nines Alley have kept the transition of a new city and job in balance.
These moments are just a tiny slice of culture that makes Fayetteville one of the top 5 places in the nation to live, work, and play. Fayetteville’s tradition of having something fun for ALL ages - whether it’s art, food, education, music, sport, or the prevalent craft culture - is what makes this community special. It’s this creative spirit that captured my heart as a youth, and continues to inspire me as a professional. Thirty-four years later, I have just completed my 2nd month of employment with Experience Fayetteville, the city’s convention & visitors bureau located here on the square.
My first creative project is rooted on the square. On the first Thursday of the months in May-October, Experience Fayetteville produces First Thursday, a community-centered, family-friendly event on the historic downtown square. So, mark your calendars for 5 p.m. and come experience music, food, art, and fun. First Thursday will offer those ages 2-92 something to enjoy with their families. It’s also an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, make some new ones, and experience the summer season once again. I look forward to meeting YOU and being a member of the community that I fell in love with as a teen.