My recent trip to the Ozarks was just as unexpected as the experience itself. Believe it or not, making the trip out there has never been on my top ten for things to accomplish in life. In fact it was actually closer to number 856, right after unicycling the Darien Gap.
Unnecessary snark aside, Fayetteville is cool. Not "holy shit!" cool, more like "Hmmm, cool." Only a week in the Northwest of Arkansas, but enough time to decide I like it. The population was young, the drinks flowed heavy and the food was tasty. I expect little more from a small stop in a big country. Being the business trip that it was, there was no guidebook action. Just five 8 hour days, a hotel and many, many nice locals to guide me.
What and wher is Fayetteville? A magical place where everything comes back to Wal-Mart. Every person in town is guaranteed to indirectly or directly know someone who works for Wal-Mart. This is especially interesting because this is the most progressive part of the state. The part with college kids and ex-hippie professors who used to say "damn the man". Here however, there is nothing but love for Sam Walton, the man who gave this region enough wealth and swagger to put a place on the map. Even when that map is sold at Wal-Mart.
The local cuisine is BBQ and they do it just as well as anyone else. We found about a handful of BBQ-erie's in the city, with one that stood out from the rest. Sassy's Red House. Fantastic food and PBR for a dollar fifty. That's $1.50.
Beautiful and so deliciously down to earth. That, to me, is Fayetteville in a phrase.
More than just BBQ, you have places like Hugo's, which is an underground burger joint. Also delicious. This is the sort of place that makes someone get real drunk on black & tans, only to make his notes so indecipherable he is no longer sure why he loves the place so much. It is dark and lively and hard to find a seat if you go at the busy time.
How can you not love a place where an expensive beer goes for $3.00?
Things are inexpensive here in Arkansas and that is easy to love about this place.
Fayetteville is as dog friendly as it is people friendly. The owner of this Shar-pei was very friendly as well, explaining to me all of the places she takes her dog around town. If you ask nicely then expect that the Art galleries, bars and restaurants to let you bring your dog as long as it is well behaved.
Any city that is a friend of dogs, is also a friend of mine.
The music scene doesn't skip a beat either. They had live music going on almost every night of the week. Holding open mic nights as well as DJs playing songs for the happily drunk crowds. On this Thursday afternoon the Tiffany Christopher band played for a small beer garden and craft show at an event called "First Thursday".
All this happened during the week of the nationally known event called Wakarusa, which takes place just outside of town and takes many local bands as well as headliners from around the USA for a 3 day festival of jammed out awesomeness. Beautiful Fayetteville, why has it taken this long for us to meet?
Even when we embarked on what I would have once considered lame country music, only to end up staying for 3 long beers and the Jason Strode Band to finish his last set. He was just a good performer. Not the least bit pretentious as he downed shots of tequila on stage and performed cover songs and original music to an active audience of about 100 people.
Then came a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when I went back to the square to stroll around the farmers market only to find two very different groups of people both expressing their freedom of speech. The first in the photo on the left was a Pro-Palestine group, marching and chanting around the square. Looks like they got the attention of Farmer Joe and his gal.
And then, not 50 feet away, came the Pro-Israel group walking around a similar path comprised of families and friends, and even a grandpa spending a saturday morning with his granddaughter. A great way to bond indeed.
Now I don't want to ruin the surprise for both of these groups, but the last time I checked the decision makers in the middle east aren't looking to Arkansas USA for answers on which side to choose. As much as I appreciate their gusto for being outspoken on international issues, I can't say I agree that this is the most effective way to influence an issue predating the early 20th century.
But maybe I'm the one who doesn't get it. Maybe they know something I don't. Maybe they bought those white poster boards from Wal-Mart. Maybe I should get back to Dickson Street and make this right again.
It usually doesn't take long before I find my answers and it usually involves a drink. So I look to Boulevard, one of the more common draft brews around town, to provide my answers.
Fayetteville is a cultural place, much larger than it looks on the map, and while there is some red-neckery happening you can't seem to escape the friendliness of it all. From the people and their pets to the city square which invites family and friends down to spend the day together or protest differing viewpoints.
This all comes back to Wal-Mart somehow. The airport is was basically put up because of the traffic Wal-Mart drives through town. Even the reason I was in town was to work an event for the company. In the end, it all came back to Wal-Mart and while it surprised me to say, this doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would.
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