Little Rock has more than its share of skeptics when a new project hits the table. Skeptics abounded in the days leading up to the River Market opening almost 10 years ago, and they didn’t disappear immediately either. I remember it well: The aginners pointed to the failed Main Street Mall project as proof that nothing even like it would fly in Little Rock. They said we weren’t big enough to support the market. Only the developers would get anything out of it. And on and on.
Even the skeptical must admit that, 10 years later, they were wrong. Not only has the River Market succeeded as a cultural and entertainment gathering place -– whether it be for the Farmer’s Market, for festivals like Cinco de Mayo, or for concerts –- it’s helped foster extensive growth around the neighborhood.
Jimmy Moses, who was among the developers and who heard the same skeptics, rattled off a list that might take up most of this column of the storefronts, restaurants, libraries and entertainment venues that weren’t in Little Rock and just across the Arkansas River when the River Market debuted July 1, 1996. You know them all pretty well now.
Beginning Thursday, June 8, the River Market will celebrate its 10 years with 10 weeks of activities. The first event is like a Big Downtown Thursday, with free live music and beverages for purchase. The final event, on Aug. 19, coinciding with former President Clinton’s 60th birthday, will be an event so special, officials aren’t willing to part with details just yet. But this Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Donna Massey and Blue Eyed Soul will perform during “The Big 10th Anniversary Kick-Off.” All proceeds from beverage sales benefit the Arthritis Foundation. Parking at the River Market Parking Deck will cost a dime. More information on the 10-week celebration can be found at www.rivermarket10.com.
All this coincides with a run of conventions with as many as 10,000 visitors in one week coming to town to see what Little Rock is all about. No doubt they’ll be impressed with the River Market district and the local crowds it attracts these days, and nights. We bet even the legion of skeptics are among those regular crowds now.