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Smart Talk, April 15

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Spare a dime?

The Department of Arkansas Heritage is arming schoolchildren with piggy banks shaped like houses and sending them forth to raise money to help pay for restoration of the 19th century First Ladies gowns at the Old State House Museum. The “Coins for Conservation” project, initiated with the 4th grade at eStem Elementary Public Charter school, is designed to promote a conservation ethic and encourage appreciation of Arkansas history. The program runs through May 31; DAH says it hopes to expand the project into other schools.

Another bite

Members of the state Senate like to consider themselves superior to members of the House of Representatives, but they're not above taking a step down when the alternative is leaving office. Three senators who are term-limited out of another Senate term are running for the House: Hank Wilkins of Pine Bluff, Denny Altes of Fort Smith and Tracy Steele of North Little Rock. Each started his legislative career in the House before moving on to the Senate, but each still has some House eligibility left — four years in the case of Wilkins and Altes, two years for Steele. This is a busier political year than usual for senators. Some are seeking re-election but a dozen or so are seeking other offices, including Wilkins, Altes and Steele. Three of the four U.S. House seats are open this year, and the one U.S. senator on the ballot, Blanche Lincoln, is perceived as vulnerable.


Keep it up

A mighty fortress is Michael Guyot's idea for 50 acres up in Lead Hill, and starting May 1 visitors will be welcome to watch as the Ozark Medieval Castle takes shape.

Guyot, an amateur archeologist from France, broke ground on the castle, on 50 acres off Highway 14 in Boone County last June, and is heading up a team using 13th-century tools to build the 13th-century-style structure. It's going to take 20 years to complete the castle, but that's the whole idea, general manager Julie Sonveau says — to watch the process.

“Not only do we have the foundation and the crew working on it, but we have everything that goes with it – we have the blacksmith making the tools and the basket-makers making the baskets, the rope-makers, the potters, the horse and cart that carries the stone from the quarry. There's lots of activity. We encourage people to come now, because if you wait until later, you're not going to be able to see the progress we make,” Sonveau says.

To breach the Ozark Medieval Fortress, you won't need a catapult, though there will be some on site. Adults will need $12, kids ages 6-16 $8.

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