The American Taekwondo Association national convention opening ceremonies have gotten so large that they’re being moved this year to Alltel Arena on Friday, June 17.
An $11 ticket will admit anyone to the Olympics-style festivities, which will include Korean dancers and music, the grand entrance of all the competitors, and special exhibitions by 31 athletes who will be seeking “master” status that night. Also, Master G.K. Lee of Little Rock will go for his eighth-degree black belt at the opening night ceremony.
Representatives from ATA franchises around the country will begin arriving Monday, June 14, when the national convention kicks off with seminars and other events. There is a steady buildup of thousands of ATA members to Friday’s Tournament of Champions at the Statehouse Convention Center during the day and then the opening ceremonies. The all-out competition is at the convention center on Saturday (children) and Sunday (adults), June 18-19. The convention of the Little Rock-based ATA is annually the city’s largest, filling hotels and bringing up to 6,000 competitors from five continents, along with their families.
A few leftover observations from Riverfest, which wrapped up May 29.
One of the most surprising music performances was turned in by Fayetteville-based Oreo Blue, and not just that the group had to play during a big rainstorm. It didn’t sound like the Oreo Blue I remember from 15 years back, but rather a group that, like a fine wine, has aged wonderfully. Brian Crowne, when he wasn’t singing, was blowing a powerful tenor sax that reminded one of LeRoi Moore of the Dave Matthews Band. The group’s performance was tight.
Tim Jones, a local music agent who books Oreo Blue in this area, says, “They’ve toiled in obscurity for a long time, and they’ve tried to do a lot of different things and done them well –- the Jimi Hendrix project, original music CDs, private parties and weddings where they play cover tunes.”
Our roaming Riverfest sources told us of another surprising band: Bonerama, which rocked the Triple-S stage on Saturday. Make a note of Bonerama when that act is back in this area, along with Oreo Blue.
The scene I wish I could have witnessed was Richard Thompson’s British guitar technician dealing with the continued frustration of stage monitor sound for his boss, to the point that he went out to the sound board to get it straightened out. Apparently, some inexperienced sound techs were at the controls there. The tech was a gentleman about it, we’re told, while Richard just played like the true pro he is.
Nathan Christian, talk-radio host at KABZ-FM, 103.7, reports making lengthy eye contact with actress Kate Hudson, who is married to the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. With Renee Zellweger manning the tour bus while new hubby Kenny Chesney serenaded the crowd at Alltel Arena on May 12 and now with Hudson’s appearance, we haven’t seen this much Hollywood excitement around the rock stages since Winona Ryder stood stage-side at the amphitheater for Soul Asylum and then-boyfriend David Pirner in 1993.
Observers tell us Saturday’s turnout at both riverfront parks was as large as the festival has ever seen. “You could barely get one more person into the park in Little Rock,” executive director DeAnna Shannon said later. On the North Little Rock side, which has had music now for four years, no one could recall seeing such an ocean of people from the Main Street Bridge back to the Broadway Bridge.
The weekend negatives involved having to enter the North Little Rock park well down the street from the Main Street Bridge, as well as the North Little Rock bus shuttle picking up riders at 22nd Street and not stopping at the park entrance, but rather carrying festival-goers to the Little Rock side. That required folks who wanted to see shows at the North Little Rock stage to walk back over the Main Street Bridge (or wait in a very long line to ride the bridge shuttle). Festival-goers told us later that had they known that, they’d have parked closer to the North Little Rock park and forgone the shuttle. It seems like Riverfest could easily address that problem and let riders out at both entrances.
At 5:15 p.m. on Friday, no shuttle buses were in sight at War Memorial Stadium, so some festival goers went on to the site, where they found ample parking, and just in time to get to shelter when the storm hit.
But Sunday’s rainstorm that seemed to drench every other part of Little Rock apparently had a magical opening above the Riverfest site. Kelley Bass, Riverfest board member and the future board president starting in 2007, tells us that the mere mist and drizzle wasn’t enough to empty the park on Sunday night. It takes a lot to run off the fireworks fans, anyway.