Looking back at 2023

Eureka Springs historian June Westphal passed away last week at age 85. I’ll talk more about June and her accomplishments in a later post, but this week, I wanted to spotlight some truly remarkable accomplishments in 2023.

Congratulations to Melissa Carper, who represented the Ozarks at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in July, both solo and as part of folk supergroup Sad Daddy. She also made her Grand Ole Opry debut, toured England and Australia, and snagged a 2024 Ameripolitan Music Award nomination. She actually lives on the road, but we’ll still claim her as a Eurekan.

Congratulations to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for its biggest expansion ever. When Carole Baskin of Tiger King fame decided to close down her Big Cat Rescue, she chose Turpentine Creek as the new home for 34 tigers, leopards, and cougars. Turpentine Creek broke ground this year on a $3 million, 13-acre expansion to house them, and the first cats arrived in October.

Congratulations to Ida Meyer, who took office this January as the youngest city clerk in Arkansas. I’m willing to bet she’s also the only pink-haired, drag-loving Harley rider in the bunch as well.

Congratulations to Opera in the Ozarks, which will soon boast a 300-seat opera house as stunning as its productions, thanks to a whopping $34 million Walton Family Foundation grant announced in May. A “feeder team” for major opera companies across the globe, Opera in the Ozarks will now be a destination experience in itself.

Congratulations to Le Stick Nouveau for being named (again!) to the top ten date-night restaurants in the nation by TripAdvisor.

Congratulations to Melonlight Ballroom for bringing their popular supernatural drama “I Haunt You” to New York City. BroadwayWorld’s Arkansas reviewer earlier said the play “had us at the edge of our seats”.

Congratulations to The Farm for winning Venue of the Year at the 2023 Arkansas Country Music Awards – the first outdoor venue ever to take home the prize.

Congratulations to Opal Agafia for pulling off another successful Ozark Mountain Soul fest at The Farm, as well as a national tour that included opening for Billy Bob Thornton & Boxmasters in Missouri.

Congratulations to the newly formed Museum of Eureka Springs Art for opening its doors at the Community Center complex. So many incredibly talented artists and craftspeople have lived in Eureka Springs over more than a century, but the impact doesn’t sink in until you can see so many works side by side.

Congratulations to old friends with new food trucks! The former operator of Hillside Eats & Sweets now serves the best ice cream in town – not to mention Disney-famous Dole fruit whip – at Pineapple Paradise near Teigen Insurance. The many fans of Bombadil’s Cafe can rejoice that the shuttered farm-to-table restaurant has been reborn as a food trailer on 62 West. Chef Katherine Zeller’s loyal Cafe Amore following had to wait for Santa Claus – her Amore Express opened shortly before Christmas at 62 and Onyx Cave Road.

In the restaurants without wheels category, congratulations to The Quarter, which opened in Le Stick’s previous location under the New Orleans Hotel. And to Chef Dava Parr, who now performs her healthy-and-delicious magic at So Good next to Brews. And while Oscar’s will be sorely missed, congratulations to Harold’s Diner for opening in that location – they are quickly gathering a following for their breakfast and blue plate specials.

Congratulations to the Great Passion Play for paying off the mortgage and commissioning a Hungarian symphony orchestra to update the drama’s score in the coming years.

Congratulations to LaGrange’s Eclectic Boutique and Dr. Wellman’s Odd-ities for opening shop. Their interesting selection of goods solidifies Eureka’s steampunk Gothic reputation.

In a town with as much creativity as this one, this list could go on forever, but like 2023, it’s time for me to wrap up. May the New Year be another one we can be proud of.

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