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A Grand ol' Time

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In This Issue -

Hot Springs knows how to throw a party! Fes­ti­vals, tour­na­ments, St. Pa­trick Day pa­rades — we do them right. But the grand­daddy of all cel­e­bra­tions here may have been the one we gave our­selves in 1932.

The Cen­ten­nial Cel­e­bra­tion, from April 25 to May 1, 1932, marked the 100th an­niver­sary of the 1832 cre­ation of Hot Springs Na­tional Reser­va­tion — now Hot Springs Na­tional Park. Thou­sands of the town's 20,000 res­i­dents helped plan and ex­e­cute the week­long fes­tiv­i­ties.

Hot Springs Park Su­per­in­ten­dent Thomas Allen started the week off with an aerial tour of the park in an autogiro. A his­tor­i­cal mu­seum with hun­dreds of ar­ti­facts do­nated by lo­cal cit­i­zens was opened in the DeSoto Springs (now Moun­tain Val­ley Wa­ter) build­ing.

A por­trait of Gov. Au­gus­tus Gar­land was pre­sented to the court­house, and the Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion ded­i­cated a plaque on DeSoto Rock at Ar­ling­ton Lawn.

“Ev­ery­body take a bath” was the slo­gan of Bath Day, when ev­ery­one was en­cour­aged to visit the bath houses.

One of the high­lights of the week was a spec­tac­u­lar pageant full of mu­sic and dance at Rix Sta­dium. The city engi­neer built scenery that recre­ated the down­town val­ley and fea­tured hot wa­ter bub­bling over crys­tal rocks to a creek flow­ing be­tween the hills. Thou­sands of school chil­dren and res­i­dents pre­sented scenes of the Na­tive Amer­i­can, Span­ish, French, 1832, and “mod­ern” pe­ri­ods in our history. There were — to name a few fea­tures — bow and arrow dances, con­quis­ta­dors, mis­sion­ar­ies, cov­ered wag­ons, car­riages, flag drills, bathing beau­ties, danc­ing golfers, Un­cle Sam, and thou­sands of bal­loons in the grand fi­nale as the au­di­ence rose to sing “Amer­ica.” Much of this pageant, with some tweak­ing, was

By El­iz­a­beth Rob­bins, pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy of the Gar­land County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

Cham­ber of Com­merce “We Bathe the World” float, 1932.

per­formed on Ar­ling­ton Lawn in 1936 to celebrate the cen­ten­nial of Arkansas state­hood.

Another high­light was the Cen­ten­nial Pa­rade, which stretched for 2 miles. The first part of the pa­rade — in­clud­ing de­tach­ments from the Army and Navy Hos­pi­tal, Na­tional Guard units, and the 154th In­fantry Band — cel­e­brated the hos­pi­tal's long ten­ure here. The sec­ond part told the “story of Hot Springs.” Eight lo­cal and state bands — in­clud­ing a band dressed in bathrobes — were in­ter­spersed among the 29 elab­o­rate floats, the cov­ered wag­ons, the horses, and even some hound dogs.

Fri­day was “Pi­o­neer Day.” Ar­ling­ton Lawn was the scene of Vir­ginia reels, hog call­ing, fid­dling, May­pole danc­ing, spin­ning demon­stra­tions, and horse­shoe throw­ing. A din­ner at the Ar­ling­ton Ho­tel repli­cated a menu served at the Ar­ling­ton in 1875. Then guests en­joyed a Grand March and dance at the Cal­ico Ball in the ho­tel ball­room. Pe­riod cos­tume was re­quired, of course.

Through­out the week, there had been many other events, in­clud­ing speeches, choral pro­grams, plays, and boat races. An avi­a­tion show at the air­port rounded out the week on Satur­day.

From the busi­ness­men down­town who pre­pared spe­cial store win­dows to the high school teacher who rounded up wag­ons and horses, from the chil­dren who prac­ticed their pageant dances for weeks and the count­less oth­ers who did tasks large and small, the peo­ple of Hot Springs worked to­gether to pro­duce a Cen­ten­nial week that splen­didly cel­e­brated our unique com­mu­nity.

At left, Miss Hot Springs atop float pow­ered by Austin car be­neath the hoop skirt.

At top, the Daugh­ters of Cham­ber of Com­merce staff pre­pared a cake for HSNP. Be­low, bi­cy­clists par­tic­i­pate in the pa­rade.

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