A Grand ol' Time
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.