Archive for News

Waiting For Mr. Right: Tenant Still Sought For Dickson Street Corner

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK The building at 241 College Avenue Thursday, July 13, 2017, in Fayetteville. The property recently housed Jerry's Restaurant and Dead Swanky, a hair salon. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is looking for a tenant after Starbucks and two local buisesses backed out on leasing it.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK The building at 241 College Avenue Thursday, July 13, 2017, in Fayetteville. The property recently housed Jerry’s Restaurant and Dead Swanky, a hair salon. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is looking for a tenant after Starbucks and two local buisesses backed out on leasing it.

Bill Bowden

bbowden@nwadg.com

From Dead Swanky to a house of prayer.

That’s the metamorphosis the Rev. Lowell Grisham would like to see for a lot that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church owns at the gateway to the Dickson Street entertainment district.

But that’s not in the plan, at least not now. The church needs to make money by leasing a 2,112-square-foot building on that lot at the southwest corner of Dickson Street and College Avenue in Fayetteville.

What does go into that building has reignited a conversation about local versus chain businesses in the gentrifying entertainment district.

For many years, the building housed a diner called Jerry’s Restaurant. Most recently, it was home to Dead Swanky, a hair salon that leased the spot from 2005 until six weeks ago, when the salon moved to a building on Trenton Boulevard.

Three businesses wanted to lease the former Dead Swanky spot. But all of those deals fell through, and the church has listed the property with a real estate agent to find a tenant, says Grisham, who is the rector at St. Paul’s.

One of the deals that fell through was with Starbucks, which decided there wasn’t enough room for a drive-through lane behind the building, says Grisham. He wouldn’t name the two local businesses that had looked at the location but backed out on leasing it.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO Jerry's Restaurant November 19, 2000 in Fayetteville.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO
Jerry’s Restaurant November 19, 2000 in Fayetteville.

Misty Ozturk, the owner of Dead Swanky, says she can’t see a Starbucks on that corner.

“I told the church ‘That is not a local downtown vibe,’” says Ozturk. “We have enough Starbucks happening in this city.”

“There are some people I know who were not pleased that a national chain was going to be on that corner,” says Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. “That’s one of those deals that the market will dictate what the answer will be. That’s the changing nature of our community.”

Grisham says he likes the idea of a local business going into the space, but the decision is up to the church’s board.

“I know we had to balance the desire for a local business with the highest and best use, being to underwrite ministry through income,” he says.

“If I had my preference, I would like to have a house of prayer on that corner, but that would take a pretty big investment.”

Maggie Benton Crowned 2017 Miss Arkansas

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN --6/17/2017-- Miss Greater Jonesboro Maggie Benton waves to the crowd after being crowned the 2017 Miss Arkansas at the Robinson Theater in downtown Little Rock Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN 
Miss Greater Jonesboro Maggie Benton waves to the crowd after being crowned the 2017 Miss Arkansas at the Robinson Theater in downtown Little Rock Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Maggie Benton Crowned 2017 Miss Arkansas

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN --6/17/2017-- Miss Greater Jonesboro Maggie Benton waves to the crowd after being crowned the 2017 Miss Arkansas at the Robinson Theater in downtown Little Rock Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN 
Miss Greater Jonesboro Maggie Benton waves to the crowd after being crowned the 2017 Miss Arkansas at the Robinson Theater in downtown Little Rock Saturday, June 17, 2017.

The Lowdown on Block Street Block Party

ON THE COVER STAFF PHOTO ANDY SHUPE - Visitors walk up Block Avenue during the Block Street Block Party Sunday, May 18, 2014, in Fayetteville. Visit photos.nwaonline.com for more photos from the day.

ON THE COVER
STAFF PHOTO ANDY SHUPE – Visitors walk up Block Avenue during the Block Street Block Party Sunday, May 18, 2014, in Fayetteville. Visit photos.nwaonline.com for more photos from the day.

Get ready for six beer gardens, more than 40 local bands and local vendors as far as the eye can see up and down Block Street. The best free party of the year in Fayetteville is this weekend, y’all.

Block Street Block Party is set, rain or shine for noon to dark Sunday, May 21. What began as a celebration for the end of Block’s construction update on the road and its reopening has since become a local institution.

If you’ve never experienced Block Street Block Party, know this: it’s free to attend, full of activities to do for all ages from children’s inflatables and crafts to beer gardens and live music. In a lot of ways, it’s a highlight of everything Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas has to offer for entertainment and crafts, and everything from the food to the bands are local.

It’s a status update of sorts for Block Street and the NWA community’s arts and businesses. The event brings in up to 10,000 attendees throughout the day. It’s always a shuffle and adaptation for upcoming talent, local favorites, new businesses and developments on Block, said Hannah Withers, organizer for the event.

“I whine about it jokingly, but the reason we keep doing it is because of how much people love it,” she said. “I love our street. We’re a great community.”

One of the challenges organizers faced this year is the recent building developments on previously unoccupied lots that allowed for various types of vendors. Fear not though, as the pony rides, remote control car racing, a doggie pool and inflatable slides are all returning.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Corey DeAngelis of Fayetteville shows off some dance moves Sunday May 22, 2016 at the 6th Annual Block Street Block Party in Fayetteville. Several thousand people attended the annual street party with events like waiter races, beer gardens, live music and vendors.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Corey DeAngelis of Fayetteville shows off some dance moves Sunday May 22, 2016 at the 6th Annual Block Street Block Party in Fayetteville. Several thousand people attended the annual street party with events like waiter races, beer gardens, live music and vendors.

Experience Fayetteville has joined in on the organizing efforts this year, which has been a big help with their resources, Withers said.

There are six beer gardens and stages each with a unique lineup of local talent and more than 40 artists or bands performing throughout.

Some new local businesses, such as Pinpoint — a pinball themed bar and lounge going in where JR’s Lightbulb Club used to be (RIP) — will be making their first public appearances. However, Owner Bo Counts said the bar won’t be fully ready to open to the public, but the bar has teamed up with Hugo’s for a beer garden and stage.

KPSQ, Fayetteville’s new independent radio station, will be hosting a stage for the first time at the top of Block street on the downtown Fayetteville square. Proceeds from the beer garden will go to benefiting the station’s mission to provide a platform for the community to have a voice and fund renovations for a live performance studio at the station.

Several vendors and organizations often plan unique activities and demonstrations.

“I think that we’ve established the way to make this event great is to let people figure out how to do something hands on and a little bit out of the box,” Withers said. “People are coming to the event with the intent to do something a little different beyond just setting up a 10 by 10 tent.”

NWA Media/ANDY SHUPE - Wendi La Fey of Eureka Springs twirls handmade pom-poms while wearing a crochet dress during the Block Street Block Party Sunday, May 18, 2014, on Block Avenue in Fayetteville. The event features activities, food and music from vendors and businesses along the avenue.

NWA Media/ANDY SHUPE – Wendi La Fey of Eureka Springs twirls handmade pom-poms while wearing a crochet dress during the Block Street Block Party Sunday, May 18, 2014, on Block Avenue in Fayetteville. The event features activities, food and music from vendors and businesses along the avenue.

For example, Circle of Life Hospice is doing a huge interactive chalkboard project that will be about writing a bucket list of things you want to do before you die.

7 Hills Homeless Shelter is also hosting dunk tanks with local leaders and even the chance to dunk Fayetteville’s state representatives, Greg Leding and Charlie Collins.

The long-time favorite Waiters’ Race outside Little Bread Company will return at 3 p.m. The race will feature members of the service industry completing an obstacle course with a tray full of water cups for a cash prize.

If you get hungry, there’s going to be several food vendors to choose from including Ramblin’ Man, LobLolly Creamery, Berry Natural, Blackboard Grocery, Lucky Luke’s BBQ, Shakedown StrEAT, Pedal Pops, Kind Kitchen, Wood Fired Pizza as well as the regular Block Street restaurants.

Organizers are still looking for volunteers and you can apply at blockstreetbusinesses.com. For more up to date information about the event, be sure to follow along on the event’s Facebook page.

Remember, don’t forget to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated out there, folks.

Sit & Spin Laundromat-Restaurant Hybrid Opens on Leverett Ave

ON THE COVER Staff Photo Nick Brothers/ Sit & Spin, the new retro-styled restaurant-laundromat hybrid at 737 N Leverett Ave. is now open.

If you ever find yourself with a laundry basket overflowing with dirty clothes and maddening hunger, the perfect place just opened up on north Leverett Ave. in Fayetteville.

Sit & Spin, located at 737 N Leverett Ave., is now in the long-unoccupied Pizza Hut building after renovations that turned the place into a restaurant-laundromat hybrid, which opened in late April during the recent flooding. With the location near the University of Arkansas, the spot offers a new eco-friendly neighborhood hang out where customers can wash their clothes and grab a beer or a bite to eat while they wait.

Owned and operated by locals Hannah Withers, Ben Gitchel and A.B. Merritt, the idea for the hybrid business came together in August 2015. As the saying goes, “once a Pizza Hut, always a Pizza Hut”, the building required extensive renovations to come up to code. Merritt oversees the “Spin” side while Withers and Gitchel run the “Sit” restaurant.

“You see so many buildings in Fayetteville torn down and replaced with new buildings,” Merritt said. “I remember watching a documentary about green buildings and they said the greenest building is the one that’s already existing that you utilize. It was a process, but we did it.”

Staff Photo Nick Brothers On the “Sit” side of Sit & Spin is a retro-styled diner that offers up a menu of sliders, fresh donuts, salads, beer and organic sodas. One of the menu hallmarks is the “slapshot” pictured in the left corner of the right basket, that is a ball of slivered onions battered and deep fried.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers
On the “Sit” side of Sit & Spin is a retro-styled diner that offers up a menu of sliders, fresh donuts, salads, beer and organic sodas. One of the menu hallmarks is the “slapshot” pictured in the left corner of the right basket, that is a ball of slivered onions battered and deep fried.

The eco-friendly business doesn’t sell plastic goods, recycles, locally sources as much food as possible, offers complimentary eco detergent and fabric softener, uses LED lights and offers reusable cups.

The “Sit” portion of the building operates as a retro-themed diner that offers up cheeseburger sliders, salads, pickles and fries and fresh to donuts with various toppings. There’s also a rotating menu of local craft beer, wine and organic sodas and bottled beverages. The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. A bay door locks the restaurant off from the laundromat during the closed hours.

“What we were going to serve with the laundromat sort of started to come together when Eugene Sargent helped us create the sign for the place,” Withers said. “It has this retro Route 66 feel from that era, so there’s a classic style to the way we do sliders to the way slider places did them in the 50s in the middle of Kansas.”

The Border Burger, which is beef, sharp cheddar, pickled jalapeños chimichurri aioli is a clear highlight on the menu next to the Boss Burger, which is beef, provolone cheese, bacon and raspberry peach sauce. There’s also the vegetarian black bean burger patty available from Greenhouse Grill that can be swapped in. Another menu hallmark is the “slapshot”, a ball of slivered onions battered and deep fried, served with a side of buttermilk ranch. The menu is also rather affordable, as sliders are all under $4, salads are $8 or less, and donuts are $3 for 4.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers There are 20 dryers and 19 washers — each given names like Tallulah and Monty — on the “Spin” side of Sit & Spin, where four of them are for oversized loads. The laundromat is self-service, with complimentary eco-friendly detergent and all the machines are wired to accept credit cards and Apple and Android Pay.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers
There are 20 dryers and 19 washers — each given names like Tallulah and Monty — on the “Spin” side of Sit & Spin, where four of them are for oversized loads. The laundromat is self-service, with complimentary eco-friendly detergent and all the machines are wired to accept credit cards and Apple and Android Pay.

The laundromat portion of the building, “Spin”, is open 24-7 for self-service. There are 20 dryers and 19 washers — each given names like Tallulah and Monty — on the “Spin” side of Sit & Spin, where four of them are for oversized loads. The laundromat is self-service, with complimentary eco-friendly detergent and all the machines are wired to accept credit cards and Apple and Android Pay.

Local sculptor Eugene Sargent designed and built the Las Vegas-style Sit & Spin sign. Sargent’s work can be seen around town, he created the 45-foot-long worm that’s near the castle in Wilson Park, the train at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, and the butterfly bench at Leverett Elementary School.

There’s free wifi, and all of the outlets have USB ports. Withers said she hopes students in the area will use it as a place to study while doing laundry or grabbing a bite to eat.

As for the future, there’s a potential for events, Withers said. There might be a DJ night or a community clothes swap where the excess unpicked clothes are donated to local shelters and thrift stores.

For more information, check out Sit & Spin on their Facebook page.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers/ The “Sit” side is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. There’s free wifi and the outlets feature USB ports. Staff Photo Nick Brothers/  The Las Vegas-style sign for Sit & Spin was designed and built locally by Eugene Sargent.

ArkansasStaged To Present Mother Day’s Reading Of “Grounded”

Courtesy Photo

For all the strong-willed mothers in life this Mother’s Day, a local theatre group will be performing a staged reading of “Grounded,” a one-woman play centered around American politics and motherhood.

The George Brant play will be presented by ArkansasStaged and performed at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville on Sunday, May 14, 2017, at 7 p.m. The reading is directed by Laura Shatkus and features Mischa Hutchings as The Pilot.

“Grounded” is a powerful one-woman show that follows a gutsy fighter pilot whose unexpected pregnancy puts her career on hold. When she gets back in the game, flying has a whole new meaning: operating remote-controlled drones in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned trailer near Las Vegas.

Hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night, The Pilot’s struggle to navigate her dual identities is her toughest mission yet. Grounded is a drama filled with powerful storytelling about the dualities of war and family. Both deeply relevant and moving, George Brant’s award-winning script tackles issues of surveillance, drones, and the ambiguities of warfare in the twenty-first century. “Grounded” was the winner of the 2012 Smith Prize Recognizing outstanding achievement for plays focused on American politics and received raves from critics in London, San Francisco, and New York City.

“Grounded explores one of the most complicated issues of contemporary warfare: pilots who no longer fly planes but rather wage war via remote controlled drones,” Shatkus said. “It asks us to understand one woman’s fight to retain her sanity as she comes to terms with how to balance motherhood with her isolated work defending the country. I think it will be an extra special experience for audience members, especially mothers and daughters, as we perform it on Mother’s Day.”

Mohsen Dadashi, a Persian musician, will be adding a musical element for the pre-show.

Wanbli Gamache will be designing time-based projections for the show.

Additionally, the play coincides with an exhibit currently on display at 21c. The exhibit, “Seeing Now,” contains themes of military occupation, collateral damage, the dark beauty of explosives, and first-hand experience vs. remote viewing as it relates to drone warfare.

For more information, visit the ArkansasStaged Facebook page.

Courtesy Photo

Concert to be Broadcast Live During Artosphere Festival

Courtesy Photo

This Friday features the rare chance to tune into a live broadcast of the Artosphere Orchestra’s performance on KUAF 91.3 FM.

While tickets to see the Artosphere Orchestra “Mozart in the Museum” live performance at Crystal Bridges are $40, Foxhole Public House in downtown Bentonville — 401 SW A St. #120 — will be hosting a free listening party from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, May 12.

Following the concert, some of the Artosphere musicians will come to the after party at Foxhole to do a few special pop up performances. Arraignments of pop songs are likely, said Katy Henriksen, who will be hosting the live KUAF broadcast.

“It’s a big thing that we have this happening, and it’s also very intense,” she said. “It’s a festival orchestra, so that means they arrive this week, have rehearsal, they play this Friday and then they play two more concerts. They have rehearsals all day long and then they also do pop up concerts. It’s a really fun and different thing here and it’s really unique, I think.”

The all-Mozart performance will include “Overture to Cosi fan tutte”, “Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds in E flat major”, and “Symphony No. 35 in D major ‘Haffner’”. The orchestra is directed by Corrado Rovaris, the music director of Opera Philadelphia.

The concert is part of the Walton Arts Center’s Artopshere Festival, which features a bevy of performances and art exhibits throughout Northwest Arkansas centered around arts in nature. Tickets range in price from free to $10 to $40. For tickets and more information, visit their website.

Henriksen, who hosts the classical radio program “Of Note” on KUAF, will be co-hosting the live broadcast of the concert alongside local composer and musician Ryan Cockerham and violist of Artosphere Carl Larson. Listeners can tune in at www.kuaf.com or tune their radio dials to 91.3 FM.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t realize the caliber of musician that comes to play here each summer,” Henriksen said. “It’s been fun, because a lot of these players have been coming back year after year and I’ve gotten to know them. They’ve gotten to enjoy coming here and enjoying the Ozarks.”

Rogers Heritage High School Teacher to Compete on “Jeopardy!”

Courtesy Photo Mary Parker, a French and English teacher at Rogers Heritage High School, will be competing on Jeopardy! Tuesday.

Courtesy Photo

Mary Parker, a French and English teacher at Rogers Heritage High School, will be competing on Jeopardy! Tuesday.

It’s time to root for the NWA home team on “Jeopardy!” y’all.

Mary Parker, a French and English teacher at Rogers Heritage High School, will be competing in the “Jeopardy!” Teacher Tournament for $100,000. Parker will be competing against two other teachers Tuesday, May 9.

You can catch Parker tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. on KFSM-DT CBS, 5News.

Jeopardy!, “America’s Favorite Quiz Show”, and its host, Alex Trebek, are in their 33rd season in syndication. With 23 million viewers each week, the show is the top-rated quiz show on television, and has won several awards and distinctions over the course of its more than 30 years on the air, including setting a Guinness World Records record for the most Emmy Awards won by a TV game show (33 Emmys).

“Jeopardy!” is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company; Harry Friedman is Executive Producer. “Jeopardy!” is distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and internationally by CBS Television International, both units of CBS Corp.

For more information, please visit Jeopardy.com.

Tri Cycle Farms to Host 2nd Annual Crawfish Boil

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

North Fayetteville’s urban farm will be hosting a all-you-can-eat crawfish boil to benefit its mission to increase area food security.

The second annual Warford/Mader Family Crawfish Boil will take place at George’s Majestic Lounge, Saturday, April 29, 2017 from 1 to 6 p.m. In addition to the crawfish, there’s going to be smoked ribs and chicken, boudain, andouille sausage and various potluck items all guests are encouraged to bring. It also wouldn’t be a local party without local brews, and Apple Blossom Brewing Company, Columbus House Brewery and New Province Brewing Company will be there with craft beer for purchase.

Due to weather forecasts for thunderstorms Saturday, organizers announced the change of the venue from Tri Cycle Farms to George’s Majestic Lounge. Other than the venue change to accommodate the potential rain, the only change to the event is it will be limited to 150 tickets.

Musical entertainment will be provided by Isayah’s Allstar Productions with cameo performances by Isayah Warford as well as guest performances by The Ozark Howlers from 2-3 p.m., Richard Burnett & Mudhawk from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and Mark Bilyeu & Cindy Woolf performing from 4 to 5 p.m.

Tickets are $25 at the event, or $20 in advance, available online at www.support.tricyclefarms.org/fayetteville/events/the-2nd-annual-warford/mader-family-crawfish-boil/e122750. Admission for children age 12 and under is free, and they’re sure to enjoy the variety of kids’ activities planned.

Support of Tri Cycle Farms’ programs and events helps to increase Fayetteville area food security and community resilience initiatives. Tri Cycle Farms is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization with a mission to grow “Community Through Soil.” Tri Cycle Farms is located at 1705 N. Garland Ave in Fayetteville at the intersection of W. Sycamore St. and N. Garland Avenue.

The Refugee Experience: UA Student Organization Hosts Mock Refugee Camp

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography 
Leading up to the entrance of the mock refugee camp was a flag display that represented the amount of refugees today and how many of those end up resettled, or resettled in the United States.

I was one of the 2.7 million refugees fleeing Afghanistan at the University of Arkansas Students for Refugees mock refugee camp Saturday.

When I first arrived to the event, I was given a mock Republic of Afghanistan passport, and a backpack with my belongings: old family photos, a first aid kit, children’s toys, clothes and a journal. I was with a group of six or so, who were given passports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Iraq.

While we each represented the majority countries, there are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the highest on record, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Fewer than 1 percent of refugees are resettled, and the US resettled 1,026 people from Oct. 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017.

Our first stop had us crowd into a wagon that emulated the rafts many refugees take across the Mediterranean Sea to travel to Europe. About 300,000 refugees take that risky route a year, according to UNHCR. We were told about how many refugees are tricked into buying cheaper, fake life vests that absorb water rather than float. More than 5,000 lives have been lost in the Mediterranean since 2014, which the students represented with a memorial of shoes representing the lives lost.

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography The first step of the mock refugee camp was climbing aboard a “raft” and learning about the hundreds of thousands of refugees who brave the Mediterranean Sea. More than 5,000 lives have been lost in the Mediterranean since 2014, some of which due to incompetent, fake life vests being sold to refugees at cheaper prices.

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography

The first step of the mock refugee camp was climbing aboard a “raft” and learning about the hundreds of thousands of refugees who brave the Mediterranean Sea. More than 5,000 lives have been lost in the Mediterranean since 2014, some of which due to incompetent, fake life vests being sold to refugees at cheaper prices.

When we “arrived,” we were arbitrarily given a number that corresponded to the amount of items we lost at sea — I was lucky with a zero — and a card depicting our fate. In my hypothetical, the ship capsized. While I survived, two of my family members were missing and I lost my identification. Because of that, I now risked detention or expulsion from the country I arrived in.

What followed was a series of booths representing the different aspects of life in a refugee camp. We learned about the plights of refugees in several stations regarding medical issues (I had broken limbs, a common ailment), food security (I had iron deficiency), how rampant sex trafficking is in the camps, child care, the limited water rations and sanitation standards and mental health (I had adjustment disorders, essentially rendering me emotionally insecure and anxiety-ridden). Each station had more and more troubling statistics.

At the end, we were dealt our fate cards. Somehow, I won the lottery, and I was the only one to resettle to the United States and move to Arkansas with the help of Canopy NWA, a local resettling agency. Others either were stuck in the camps, told to move back or resettle in the country they fled to if they survived.

In order to be considered a refugee, they have to be someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence for reasons of race, religion nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

About 500 people turned out for the event, and there was a constant flow of attendance.

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography Dozens of volunteers from the UA Students for Refugees organization worked as informational guides throughout the mock refugee camp process. Opportunities for learning more about each topic and how to get involved was offered at each station.

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography

Dozens of volunteers from the UA Students for Refugees organization worked as informational guides throughout the mock refugee camp process. Opportunities for learning more about each topic and how to get involved was offered at each station.

STUDENTS FOR REFUGEES

The mock refugee camp was a product of dozens of student volunteers involved with the Students for Refugees organization at the University of Arkansas.

The group was founded by UA students Jess Garross and Jamie Nix after volunteering at a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece while studying Arabic abroad in Morocco. While on fall break, the two had seen footage of refugees arriving in rafts on the Greece shore, and it inspired them to help.

“It was scary, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” Garross said. “It was surprising how much we could help. We helped run the camp and helped translate for other volunteers.”

The day they arrived at the camp, the deadly Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015 took 130 victims. Overnight, the perception of refugees became hostile and negative, and 26 states — including Arkansas — became anti-refugee, blocking all Syrian immigrants temporarily.

“It broke our hearts, because we were spending nine hours a day with these people and hearing their stories, and we were really frustrated with our home country,” Garross said. “We really wanted people to understand what was happening there.”

The main goal for the event was to educate the public about the refugee crisis so that the next time the topic comes up in the news cycle or in a conversation, they’ll be able to speak about what they learned, Garross said.

Mark Snodgrass, an attendee, brought his family along to undergo the experience. He said it was very humbling.

“We’ve got it pretty good, and I thought it was important for my two little boys to know a lot of folks in the world are struggling and to help them understand that,” he said.

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography

Photo by Lauren Husband Photography
Mock refugee camp attendees listen as student volunteers talk about the many issues facing the refugee crisis of today.

The majority of the volunteer students in the mock refugee camp worked on their own scripts throughout the course of two months. One of the goals was to utilize the study majors of the students to a respective topic.

“There’s a quote I came across that says ‘I am one, but I am at least one, and I can’t do everything, but I can do something and that one thing is enough,’” Nix said. “If there’s one thing you can do, educate your friends and family, because there’s so much misinformation out there.”


How to Help the Refugee Crisis

  • Visit the UN Refugee Agency at www.unhcr.org for more information
  • Donate or volunteer with Canopy NWA, a local resettlement agency, or any of the nine national resettlement agencies
  • Advocacy

Common Myths About Refugees

  • Myth: The process for admitting refugees to the United States is not secure and terrorists can easily enter the country.

FACT: The most difficult way to get into the United States is as a refugee. No other category of travel goes under as detailed a screening process, which often takes several years.

  • Myth: Most refugees are Muslim men.

FACT: More than half of the world’s refugees are children. According to the U.S. Office of Admissions Refugee Processing Center, only 24,768 refugees who arrived between January 2016 and August 2016 were Muslim, while more than 30,000 were of Christian and other faiths.

  • Myth: Refugees are a drain on society.

FACT: Refugees start businesses, pay taxes and contribute to their communities. The vast majority of newly resettled refugees quickly find jobs, 85 percent of refugees resettled by the International Rescue Committee were hired within 180 days of arrival.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, justiceforimmigrants.org, www.rescue.org