Walnut Ridge: Parachute Inn, Wings of Honor Museum, and The Beatles

Walnut Ridge, the largest city in Lawrence County, is on the road to becoming a major tourist destination thanks to the Beatles. The Fab Four landed at the Walnut Ridge Airport in September 1964. en route to a well-deserved break from their first U.S. Tour. The group was headed to a ranch in Southern Missouri where they felt they could escape the mobs of screaming teenage girls who seemed to follow them everywhere. Fortunately or unfortunately, word that the Beatles were in the area led to a large mob that gathered at the airport on Sunday morning, as the word was that the Beatles were flying out.  Several home movies that survived captured the Beatles as they walked across the runway and history was made.

To celebrate this memorable visit, a sculpture was created that recalls the iconic Abbey Road album coverThe 20’x20′ sculpture, unveiled in 2011, features life-sized silhouettes of the British rockers against a richly-detailed background that includes Beatles song titles and lyrics. The sculpture is location in Beatles Park along Abbey Road, formerly SW 2nd Street.  The Beatles visit led to a short documentary, When We Were Young, made by Jonesboro filmmaker Mike Bowman. The film had its premiere at the first Ozark Foothills FilmFest in 20012. A longer and fuller film is currently being discussed. Tim Jackson, a well-known Arkansas producer and director from Category-One Entertainment is currently involved in discussions with community leaders about the project.

The Rock’n’Roll Highway that runs through Walnut Ridge celebrates another group of musical legends, the rock’n’rollers who who traveled and performed along Highway 67 in the rockabilly era, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis. A second monument, the soon-to-be-finished Guitar Walk will be located on Front Street and will feature detailed silhouettes of the musicians who made Sun Studios a national treasure.

The airport is not only the sacred ground where the Beatles tread, it is also home to one of the more interesting eateries anywhere, the famous Parachute Inn. Visitors enter the fuselage of a Boeing 737 that has been converted to a comfortable dining area. The Parachute has been “adopted” by Southwest and other pilots, whose signatures and messages adorn the areas above the seats. The inside of the aircraft has been painstakingly refurbished to capture the Southwest Airlines “look” and to give diners ample space.

Not far from the Parachute Inn visitors will find the Wings of Honor Museum. The museum was established in 1999 for the purpose of preserving the rich history of the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School, the Marine Corps Air Facility at Walnut Ridge, the War Assets Administration’s Warbird Storage, Sales and Scrapping Facility, and the USAF 725 Radar Squadron; and to remember and honor those civilian and military personnel who served to maintain our freedom.  The museum, still in development, is open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 4 and Sundays from 2 to 5.

Lawrence County is also home to Powhatan Historic State Park; Davidsonville was Arkansas’ first planned town, as well as home to the first U.S. Post Office, first Courthouse, and first U.S. Land Office. The second state park in the county, Lake Charles, is great for fishing, camping, kayaking, swimming, Hiking, and barge tours. The park also includes a Nature Center offering interpretive programs, and a gift shop.

Lawrence County is a visitor’s delight, with attractions and activities to fill anyone’s agenda!