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Archive for the ‘The Empress of Little Rock’ Category

The Kinsey Collection on African American History in Little Rock

May 23rd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


The impressive Kinsey Collection includes authentic and rare art, original artifacts, books, documents, etc., that tell a more complete story of the black experience in America. The collection has received national acclaim, is a favorite of black celebrities, and has been featured at the DuSable Museum of African American History, the American Pavilion of Epcot Center at Walt Disney World and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

About The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

With education as a goal, The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection has been on national tour since 2007, and has been seen by over 5 million visitors. The collection has exhibited in 18 cities, at notable institutions such as the California African American Museum, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati), The DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago), The Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach), and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In 2012-2014, The Kinsey Collection was on national tour sponsored by Wells Fargo, exhibiting at MOAD (San Francisco), the Gantt Center (Charlotte), the Reginald F. Lewis Museum (Baltimore), the Atlanta History Center and Houston Museum of African American Culture. Currently, a portion of the collection is on display at Epcot, Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida until 2018, where it is expected to be seen by 15-20 million visitors. The collection has been cited in 3 national awards including the President’s National Award for Museum and Library Services.

The Kinsey Collection is unique is that it is where art and history intersect, telling the African American story of achievement and contribution through authentic documents, manuscripts, books, letters and artifacts from 1595 to the present as well as 2 and 3 dimensional artworks from the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. Examples of some historical objects are: a 1595 baptism from 1595, a first edition copy of Phillis Wheatley’s book of poetry from 1773, an early draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, letters form Malcolm X to Alex Haley, and so much more. On the arts side, the exhibit contains paintings and sculpture from Romare Bearden, Richmond Barthe, Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Catlett, Norman Lewis, Merton Simpson, John Biggers, Charles White, Lois Mailou Jones, Sargent Johnson, James Wells, Artis Lane, and Eldzier Cortor  to name very few.

Arkansas Literary Festival

April 15th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Prestigious award-winners, screenwriters, comedians, an expert witness, artists, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the thirteenth annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 14-17, 2016.


This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards and fellowships including: Pulitzer Prize, James Beard Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Hugo Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Dashiell Hammett Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Houghton Mifflen Literary Fellowship, Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship.

Each year, several of the attending authors have not visited Little Rock, Arkansas, or even the South. Many say they are pleasantly surprised by the Festival and by the city. Some choose to write about their experience and feature Little Rock in their social media and blog posts.
Presenters come from a wide range of backgrounds including: journalist, documentary filmmaker, economist, editor, microbiologist, national bank examiner, essayist, photographer, sports reporter, psychological examiner, musician, actress, reporter, and professor. One is co-producing Keanu Reeves’ new television show and writing an adaptation of his own book for Warner Bros. and Bradley Cooper.
Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a tour of the Governor’s Mansion gardens with a wine and cheese reception, an escape room, and Readers’ Map launch party. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as barbecue, Monopoly, female rocket scientists, travel, graphic novels, science fiction, classic literature, and a story told in playing cards.
Children’s special events include a session by Nikki Grimes, activity hour, concert by the Kinders, and a play based on How the Camel Got His Hump. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street. Special events for teens include North Little Rock High School Readers Theater and a teen poetry competition.

Jewish Food and Cultural Festival in Little Rock

April 7th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Food Festival Bakery

At the ever-popular Ask-the-Rabbi booth, visitors can learn about Judaism itself, from Jewish holidays to life-cycle customs. At a replica of the Western Wall, visitors can leave a note of prayer, just as people do at the actual wall in Jerusalem. Judaica, jewelry, and other gift items created by local Jewish artists will be on display and for sale. Inflatables and other activities will be available for kids.

Entertainment throughout the day will include contemporary and traditional Jewish music by local and regional musicians. Visitors are invited to bring a bag of non-perishable food items to donate to the Arkansas Foodbank. Proceeds from the festival go to benefit Jewish Federation of Arkansas’s work in the community, which includes allocations to Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations, financial assistance to Jews in need, scholarships and other resources for Jewish children and families, and funds to support charitable work in Israel. Tzedakah Boxes (boxes for charity) will be located throughout the stadium for people to deposit tickets they purchased but did not use; proceeds from the boxes will be divided among local charities that Jewish Federation of Arkansas supports.

Contact Information for the Jewish Food and Cultural Festival:

Marianne Tettlebaum

Loblolly Creamery goes Nautical

March 30th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


“We have had a great time with the mobile food truck over the past few years, and we have looked into adding a second truck for some time now,” owner Sally Mengel tells us. “I have also been intrigued about having a floating food truck for a while, so we decided to put the two together and do a boat. It operates just like our food truck, only no wheels.”

To celebrate the launch they are unveiling the boat to the public this Friday from 12-2 at the soda fountain inside the Green Corner Store. The boat will be parked nearby for tours before it sets sail. Along with the first look Loblolly will have ice cream floats, a special saltwater ice cream flavor, and giveaways for everyone who comes out.

Mengel says they will aim to hit some of the major water hot spots around the state this summer. Included in the list is Greers Ferry Lake, Buffalo River, Arkansas River, Lake Hamilton, and Lake Ouachita. The boat will rotate around, but will make an effort to hit key events such as Riverfest, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend.

“The summer experience in Arkansas for most people includes some time on our beautiful lakes and rivers. It also involves eating ice cream,” Mengel continues. “We have looked for ways before to combine the two, but short of driving our truck into the water it was not possible. The boat gives us extra mobility to share our fresh, local made ice cream with everyone.”

The 35 foot two deck “party barge” pontoon boat, still wrapping up the final modifications, will feature solar power to the freezers on board similar to Loblolly’s food truck. They plan to keep an existing slide on the boat for easy access off. They will include tables and chairs to seat as many as 40, with tie up spots for boats and jet skis. The boat will have all the standard amenities of their soda fountain including 12 ice cream flavors, a grab and go freezer, house made sodas, milkshakes, floats, and more.

Loblolly hopes that as the summer progresses they will be able to offer local craft beers as well depending on the local liquor laws of the locations.

Dubbed the SS Loblolly, they hope to hit Riverfest weekend on the Arkansas River as the first outing. The full schedule of events will be posted on the Loblolly Facebook page as the summer nears. Rumor is Matthew Lowman will dress up as Captain Jack Sparrow to drive the boat. Loblolly does recommend waiting 30 minutes after eating your ice cream to swim again.

Rock City Ramble Bicycle Scavenger Hunt

March 19th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


Join Bobby’s Bike Hike and the Little Rock River Market for tscavenger bikehe 3rd annual Rock City Ramble!, a city-wide bicycle scavenger hunt. Clues will be hidden around downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock for teams on bicycles for a fun and interactive competition (via a provided map) to find the clues. For the competition, there will be three divisions: a competitive division, a family division, and an all new Locally Labeled division!

“What’s a Locally Labeled division?,” you ask. The Locally Labeled division will take participants on an adventure to our local breweries, distillery, and craft food establishments.

If you don’t have access to a bike, it isn’t a problem, you can rent one at Bobby’s Bike Hike for a discounted rate. The winners can look forward to being rewarded with accolades and prizes. Cyclists are invited to  feel free to sign up as an individual or with a team (individuals will be grouped together as a team). Teams can be various sizes, from 2 to 5 member teams.

The Empress is a great place to stay for this fun and active event in Little Rock this spring (Sunday, April 10, starting at 11 am) and we hope to be your bicycling headquarters.  We offer covered bicycle storage!

Check Bobby’s Facebook page for more events!

Easter Sunrise Service in Little Rock

March 11th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair


Celebrate Easter Sunrise Service  Sunday, March 27th at 7:00 a.m. at the First Security Amphitheater in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.  Every year, thousands gather on the banks of the Arkansas River and proclaim the good news that Christ is risen.

The service will also be broadcast live on KATV Channel 7.

The Annual Community Easter Sunrise Service is an ecumenical worship service sponsored by Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.

Want some history on the event?  In 1989, Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church utilized the newly built Amphitheater on the banks of the Arkansas River to provide an ecumenical community-wide Easter Sunrise Service. Long time PHUMC member, Swann Kohler, was the founding coordinator of this new service. Then Little Rock mayor Buddy Villines, Audrey Crites, Skip Rutherford and the late Tom Williams were the first participants. Beautiful music was offered by the combined choirs of Pulaski Heights UMC and Philander Smith College Choir. In the last 26 years many members of our community have participated in worship, including a US President, our congressmen and women, Arkansas Governors and other state officials, actors, athletes and TV personalities, students and clergy, dance teams and orchestras, brass ensembles, many soloists and school choirs from our county and city. The Gospel has been proclaimed and prayers have been offered. Offerings have been gathered to help local charities do good work in our community and around the state. Over 100 volunteers, plus monetary contributions of so many, make this event possible.

Special guests of this years’ service will be:

  • Rev. Carissa Rogers,  Pastor of Quapaw Quarter UMC
  • Rev. William Robinson, Pastor of First Baptist Church, NLR
  • Kevin Scanlon, Former Arkansas Razorback Football Team
  • Mallory Brooks, Channel 4 News Anchorperson
  • Eric Gilmore, Director of Immerse Arkansas

We hope to see you at The Empress this Easter weekend!

Purse-onas exhibit at Esse Purse Museum

March 3rd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

ESSE Purse Museum is pleased to showcase the Purse-onas photo exhibit by  JasonTravis , which features photo portraits of people of all ages above a photo of each person’s bag or purse and its contents, offering an intimate look into the lives of others.

In conjunction with the exhibit’s opening, ESSE will resume “The ESSE Purse Project,” an online exhibit of visitors’ and other willing participants’ purses/briefcases/backpacks and their contents.

The beautiful photos by Jason Travis seem tailor-made for the purse museum’s permanent exhibit, “What’s Inside: A Century of Women and Handbags.” The permanent exhibit focuses on the 20th-century American woman and her development, as shown through handbags and their contents. Travis’ photos (and “The ESSE Purse Project’) bring the concept into the current decade – and include men.

Purse-onas and ESSE go together as well as your mother’s matching purse and shoes. Don’t miss the chance to see them together!

Purse-onas by Jason Travis runs Wednesday, Jan. 13, through Sunday, March 13. ESSE Purse Museum & Store is open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. everyday but Monday.

The Esse Purse Museum is only blocks from The Empress and is the only purse museum in North America!  Check out the museum, and then head next door for lunch at The Root Cafe or across the street for ice cream at The Green Corner Store.  Soma is the place to be this spring!

Arkansas Flower and Garden Show in Little Rock this weekend

February 26th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

2013_arkansas_flower_and_garden_show_58_36The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show is the largest three day celebration of gardening in the state.  The goal of the Show is to cultivate interest in the Natural State through what is grown for beauty and sustenance. Visitors come to learn about gardening and shop for their homes and gardens February 26-28, 2016

What will you learn at the Show?

  • great design for home landscapes
  • latest new plants
  • best cultivars for our climate
  • cutting edge floral design
  • garden to table ideas
  • fun stuff for children

What can you shop for at the Show?

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show brings to one place, experts in the fields of plant cultivation, propagation, and plant disease prevention and treatment.  This year’s show includes leading nurserymen, designers, naturalists and artisans.  There are over 140 vendor booths at the show selling everything from plants, tools, furniture, and bird houses to organic cosmetics, housewares, and jewelry.

Where does money generated by the show go?

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show is organized by a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with proceeds from the show funding scholarships for students majoring in horticulture or related fields at Arkansas universities and community colleges.  Proceeds from the Show also fund the Greening of Arkansas grant program which provides grants to Arkansas communities for public spaces to enhance the beauty of our Natural State.

What’s in it for you?

Awesome weekend full of great speakers, wonderful designs, fabulous plants, and the best place to shop for plants or anything for the home and garden.

Spring Break in Little Rock

February 17th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

springbreakLittle Rock Spring Break is coming quickly teachers, parents, vacationers and everyone else who likes to get away in March!  The Empress would love to be Spring Break headquarters for your couple, family or group.  With rooms ranging from affordable to super luxurious, we have an option for everyone.  Need some examples of our amazing rooms?  Check out all of our options here!


So what is going on in Little Rock next month?  How about some of these great things:

  • Purse-onas exhibit at ESSE Purse Museum
  • Historic Neighborhoods Bicycle Tour with Bobby’s Bike Hike
  • An Iliad at Arkansas Repertory Theatre
  • Little Rock Marathon
  • Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights Tour
  • Bella Rustina Vintage Market
  • and much, much more!

Need a little more motivation for a stay?  Add a romantic package, like our breakfast in bed or a gourmet picnic.  Plan a hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain and enjoy the view from the top.  Or stay in the South Main neighborhood, home of the Empress and enjoy lunch at The Root Cafe, home to locally sourced foods in a fun and funky atmosphere and dinner at South on Main, one of Little Rock’s favorite restaurants with upscale southern favorites…the possibilities are endless and so much fun!


Best Romantic Restaurants in Little Rock

February 10th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Have you booked your romantic valentine’s reservation at The Empress for Valentine’s Day yet?  We aren’t full yet (but you better book quick, we only have a couple of rooms available!) If you have already booked your room and all of your romantic add-ons (click here to see more)  then you might need some romantic restaurant recommendations.  Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Brave New Restaurant is an old standby, but they still impress.  They serve contemporary American cuisine by the Arkansas River.  The seafood is always top notch.  Brave New Restaurant has a romantic atmosphere and some of the best views in the city.  Located at 2300 Cottondale Lane. Brave New Restaurants accepts reservations.
  2. One Eleven has a great atmosphere, nice seafood selections and steak.  The Capital Hotel has long been a destination for romance, and One Eleven is no exception.  The upscale atmosphere and top notch service make this a great place for a special evening.  Located at 111 W. Markham St.  One Eleven at the Capital accepts reservations.
  3. The Pantry has some of the best food in the city and a nice, casually romantic atmosphere.   The menu is a mixture of European flavors and never fails to please.  These would be a great place to take a foodie date.  Located at 11401 Rodney Parham Road.
  4. Bonefish Grill has been around for a while, and remains a favorite.  The seafood is a good bet, but they also have chicken, pork and beef.   The atmosphere is casual upscale, but it’s nice for a date. Located from 11525 Cantrell Rd.  Bonefish Grill accepts reservations.
  5. Sonny Williams Steak Room is the perfect place for a carnivore date.  Many consider Sonny Williams’ steaks the best steaks in central Arkansas.  They also have chicken, pork and a salad bar. The atmosphere is white tablecloth, upscale casual.  Located at 500 President Clinton Avenue. Sonny Williams Steak Room accepts reservations.
  6. Vesuvio Bistro offers authentic Italian cuisine.  They are one of Little Rock’s more upscale Italian Restaurants, and make for a special evening out. They have a nice wine list. Located at 1315 Breckenridge Drive. Vesuvio Bistro accepts reservations.
  7. YaYa’s Euro Bistro has a classy atmosphere, top notch food and great service.  They have a European inspired menu with pizza, pasta, seafood and more.  Located at 17711 Chenal Parkway, in the Promenade.  YaYa’s Euro Bistro accepts reservations.
  8.  Bruno’s has a romantic atmosphere with checkered tablecloths and authentic Italian food. Their pasta dishes are always a hit.  They now offer free valet parking. They can be crowded on Valentine’s, but it’s worth the wait.  Located at 310 Main Street, Suite 101.
  9. South on Main has a modern vibe, with live music on some nights. The menu consists of upscale Southern cuisine like dumplings and cornbread dressing.  It’s a great place for an evening out, and is located only blocks from The Empress! Located at 1304 South Main Street.