I apologize, but I have kind of a long list this year. Like most parents, sometimes I do a good job and sometimes I don't, but I hope overall I've earned a spot on your "Nice List."
I know this is a really tall order, Santa. It will take all of us working together and looking beyond ourselves to make these things happen. May we pause for a few moments during the holiday hustle and bustle to consider this wish list. May we also put into action those things we CAN do and not stop at wishing.
P.S. Please take time out of your very, very hectic holiday schedule to read our wonderful articles this month. We're featuring country music star Justin Moore and his precious family. KSSN's Bob Robbins and Jennifer Trafford have even chimed in with their holiday favorites for our Family Chatter.
You'll also find all kids of fantastic family fun including The Rep's "Because of Winn Dixie the Musical" and Ballet Arkansas' "The Nutcracker." We've got pointers on handling "affluenza," influenza, food allergies and more!
And, if Mrs. Claus' cookies and all of that globe-trotting gets you down, there's a whole section on Top Health Pros for Kids to help you get back on your sleigh.
And, don't forget...someone's turning 20 next year. Wonder who it is?
A massive dog playing the lead role in a musical—is this the plot to a cheesy TV movie for kids? Nope. It’s the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of “Because of Winn Dixie The Musical.”
Based on the beloved book of the same name by author Kate DiCamillo (“The Tale of Despereaux,” “The Tiger Rising,” “Bink & Gollie”), the new musical stars a live dog on stage. In fact, two Irish Wolfhounds—Taran and Cally—will share the role of Winn Dixie, a stray dog that changes the life of Opal, a lonely girl who has recently moved to a small southern town.
You may have seen animals onstage before, but this production takes it to a new level of excitement—and preparation. The doggy duo will be trained by Broadway animal trainer, Bill Berloni, whose long list of credits include training the pups who appeared in the original Broadway and current revival productions of “Annie.” As the main character, Winn Dixie is present in almost every scene. “When you’re dealing with this 140-pound dog, there’s a lot of fun to be had,” says show director John Tartaglia. “You can hear over and over again how big they are, but it’s overwhelming when you first see them,” he says. “They’re these big graceful horses almost. They’re very soulful and so intelligent. They walk into a room and your heart kind of melts when you see them.”
Though Taran and Cally may steal the show, the show’s creative team is full of stars as well. The show will be directed by Tartaglia, who families may recognize from Disney’s “Johnny and the Sprites.” Tartaglia began working as a Muppet on “Sesame Street” at the age of 16, and went on to star in the original cast of “Avenue Q.” He also created the off-Broadway glow-in-the-dark family musical “John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean” and is currently directing the touring production of “Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train Live: Buddy’s Big Adventure.”
Plus, the lyrics and book were written by Nell Benjamin, who was nominated for a Tony Award for the “Legally Blonde” musical. “Nell has found the funny in the show,” says Tartaglia. “There are so many great conflicts, but there’s also a lot of funny stuff too.”
Benjamin worked closely with Tony and Grammy-Award winner Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”), who composed the original score. “Duncan has written a really neat score—everything from fun, folky music to rockabilly to country,” Tartaglia says.
Audiences can expect a wide variety of musical numbers, including big, foot-tapping scenes with the whole cast, and some softer moments between Winn Dixie and Opal, who will be played by local teen Julia Landfair, an eighth grader at Episcopal Collegiate School. It won’t be the first time the talented teen has graced The Rep’s stage: She has been in the cast of several Rep shows, including “Les Miserables.” Audiences also may have seen her perform in the annual Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) production—she has completed five years in the competitive program.
“Duncan is a rock star, and this is his first real family piece. So he’s never treated it as a kid’s musical—he’s given it the same respect,” Tartaglia says.
Despite wildly different resumes, the team has one thing in common: a love for DiCamillo’s original novel and a desire to protect the integrity of the story.
“I was struck by how beautiful and smart the book is and how it doesn’t talk down to kids,” Tartaglia says. “It talks about issues that kids really go through: divorce and alcoholism, losing a parent, regret. I read the book in a day and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Kate’s writing does that—she strikes a chord. As the director, I want to honor that, so that the audience is touched by something or struck by something in the show.”
The team aims to stay true to the simplicity of Opal and Winn Dixie’s story, focusing on the bond between humans and their pets. But the story also revolves around the revelations characters have about themselves and how Opal’s canine friend helps her build relationships with people in a new community.
“Because of this dog and because of Opal, they end up becoming a little family,” Tartaglia says. “There are so many talking moments in the show: what makes a family; finding the strengths in your community; taking the time to get to know someone, not just in pleasantries. There’s a lot for families to take away.”
Best of all, Arkansas audiences have the chance to see the heartwarming show before it travels all the way to Broadway. After the premiere at The Rep, “Winn Dixie” is scheduled to run at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey, followed by a New York City debut.
“Because of Winn Dixie The Musical” will play Dec. 4-29 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Click here to see how you can reserve your seat at Little Rock Family Day at The Rep!
We met in March 2011, and I knew the second I laid eyes on her that my life would never be the same.
She was 10-years old at the time and up for adoption. It was my job, through my station’s partnership with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, to share her story on THV 11’s “A Place to Call Home” series. The hope was that someone would see her story and bring her home.
We had plans to meet at the Little Rock Zoo. To tell you the truth, I was nervous. I knew only two things. The state pulled her from her birth parents because the situation was bad. And now, she desperately wanted a mom and a dad.
What would I say to her? What would I ask? How would I approach her? Would a hug be inappropriate? There were loads of questions swirling around my head.
On the way to meet her, I recall closing my eyes. A favorite saying kept coming to mind—“Love cures people, both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” I think it’s by Karl Menninger. I tried to remember this througout the interview.
When I saw her, she nearly came running, with a giant smile, and hugged me. I was immediately disarmed. She didn’t say a word. She just kept smiling her big, warm smile.
I remember my throat tightening; my eyes welling up; thinking that no one wanted this little girl; that no one cared enough to do right by her.
She was absolutely precious, and during our interview, I recall her heart-wrenching answer to my question of what she wanted. “A nice family, someone to care about me.”
After that story, I thought again about the Menninger saying and began believing that love for these children is a basic human right. Just like food, water, and shelter. I have heard stories of horror, abuse, malnutrition, parental drug use, and the end result is so terribly sad. Of the nearly 109 stories I’ve told so far of foster children needing a family, they all say the same thing. They simply want to love and be loved.
Someone did see this young girl’s story, and they adopted her. As have 59 other families who’ve seen the stories I’ve shared.
What started out that day at the zoo as a “job” has since turned into a labor of love for me. I can’t imagine ever NOT telling the stories of our state’s foster children, advocating for them, being their voice.
I am ever grateful that it is part of my life’s mission now—to find families for the children in our communities who have none. I know there’s a way everyone reading this can help, too. The children are counting on it.
If the weather cooperates, Wild Winter Country will be a hot spot for cool fun, and many local Christmas tree farms will welcome families beginning this weekend. You can also pay a visit to Old Saint Nick, and gaze at the millions of holiday lights at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs.
Or, check out one of the following events around central Arkansas, including The Promenade at Chenal's Celebration of Lights and the opening weekend of "The Engine That Thought It Could" at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre.
Thanksgiving Day! Thursday, Nov. 28
Go!bbler Turkey Trot at Go! Running -- Before you feast on Thanksgiving lunch or dinner, tie up the laces on your running shoes and hit the pavement. A fun course through Hillcrest and the Heights covers road, track, trails and includes other surprises along the way. Santa will be on hand to help gather canned food donations for the Arkansas Foodbank. Last year’s event gathered over 1,000 pounds of food to feed hungry Arkansans. And there’s one more payoff for waking up early on the holiday -- pies will be rewarded to winners of surprise categories. Canned food donations requested. 8 a.m. For info: GoRunning.com. FREE!
Friday, Nov. 29
16th Annual Mountain Rendezvous at Petit Jean State Park -- Experience a primitive camp and learn some of the survival skills used by Arkansas pioneers. Watch a variety of demonstrations including muzzleloading rifles, tomahawk throwing, and more. Co-sponsored by the Early Arkansaw Reenactor Association. Contact the park for a schedule as the event draws near. For info: PetitJeanStatePark.com. FREE!
A Fertle Holiday at The Joint -- A Fertle Holiday is an original two-act comedy chronicling the Fertle Family's trouble-ridden reunion in the tiny town of Dumpster, Arkansas, as they attempt to entertain their rich relatives from San Diego. The Main Thing comedy trio brings the quirky family to life by portraying all the relatives and townspeople needed to create the illusion of a big, bustling Christmas get-together. Suitable for all ages. 8 p.m. Nov. 28 & 29. $20. For info: TheJointArgenta.com.
Green Friday at Mount Magazine State Park -- Spend the day after Thanksgiving at Mount Magazine State Park hiking, attending programs, or just relaxing. We’ll have green-themed programs about recycling and gardening, including "A Very Merry 'Green' Holiday" from 10-11 a.m. for info: MountMagazineStatePark.com. FREE!
Santa's Workshop at Firefly Studio -- Drop off your little elves (ages 7-12) at this pottery studio, so they may create two secret hand-painted gifts that will be wrapped and ready to pick up in 10 days. Little elves will be supervised and guided through an evening of creative holiday fun by Santa's best helpers. Cost includes dinner of pizza, veggies with ranch dip, cookies and beverages. Limited space available, and payment is required at the time of reservation. 5:30-8 p.m. $45, $35 for each additional sibling. For info: FireflyCreativeStudio.com.
"The Engine That Thought It Could" Opening Night at Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre -- It's up to Little Engine to save the day, and he'll take you on an exciting journey in this classic tale of determination. The Little Engine learns that hard work pays off, even when faced with adversity. "The Engine That Thought It Could" is written by Alan Keith Smith and is based on the 1906 story by Reverend Charles S. Wing. 7 p.m. Nov. 29, 2 p.m. Nov. 30 & Dec. 1. $12.50, members $10. For info: ArkansasArtsCenter.org.
Saturday, Nov. 30
A Fertle Holiday at The Joint -- See description on Nov. 29.
Caroling in the Caverns at Blanchard Springs Caverns -- Take a trip to Fifty Six, a quaint town in northwest Arkansas outside of Mountain View. Marvel at the beauty of astonishing formations coupled with the sounds of caroling resounding through the caverns as musicians perform your favorite old-time Christmas songs. Reservations required. Showtimes are 2:30 & 4:30 p.m., Sat. & Sun. Nov. 30-Dec. 22. $20, $27 with cave tour. For info, click here.
Celebration of Lights at The Promenade at Chenal -- The 6th Annual Celebration of Lights begins at noon with the Santa and Mrs. Claus parade led by Central High School Band members. Free visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus will be from noon-4:30 p.m. Bring your own camera to snap a free picture! Be sure to catch "A Seussified Christmas Carol" performed by Plays with a Purpose at 1:30 & 3:30 p.m. The lighting of the spectacular 26' tree is at 5 p.m.; the animated tree has even more lights added for for this year's holiday season. Tree lighting and display will continue through Dec. 31 each night at 6 p.m. Additionally, The Promenade Management Office will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for customer sign-up in the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways and to accept donations in support of Make-A-Wish MidSouth. For info: ChenalShopping.com. FREE!
Fall Hayride & Campfire at Pinnacle Mountain State Park -- Jostle, bounce, and laugh your way across the fields and through the woods on a guided hayride with a warm campfire, stories, hot chocolate, and marshmallows. Advance payment is required. 3 p.m. $12, children ages 6-12 $6. For info: ArkansasStateParks.com/PinnacleMountain.
16th Annual Mountain Rendezvous at Petit Jean State Park -- See description on Nov. 29.
Storytime: The Elf on the Shelf at Barnes & Noble in West Little Rock -- Kick off your own Elf tradition by participating in themed activities and listening to the now-classic "The Elf on the Shelf" tale. 11 a.m. For info: BarnesAndNoble.com. FREE!
"The Engine That Thought It Could" at Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre -- See description on Nov. 29.
Sunday, Dec. 1
16th Annual Mountain Rendezvous at Petit Jean State Park -- See description on Nov. 29.
Caroling in the Caverns at Blanchard Springs Caverns -- See description on Nov. 30.
Fall Hayride & Campfire at Pinnacle Mountain State Park -- See description on Nov. 30.
Holiday Open House and Sweet Potato Pie Contest at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center -- This year's Holiday Open House will include holiday music, cookies, decorations, festive craft stations, and the Second Annual "Say it isn't Say's" sweet potato pie contest. 2-5 p.m. For info: MosaicTemplarsCenter.com. FREE!
North Little Rock Sertoma Club Christmas Parade in Downtown North Little Rock -- Grab your coat and get some holiday cheer. The parade will include bands, floats and an appearance from Santa. Parade will begin at Pershing and Main Streets, head south on Main and end in front of the City Services building. 2 p.m. For info: NorthLittleRock.org. FREE!
Storytime: Grinch Day at Barnes & Noble in West Little Rock and North Little Rock -- Since its debut in 1957, Dr. Seuss' book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!," has been a perennial favorite. We'll celebrate all things Grinch with a special event that features a storytime and a plethora of activities to please even the Grinchiest. West Little Rock: 2-3 p.m. North Little Rock: 1:30-2:30 p.m. For info: BarnesAndNoble.com. FREE!
"The Engine That Thought It Could" Opening Night at Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre -- See description on Nov. 29.
CONTEST CLOSED! Be our guest...to Disney's Beauty and the Beast, when the traveling Broadway production makes a stop at Robinson Center Musical Hall Dec. 3-5!
Today, Little Rock Family will give one lucky winner a family four-pack to the 7:30 p.m. show on Tuesday, Dec. 3. To enter, send an email to BNeel@abpg.com telling us your favorite character from the classic tale.
Entries will be accepted until 3:30 p.m. today (Nov. 27). A winner will be chosen at random and notified by email by 5 p.m.
Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, Disney's Beauty and the Beast is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including "Be Our Guest" and the beloved title song.
Celebrity Attractions recommends the show is appropriate for audiences of all ages.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast will play at Robinson Center Music Hall Dec. 3-5. For more info and to buy tickets, visit CelebrityAttractions.com.
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 501 W. Ninth St., Little Rock, will celebrate the holiday season with its annual Open House, featuring the “Say it Ain’t Say’s” Sweet Potato Pie Contest, from 2-5 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 1.).
In addition to the baking competition, the Open House event will feature performances by the Central High Madrigals, Tidwell Project dancers, Gloryland Pastor’s Choir and the Louis Heard Quartet. The museum’s education department will also sponsor a holiday craft-making station for children.
In its second year, the “Say it Ain’t Say’s” Contest derives its name from Little Rock restaurateur Robert “Say” McIntosh, who is known for his popular sweet potato pies. A panel of celebrity judges will select first and second place winners in both the amateur and professional categories and a People’s Choice Award will be determined by open taste-tasting beginning at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 1).
The judges’ panel will include food and travel writer Kat Robinson, Power 92 FM’s Broadway Joe, FOX 16’s Donna Terrell, and AY magazine food columnist Pamela Smith.
Open to the public, there is no cost to attend Holiday Open House. Rather than require an entry fee, however, competitors were asked to donate a toy to the Stop the Violence organization, and visitors are also encouraged to bring toys to donate.
For more information call (501) 683-3593.
Park Plaza at Markham and University Avenue, Little Rock, is opening at midnight Black Friday (Nov. 29) for those who just can't wait to commence holiday shopping.
More than 40 stores including Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Bath and Body Works, Buckle, Clarks, Eddie Bauer, Nine West and more will be open and ready for shoppers with doorbuster deals and gifts. To view a full list of stores opening at midnight, click here.
Remaining mall stores will be open by 7 a.m., with Dillard’s opening at 8 a.m.
The mall website will be loaded with all of the information needed to plan a Black Friday shopping trip: sale information, including special offers; mall directories with store listings; maps and more.
Park Plaza will be closed Thanksgiving Day.
The Little Rock Zoo is proud to announce that an African Penguin successfully hatched on Oct. 24 and is growing strong.
The chick, named Bugsy by zoo staff, is the second chick hatched at the zoo. The first chick, Gilligan, was hatched in October 2012 and can be seen at the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe habitat. Like Gilligan, Bugsy’s parents are penguins Skipper and Eze.
Both Gilligan and Bugsy were hatched at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the African Penguin, also called the Black-footed Penguin. African penguins are native to the country of South Africa and Namibia and are considered an endangered species because of loss of habitat, overfishing and oil spills. African penguin populations have declined by 95 percent in the past 100 years.
Bugsy and her parents, Skipper and Eze, are on exhibit at Penguin Pointe but spend most of their time in their nest box. However, Bugsy has started to explore outside of the nest box and is occasionally visible. When she is ready, keepers will start hand-raising Bugsy inside the Conservation Room at the exhibit to teach her how to eat whole fish. During this process, Bugsy will be visible to the public.
The hatching of Bugsy brings the total number of penguins at the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit to 17.
Last week, the zoo also announced the birth of four new tiger cubs born early in the morning on Tuesday, Nov. 12.