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Eat, Play, Shop, Live, Visit, Work. Your daily stop for the latest on all things Arkansas, including your comments. Send blog tips and feedback to Associate Editor Lauren James here.
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Big Rock Fun Park's Grand Opening Celebration To Benefit Centers for Youth & Families

Gallery by Tyler Rosenthal


Follow up your July 4 fireworks with a trip to Big Rock Fun Park's Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, July 5. In addition to all of the weekend fun we rounded up here, this event is a can't-miss!

The brand-new family hot spot has batting cages, bumper boats, arcade games, go-carts and the only mini golf courses in the Little Rock area. Little Rock Family was amazed when we toured the park in June -- you can see our pictures here!

As part of the grand opening, Big Rock is inviting full-time residents at The Centers for Youth & Families for a free day of fun. Proceeds from the event will benefit the local nonprofit, which provides shelters, counseling, treatment, prevention services and more to families in central Arkansas.

Big Rock Fun Park's Grand Opening Celebration is from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 5. For more info on hours and pricing at the park, visit For coupons and special offers from the park, click here.


5 Events for Weekend Fun: Plantation Agriculture Museum, Stargazing

Image by Shutterstock

You're blasting off into the long holiday weekend with fireworks, BBQs and more, right? Well, on Saturday you can keep the Fourth of July fun going throughout the weekend at one of these five, family-friendly events.

1. Homespun Day at Plantation Agriculture Museum: Artisans from around Arkansas are here to spin, weave, and loom cotton into fabric. Other traditional hands-on crafts and activities include live music, basket weaving, corn-husk doll making, quilting, old-fashioned games and toys, and homemade, hand-churned ice cream. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 5. For info: (501) 961-1409, FREE!

2. Busch-Pepsi Softball Classic at Burns Park & Sherwood Sports Complex: From July 4-6, Sherwood and North Little Rock will host this annual softball competition for men and women. Founded in 1979 as a fundraiser for a class A team from Arkansas, the Classic now has over 2,700 teams from 39 states. The tournament has grown into a softball showcase of fiercely competitive men's & women's teams of all classifications from all over the USA. The Home Run Derby kicks things off in Sherwood at 5 p.m. on July 4. For more details: Spectators FREE!

3. Arkansas Travelers vs. Midland RockHounds at Dickey Stephens Park: The Travs play the Rockhounds July 5-7, with different promotions at each game. On Saturday, arrive early -- the first 1,500 fans will receive Mark Trumbo bobbleheads to celebrate this Diamondbacks slugger who played for the Travs from 2008-2009. July 6 is Family Sunday, which means the whole family gains entry for just $10 when you bring your church bulletin. And Monday, snag a $3 coupon off admission from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's sports section. 7:10 p.m. July 5 & 7, 6:10 p.m. July 6. $4-12. For info: (501) 664-1555,

4. Stargazing Cruise at Pinnacle Mountain State Park: A park interpreter teaches about stars, constellations and satellites as you cruise around Lake Maumelle. Advance payment required. 9-10:30 p.m. July 6. $15, children ages 6-12 are $8; under 6 are free. For info: (501) 868-5806,

5. Summer Concert Series: Chris Young at Magic Springs Water & Theme Park in Hot Springs: Following up the Fourth of July Tesla concert is a performance by Chris Young on Saturday, July 5. The country artist is currently touring to promote his third studio album, "Neon," which includes hit songs like "Tomorrow" and "You." Gates open at 6 p.m., opening act at 7 p.m. and headliner at 8 p.m. Lawn seating is free with park admission or season pass. Reserved seating tickets are $5-$10. 8 p.m. July 5. For info: (501) 624-0100,

For more events, browse our full online calendar here. Or, to see our list of Fourth of July events, click here.

Shop Talk: 12 Deals to Check Out This Week

Hot deals to go along with summertime temps for this week's roundup of sale events around the metro. Enjoy! 

Southern Accented, 5501 Kavanaugh Blvd., Suite A, Little Rock:  The home décor and clothing boutique in the Heights is offering an additional 30% off sale items this week. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here or call (501) 747-1150 for more information. 

Eggshells Kitchen Co., 5501 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock: Perfect timing! Eggshells is hosting a grilling sale this week. Receive 15% off on all grilling-related items in the store. The kitchenware shop is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here for more information.

Reinvented Vintage, 10301 N. Rodney Parham Rd. Suite E4 (Breckinridge) Little Rock: The shop, which specializes in repurposing furniture, is hosting its summer sale this week and offering 25% off coastal items. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (501) 350-4769 or click here for more information. 

Vesta’s,11525 Cantrell Rd., Suite 610 (Pleasant Ridge Town Center), Little Rock: Looking for festive wear for the Fourth of July? Vesta’s is offering 50% off white and red denim and demin shorts this week.  The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Call (501) 375-7820 or click here for more information. 

The Full Moon, 3625 Kavanagh Blvd., Little Rock: The gift boutique will host an "After Fourth of July" sidewalk sale this Saturday (July 5). Receive 50% off with cash or check and 45% off with a debit or credit card. The boutique is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Click here or call (501) 663-4367 for more info. 

Barbara/Jean: 7811 Cantrell Road, Little Rock: It’s half time at Barbara/Jean! Right now, receive 50% off spring/summer clothing, shoes and accessories. Click here or call (501) 227-0054.

B. Barnett, 8201 Cantrell Road, Little Rock: The luxury boutique is offering 50% off apparel, shoes, handbags and accessories during its spring/summer sale! For more information, click here or call (501) 223-2514. 

E. Leigh’s, 2911 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock: The Super Summer Sale is going on right now at each E.Leigh’s location in the state including here in Little Rock. The trendy boutique is offering 20-50% off select summer styles. Click here for more information!

Steamroller Blues, 5915 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock: the Heights boutique is hosting its Short Sale today and offering 30% off all denim shorts. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here for more info! 

Esse Purse Museum Store, 1510 South Main St., Little Rock: The store inside Esse Purse Museum is hosting a special trunk show this week and offering 40% off bags by Little Rock artist Brian Vann! The store is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Take a peek at the goods here. For more information, call (501) 916-9022 or click here. 

Proposals Boutique, 5913 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock: Get 50% off during the Proposals 4th of July Sale starting today! The sale includes new and marked down items. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here for more info! 

Beyond Cotton 2, 11525 Cantrell Rd., Suite 904 (Pleasant Ridge Town Center), Little Rock: Right now, the west Little Rock boutique is offering two great deals! Stock up on summer shoes and receive an extra 30% off! Additionally, A fill-the-bag sale going on through Thursday offers 25% off anything you can fit into a bag at Beyond Cotton 2. We’ll be right over. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (501) 221-1539 or click here for more info.


Happy shopping! 

First Thursday Ice Cream Social in Hillcrest

Light ice cream can satisfy without overdoing the fat and calorie content.

July is upon us. How did this happen so quickly? This means summertime is officially in full swing and ice cream socials help us celebrate all things American. 

The annual Ice Cream Social at Crest Park for the monthly neighborhood event, First Thursday Shop and Sip in Hillcrest, gets started at 6 p.m. tomorrow night. Not only will there be ice cream, of course, but an array of free delicous summer treats including lemonade and cookies for delightful consumption. Rousing band music by Quapaw Brass Quintet will bolster your patriotic spirit as we celebrate our nation's birthday. 

The fourth annual event is hosted by the Hillcrest Merchant's Association. For more information, click here. 

'Let it Go' and See 'Frozen' Tonight at Movies in the Park

Image by Disney

If it's been more than a week since you've sang "Let it Go," then you should definitely go see tonight's (Wednesday) Movies in the Park film.

The free, outdoor movie night is back again this week and it's showing everyone's new favorite animated movie, "Frozen," which features the extremely popular, Academy Award-nominated song, "Let it Go."

The 2013 Disney film, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, follows the adventures of Anna and a funny snowman named Olaf as they search for Anna's sister, Elsa, whose powers have put the kingdom into an eternal winter. The movie stars Kristen Bell, as the voice of Anna, and Idina Menzel (A.K.A. Adele Dazeem), as the voice of Elsa.

The movie is rated PG and runs 102 minutes. It starts at 8:30 p.m. at the Riverfront Park at 400 President Clinton Ave.

Movie-goers are asked to bring chairs or blankets to sit on the grassy area, or you can sit in the theater seats. Pets are allowed. 

Upcoming movies include "The Hunger Games" and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." For a full lineup, check out our story here.

If by chance you have not seen "Frozen," check out the trailer below.

Inside the Freeze Factory: Loblolly Creamery Concocts Little Rock Family's Birthday Sundae

Gallery by Tyler Rosenthal

Here at Little Rock Family, we’re still celebrating our 20th anniversary year! This month, we got the best birthday present ever—our very own ice cream concoction from Loblolly Creamery and a tour of the kitchen where all the magic happens.


It’s every kid’s dream—to invent ice cream flavors. Meet Ice Cream Dan, the Ice Cream Man, who does exactly that. Dan Moore is one of the chefs at Loblolly Creamery, and estimates that he has made 75-80 percent of Loblolly’s ice cream since the company launched in 2012. Moore’s days are filled with marshmallow-making, syrup-mixing, ice cream-churning, and of course, flavor-inventing. His favorite invention to date is the Spicy Thai, a coconut “ice cream” with lime, ginger and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper.


Most of Loblolly’s offerings aren’t so fiery: Moore says salted caramel and double vanilla are the most popular. No matter the product—ice cream, kombucha, soda, sorbet and more—all are hand-crafted in small batches and made with as many Arkansas-sourced ingredients as possible.

As part of our year-long 20th anniversary celebration, Little Rock Family visited the Loblolly Creamery kitchen, located in the bottom floor of downtown Little Rock’s Quapaw Towers. We toured the space and watched as Moore made a batch of Rocky Road. The best part: Ice Cream Dan made us our very own Little Rock Family dessert—two scoops of buttermilk ice cream, drizzled with raspberry sauce and blueberry syrup, and topped with blueberries and whip cream.

Get Your Fix

The Soda Fountain in the Green Corner Store offers the most flavors, as well as handmade sodas, shakes, egg creams, sundaes and more.

You can also pick up a cone or a pint from the Loblolly Creamery ice cream truck, which you can find on Saturdays at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, and at events and food truck meet-ups around town.

Find even more locations that sell and serve Loblolly, including Mylo Coffee Co., Boulevard Bread Co. and more, at

Rollin' on the River: 6 Family-Friendly Float Trips in Arkansas

From the Ozarks to the Delta, you’ll find floatable rivers, creeks and water trails that afford beautiful scenery, a glimpse at native wildlife and unplugged family bonding time. In fact, according to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the state boasts more than 600,000 acres of lakes and more than 90,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks.

Debbie Doss, a lifetime member and the Conservation Chair of the Arkansas Canoe Club, says “Arkansas is in the heart of the country and has so much access to clean water, beautiful forests and natural areas. People who have lived here all their lives and never lived anywhere else—they don’t realize what we have,” she says. “There’s lots of exploration to do.”

Families who want to dip their toes in the water should start out with a crucial step: research. Hunter Mays, a floating-enthusiast, program assistant and educator at Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, says the most important part of floating is preparation. “Once you figure out where you want to go, you need to figure out where you want to put your boat in and where you’ll take it out. You need to know the water level, the recent rainfall, the amount of time you’re going to be on the water—that affects a lot, including how much drinking water you need to bring, sunscreen, etc.”

Many major floating rivers have outfitter services, which take a lot of the work out of preparing for a float with families. The outfitters will rent boats, lifejackets, paddles and other equipment to visitors. The companies will also run shuttles that take you directly to easy entry points and will pick you up at the end of your float.

However, families should always discuss paddling safety and what to do in case of emergencies (see safety tips below). Doss also recommends attending a workshop or class before embarking on a float trip: “A little bit of instruction goes a long way in keeping people safe,” she says. The Arkansas Canoe Club offers paddling schools twice a year, and will also host clinics for groups.

Last, but not least, try to keep Arkansas beautiful while enjoying the rivers. “If you pack it in, pack it out,” Doss says. “If you see litter on-stream—you don’t have to go crazy and do your own personal cleanup—but if you pick up a little trash every time you go, it makes a difference. We always try to leave it cleaner than we found it.”

Hop in your kayak, canoe or raft and float one of these 6 family-friendly float trips in Arkansas:

1. The Little Maumelle Water Trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park is a great choice for first-time paddlers. The slow-moving stream is dotted with picturesque Cypress Trees, and leads all the way down to the popular Two Rivers Bridge. Plus, families can take guided canoeing or kayaking tours led by a Pinnacle Mountain park interpreter. The next Evening Canoe Float will be held July 12, and costs $40 per canoe. For info, visit

2. The Buffalo National River is, of course, one of the most popular floating rivers in the state. “You can’t go wrong with the lower part of the Buffalo—that part of the river is nice and easy-going and usually has water year-round,” Mays says. “It’s a ‘wild river,’ so every inch is wooded with trees. Bring a pair of binoculars to see birds and wildlife from a distance.” Plus, multiple outfitters offer a variety of tours and rental services. Find more info at

3. The Spring River near the Missouri border is fed by the Mammoth Spring, which means the 58-degree water flows year-round and is crystal clear. Steer clear of the party crowds on the weekend and try a week-day float for a calmer, more family-friendly experience. Find more info and a guide to the many outfitters at

4. The Caddo River is a popular floating river for families and frequent paddlers alike, and runs 40 miles from the Ouachita Mountains all the way to DeGray Lake. Beginners enjoy the six-mile float from Caddo Gap to Glenwood, which includes a few small rapids. Or, for a slower float, hop in the canoe at Glenwood and ride to Amity. Several outfitters provide rental and shuttle services. For more info, visit

5. The Saline River runs right through Benton and is a close-to-home option for families in central Arkansas. The serene river runs through forests, fields and farmlands and is a great spot for fishing, swimming and scoping out wildlife. Saline River Canoe offers a short and sweet 4-mile float from Peeler Bend to Lyle Park. For more info, visit

6. The Ouachita River (pictured above) offers fun for adventurous families. In fact, you don't even need a canoe or kayak to float from Remmel Dam at Lake Catherine to the whitewater park in Rockport near Malvern -- many hop right in with pool rings and rafts for the gentle float. Plus, scheduled releases from Remmel Dam usually keep the water levels high enough to float even in the drier summer months. For more info, visit, or find out about shuttle services at

Visit or for information about paddling and water trails.

Floating Safety

Canoeing, kayaking and rafting are fun summertime activities, but can be dangerous if you act recklessly or fail to take proper precautions.

• Wear lifejackets. Children 12 and under must wear a life jacket that is securely fastened while on board any vessel.

• Bring along snacks and plenty of water.

• Wear sunscreen, a hat and protective footgear.

• Pack a first aid kit in case of scrapes, bumps or bruises, and bring along insect repellent.

• Know your physical limitations and the limitations of your children, and don’t go on a long trip for your first float.

• Check weather forecasts, and call an outfitter ahead of time to confirm that the river is currently safe for paddling.

• If you go over in a current, keep floating until you can get out where it’s safe. Swim away from the boat, so that it doesn’t wash down on top of you.

• Also, if you fall out of the boat in a rapid, do not try to stand up. Your foot can get stuck on the bottom of the river and the pressure of the current could pin you down.

For more tips on paddling safety as well as laws for Arkansas Waterways, visit Arkansas Game & Fish Commission at

Hillcrest Artisan Meats Wins Ham Independence Contest!

Image by Hillcrest Artisan Meats

Hillcrest Artisan Meats of Little Rock is once again king of the Ham world! 

H.A.M., co-owned by Brandon Brown and his wife, Tara Protiva-Brown, won the La Quercia Ham Independence contest for the second consecutive year. The local shop defeated competitors from across the nation to take home the top prize. 

H.A.M. received 6,886 votes, roughly 41 percent, to beat its closest competitor, The Cheese Shop of Des Moines, which received 6,665 votes, roughly 39 percent.

As its prize, H.A.M. wins a whole Acorn Edition Prosciutto leg. The humongous piece of pork is aged 24-36 months and weighs between 15-30 lbs and comes from a pig fed a 60 percent acorn diet for at least three months.

The folks at H.A.M. were in the middle of catering to a busy lunch crowd at their Kavanaugh Boulevard shop when they found out they had repeated as winners.

"Our fans in Arkansas are incredible to do this two years in a row," Protiva-Brown said. 

As an added bonus this year, H.A.M. will get to travel to Iowa to pick out its prized possession. 

H.A.M. doesn't know when it will be headed up to Iowa to collect its prize, but one thing is for sure, the ham will be available to all customers once it's in Little Rock.

"Absolutely," Protiva-Brown said when asked if customers would be able to get free samples of the glorious meat. "We would never sell this ham."

It took about eight days for the entire ham to be consumed by H.A.M.'s customers last year, and Protiva-Brown said it was a great experience.

"It was so much fun," she said. "People would pull up on their lunch breaks, run in, get a bite and run out."

The contest is part of the Ham Independence Week, a week-long festival put on by La Quercia Cured Meats of Iowa. The festival celebrates artisan cured ham and all its glory. located at 2807 Kavanaugh Blvd, Suite B, and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The Hillcrest shop provides locally-sourced, natural and organic meats and charcuterie products. For more information, check out their Facebook page.

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
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It will be hard to not get excited for cool, fall nights and football if you hit Movies in the Park tonight. The free, outdoor movie night at the Riverfront Park will be showing "Friday Night Lights."

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