Hot Springs could be looking at its busiest weekend in the history of the city March 16-18, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs.
The entire month of March is shaping up to be a lively one in the Spa City, with the Arkansas State Basketball Finals beginning today through Saturday at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena, the Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival March 16-20, the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park followed by the First Ever 15th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 17, and the inaugural Hot Springs Baseball Weekend set for March 23-24.
In addition, spring break begins for Arkansas students on March 16.
With the Rebel Stakes, one of Oaklawn's busiest race days of the year, and the St. Patrick's Day parade both falling on March 17, Arrison said they are starting the parade an hour later this year to combat some of the traffic on Central Avenue and give people time to thoroughly enjoy both events. The parade will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Bridge Street.
Planning ahead is going to be the key to getting the most out of this entertaining weekend in Hot Springs.
"We have traffic every weekend anyway; I think people will adapt and I think people will decide what they're going to do and plan on how they're going to get there -- just leave a little earlier than usual," Arrison said. "Even at our worst, we're a lot better than Branson and some of the other places that I've visited. Traffic's not a bad thing. I'd rather have traffic problems than no traffic problems. If people plan ahead, they'll be fine."
A free concert on the night before the parade has been added to the festivities this year. Adam Faucett will kick off the concert on March 16 at 7 p.m. followed by Grand Funk Railroad at 8 p.m. on the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade stage located at the foot of Bridge Street. Vendors will be on site with food and beverages for sale.
Arrison said he thinks parade attendance will be bigger this year than it's ever been before.
"Where else can you go and see the best horse racing in the world, go see one of the Top 10 parades in the United States for St. Patrick's Day, and enjoy some of the best music for the 14th annual Valley of the Vapors? I think the attendance will be bigger than it ever has been," Arrison said. "You can go to the races, you can go to the parade, and then you get to see some musical acts all in the same day, all within three miles of each other. That's pretty incredible."
Valley of the Vapors and the parade also fell on the same weekend last year, and Arrison said they coexist extremely well together.
"And it just so happens that the Rebel Stakes fell on that day this year, and we also coexist well with Oaklawn. We celebrate St. Patrick's Day on St. Patrick's Day and that's March 17. We always stay with the day, rain or shine. I think it's important for people to know we don't care what the weather is -- it could be raining, it could be snowing, it could be beautiful. We don't have a rain or snow date or a hurricane date," Arrison added.
He recalled the weather in 2013 when Jim Belushi served as the parade's grand marshal.
"I remember Jim Belushi's plane came in and we had Glen Barentine, who runs the airport, out there with his truck lighting up the runway just so they could see where it was because of the snow," he said. "Then the next day was one of the most beautiful days we've ever had for a parade, so we had the luck of the Irish with us. We don't pay attention to any schedules on St. Patrick's Day -- we're still going to have a great time and the beer still tastes just as good."Local on 03/08/2018