Looking Back

Looking Back

Writer revisits moments that made 2018 unforgettable


Jocelyn Murphy

I’d like to tell you about my year, if you’ll indulge me.

In preparing for the annual year-end coverage for What’s Up! and looking back at all we’ve accomplished, attended, written about, anticipated, savored and rejoiced in over 2018, most significant to me was the time I spent relishing the wonderful variety our corner of the state had to offer. So this year, more than my opinions on anything else, I felt compelled to share with you a little about the incredible experiences I found in my own back yard. Maybe you newly call the area home and don’t know yet the wonders you’ll find here. Or, like so many of us, maybe you’ve settled into a bit of a complacent rut and will appreciate a reminder of just how fortunate we truly are to call Northwest Arkansas ours.

Below is a smattering of some of the most unforgettable events and happenings I attended this year, in no particular order. How did you spend your 2018?

At the Illusionist’s Table” — Potluck Arts debuted a new series this year called “Out of the Ordinary Experience,” providing one-of-a-kind contemporary arts events. The series’ premiere event was an intimate evening with Scottish illusionist/mentalist Scott Silven at Brightwater in Bentonville for an immersive and magical take on dinner theater. Each of the three decadent courses prepared by local chefs Paul Allen and Vince Pianalto enhanced or embodied details of Silven’s storytelling and interactions, while between courses, Silven enchanted with his charisma and mystified with his mentalism, making for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a world class performer.

Willo Mancifoot: The Musical” — Eureka Springs artist and seemingly a fairy come to life, Valerie Hubbard Damon feels everything in her life has been building to the debut of the children’s musical based on her whimsical, wildly successful 1985 book “Willo Mancifoot and the Mugga Killa Whomps.” The artist/author’s stage adaptation debuted in May with a cast of local children and was almost too precious for words. What made the performance unforgettable, though, was the unmistakable amount of work from all corners of the community that obviously went into the production, from the stunningbackdrops and set pieces, to the intricate costumes for the cast of nearly 30, to the subtle details like the woven metalworked music stand used by the narrator.

Promised Land Zoo — I’m cheating a little as Promised Land is actually just over the Arkansas state line, but one of the most incredible experiences I had this year took place just outside Branson. On invitation to explore the zoo’s expansions and additions, I was treated to the full VIP experience, which anyone can purchase. We ventured through the park’s 75-plus acres in RTVs, during which intimate animal encounters allowed me to hand-feed a sloth, support a lemur as she jumped delicately onto my shoulders, hold a baby kangaroo in a makeshift pouch and feel the powerful muscles of a ball python as I held her in my hands — not to mention the simple wonder that comes with observing, interacting with and learning about animals when one attends a good zoo of any kind.

Fork + Bottle — The Hive restaurant inside 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville hosts a a series some half a dozen times a year that is, simply put, one of my favorite things. The Fork + Bottle series offers a four- to five-course meal built around a theme and paired with a bottle. The Americana-inspired barbecue dinner I attended in July was matched with spirits and cocktails from Kansas City whiskey house J. Rieger & Co., and a representative was in attendance, as is customary for the series, so guests had the added pleasure of learning a bit about the interesting history, products and methods of J. Rieger. The meals are set at a long, family-style table, encouraging community and interaction, and the menu often comprises special concoctions not on The Hive’s usual menu.

Maya: Raj and Rozenbridge” — One of the things I am proudest of about our community of creators is the spirit of collaboration that exists everywhere you look. Musicians and actors and chefs and comedians and writers and artists — and all the people who support those creators behind the scenes — are constantly seeking new and exciting ways to combine their disciplines to engage audiences on a deeper level. That’s what happened in September when stand-up comedian Raj Suresh — who has worked aggressively and tirelessly during his time in Arkansas to establish and develop the area’s comedy scene — premiered his collaborative project “Maya” at Crystal Bridges Museum. Presented by the museum’s Artinfusion programming, the show was months in the making and brought Suresh and half-guitar, half-cello duo Rozenbridge together for a uniquely entertaining experience. “Maya” was my first introduction to Rozenbridge, and I am now lamenting that I had never seen them perform before. Tim Warden on acoustic guitar and Christian Serrano-Torres on cello are captivating, but they also have great comedic timing. The show blended comedy, music, storytelling, crowd play and confetti and was endearing as the performers played off each other to complement and enhance their individual talents.



Through Other Eyes

Because I can’t be everywhere at once, some of my coworkers offered even more examples of the variety our area provides. Here are just a few of their favorite memories from this year — an even greater sampling of what to keep an eye out for as you look to fill 2019 with meaningful moments.

Becca Martin-Brown

My two favorite memories of 2018 are at Arkansas Public Theatre. One is the after-show photo with my daughter, my sister, [and actors] Michael Myers, Ed McClure and Kris Isham after “Act of God.” Amanda thought it was great fun to get on the stage! The other is the gift of a new musical to love — “Sunset Boulevard” — and the beautiful voice of its male lead, Brandon Hamilton. — Becca Martin-Brown, Features editor





Rusty Turner

My wife is a fan of country singer Keith Urban, so when we heard he’d play at the AMP on Aug. 15, we bought chair-back tickets on the second-to-last row in front of the vast lawn-seating area. Near the end of the show Urban made his way from the main stage up the aisle and sang a couple of songs from the auxiliary stage next to us, facing the fans on the lawn. The big crowd went nuts, and we were right next to the stage. In fact, the entire concert was very audience-focused. Everyone had a great time. — Rusty Turner, NWADG editor




Laurinda Joenks

The first Christmas Crawl on Emma Avenue in downtown Springdale certainly heightened the seasonal cheer. Seeing Emma Avenue come to life again gladdens the heart of this 72762 gal. And it was a great afternoon spent with friends. Try the Spiced Cranberry cider at Black Apple Crossing. — Laurinda Joenks, Springdale reporter




Lara Hightower

My favorite Northwest Arkansas event this year was TheatreSquared’s production of the musical “Once,” directed by Amy Herzberg with her trademark warmth and wit. I adore musicals, but this one was new to me, and the combination of the excellent folk-rock music with a cast so talented they accompanied themselves on a variety of instruments made for one of the most stirring nights of theater I’ve had in a long time. — Lara Hightower, NWA Profiles writer




Tony Reyes

In October, I took my family (six of us, including a baby) on a camping trip on the Buffalo National River at the request of our oldest son for his 14th birthday. It rained the first day, was sunny, warm and beautiful the next and brutally cold the third. We cut firewood, made s’mores, hiked and all the other traditional camping activities. The baby played in the leaves. The older children explored, and we had a pretty good time. — Tony Reyes, Online editor




Alex Golden

This year, I took part in the Northwest Arkansas Gridiron, a show where journalists like myself sing, act and dance with or without talent (without, in my case) in a series of skits that poke fun at the news from the last year. It was a fun group of people to rehearse with and get to know over the course of several weeks as I tried my hand at being a Russian dancer, a “True Detective” casting director and a University of Arkansas gymnast. — Alex Golden, Rogers reporter



Deb Harvell

Some of the best times I had this past year were at the Naturals games. I really enjoy the activities that they offer and the themed game nights. I love seeing the smiling faces on the kids and watching them enjoying the games and having a good time. Win or lose, the Naturals games never fail to put a smile on my face. — Deb Harvell, designer




Spencer Tirey

The October weekend my sister visited from Houston happened to be the OZ Trail Championship, and she was able to see all the activities going on at that Saturday’s Bentonville Farmers Market with the added biking event and all the festivities around it. Walking the Greenway Trail from downtown Bentonville that Saturday to Crystal Bridges as riders practiced the trail was particularly interesting. On Sunday and Monday, even though the weather went bad, we played shuffleboard at the Grove in 8th Street Market and found Monday afternoon was one of the best days to visit Crystal Bridges because there were no crowds. — Spencer Tirey, Photo editor

Categories: 'Tis the Season