FSLT back in business with mystery-comedy romp

FSLT back in business with mystery-comedy romp
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

On June 2 and 3, a huge field on the outskirts of Prairie Grove will hold the largest selection of open-air flea market booths in the Northwest Arkansas area. From polished antiques to funky vintage treasures to rusty farm finds, shoppers should be rewarded with just about anything they’re looking for at the Junk Ranch, which boasts 150 vendors and more than 200 booths.

We asked a few vendors what they’re bringing to the event, how they got involved in junking, and what their best find ever was.

Don Wilkinson

Don Wilkinson found his way to junking the way a lot of vendors do: he kept finding great stuff while shopping for his own collection of vintage Speas Vinegar bottles. So when he retired in his mid-50s after 35 years with the Arkansas Highway Department, he threw his hat into the flea market ring and got a booth at one of the largest flea markets in the country in Canton, Texas. After 10 years of selling at Canton, he moved up to an even bigger venue — Round Top, Texas, the Holy Grail of flea markets.

“It was a lot of work on my part,” he says. “We would haul seven or eight trailer loads down between shows, store them, and then we’d go down and set up and stay two weeks, selling. We sold to people from everywhere — California and everywhere. They got to buying from me, and they actually got to buying too much. It became too much of a job, and age took over.”

Wilkinson is 85 now, and he was thrilled when the Junk Ranch opened up so near his home in Mountainburg. Though the main product he sells are chicken laying houses — he estimates he’s sold around 30,000 over the course of his junking career — the booth he runs with his son is an eclectic mix of auction, estate and farm sale finds.

Wilkinson’s best find ever was deceptively simple: a box full of old bottle caps.

“I told my wife, ‘I found the Holy Grail,’” he remembers. “They were unused, cork-lined Dr Pepper bottle caps from 1907. The first bottle caps ever used on a Dr Pepper bottle.”

When he put them on eBay, he says, “people went crazy.”

Stacey Murphy

The Weathered Pearl

Stacey Murphy’s relationship with the Junk Ranch started off as a shopper.

“I loved the eclectic mix of old, used, collectible items and the vendor inspired pieces! I thought to myself, ‘I could do this,’” she recalls. “I applied the next year, and junk has been my livelihood ever since.”

Murphy advises yard sale shoppers to look for the signs with a torn piece of cardboard with the word “sale” scribbled across it as a marker.

“Often these sales are not advertised on social media, so it increases your chances of finding a hidden treasure,” she says.

She also hits the widely advertised sales, like the Oklahoma 100-mile Yard Sale. That’s where she found her favorite find: a 13-foot late 1800s banquet table discovered in a barn in Cleveland, Okla.

“I have done several shows all over Oklahoma and Arkansas, and I would say what sets the Junk Ranch apart from the others is the venue itself, the friendly vendors, the amazing shoppers, but most of all how well [Junk Ranch founders] Amy [Daniels] and Julie [Speed] have it organized,” Murphy says.

Tracy Davis

Rusty Heart Relics

“I have always loved old things as long as I can remember,” says Tracy Davis of Rusty Heart Relics. “My mama had an eye for the ornate and passed it along to me. We spent many a weekend traveling the roads for that elusive treasure.”

For her booth, she stocks a wide variety of items.

“I love vintage and antique garden items, primitive and antique furniture, and holiday decor,” she says. “I loved MCM before it was cool.”

Her favorite find is an antique child’s bedroom suite she found at the famed Texas flea market Round Top.

“It is a beautiful faded robin’s egg blue with a painted design, and it’s to die for,” she says.

Davis has had a love affair with the Junk Ranch since the first year.

“From the live music and food trucks to the mountains of treasures and lovely vendors, I knew this was the show that I wanted to be a part of,” she says. “Amy and Julie are the best and treat us like family.”



Junk Ranch

WHEN — 9 a.m.-3 pm. June 2; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.

WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove

COST — $10

INFO — thejunkranch.net

Murder may seem like a strange subject for a board game, but when English musician Anthony Pratt devised a game centered around one, it was an almost immediate hit. “Cluedo” — a combination of the word “clue” and “ludo,” the Latin word for “I play” — was first released in 1949 and has been one of the world’s most popular board games since. Only minor changes have been made to the original game play over the years: three to six players must figure out where a person was murdered, with what instrument and, finally, whodunit, all by eliminating suspects and murder weapons, one by one. The game is so popular that it’s inspired two feature films, multiple books, a musical and a mini-series — as well as a stage play, adapted from the original 1985 movie screenplay. It’s this madcap physical comedy with which Fort Smith Little Theatre has decided to open their 2021 season.

“This has been a long road — I originally submitted the show to our production committee a few seasons ago, but we couldn’t get the performance rights,” says Rikkee Black, who, along with husband Scott, is co-directing the show. “So FSLT requested an early securing of rights, and we scheduled ‘Clue’ to open the 2021 season last February. Unfortunately, our theater was still shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic, so the show was delayed until now.”

“Join the iconic oddballs known as Scarlet, Plum, White, Green, Peacock and Mustard as they race to find the murderer before the body count stacks up,” reads the description of the show, which the film critic for D.C. Metro calls “a delightful screwball lark” that has a “dizzy, stimulating joy that makes it a whole lot of fun.” FSLT veteran actor Mickie Voelkel agrees.

“This play is hilarious, fast and physical,” she says. “We run up and down stairs, in and out of doors, fall on the floor, hyperventilate and drag around ‘bodies.’ It’s been really fun, but I have to admit I’m sore.”

The fun quotient for the show, says actor Eric Wells, is high.

“I remember there was a movie of ‘Clue’ but I had not seen it,” says Wells, who plays Mr. Green. “After sitting down to watch it, I knew this would be a show I’d love to be in. The story is full of comedy that everyone will enjoy. I am having the time of my life rehearsing for this show.”

When “Clue” opens on Sept. 23, it will be the first show on the FSLT stage in 18 months; the theater closed its doors in March 2020 because of the global pandemic. Sherry Hester, president of the FSLT Board of Directors, says she’s thrilled that the theater will see an audience again.

“Welcome back!” enthuses Hester. “Among the many losses caused by covid-19 has been the opportunity for us to be together. Due to the pandemic, our stage has been dark for 18 long months. We look forward to once again filling our seats and providing our area with the unique entertainment that only live theater can provide.”

FSLT says in a press release that the cast members of “Clue” have all been fully vaccinated and have rehearsed “under conditions recommended by the CDC, including use of masks during rehearsal.” Patrons should check the theater company’s website at fslt.org for details on precautions being taken for entry to the show prior to purchasing tickets.




WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23-25 and Sept. 29- Oct. 2; 2 p.m. Sept. 26

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St., Fort Smith

COST — $12

INFO — 783-2966

Categories: Theater