Conference center takes on new life in Fairfield Bay

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published November 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Bob and Wilba Thompson are directors of the Our Towne Conference and Visitor Center in Fairfield Bay.

FAIRFIELD BAY — The Our Towne Conference and Visitor Center at Fairfield Bay has taken on new life.

Closed in 2002, the center was reopened Oct. 12, with Bob and Wilba Thompson as directors of the facility.

“It was in terrible disrepair,” Bob Thompson said. “At one time, the city thought it would have to condemn the building and tear it down. The former owner gave it to the city, and with the help of a federal grant, we have been able to reconstruct it.

“We spent $560,000 reconstructing it,” he said. “A lot of the work was done by volunteer labor. Our overall construction manager was Doyle Scroggins, who lives here in the Bay. He donated his time, which was a year’s worth of work. His wife, Sue, did all of the interior decorating.

“We’ve had wonderful donors. The community has really supported this. We’ve raised $101,000 from community members and friends of Fairfield Bay.”

Bob said the building is divided into three basic areas — the Our Towne Performing Arts Center (a theater), which is supported by the North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education, with Lea Berry as president and director of the foundation; the North Central Arkansas Fine Arts Gallery, currently featuring 26 artists, with Charlotte Rierson as coordinator of the gallery; and the Meeting and Conference Center, with Wilba Thompson doing most of the bookings.

“We have a block of rooms available to us so we can do overnight accommodations,” Wilba said. “We have plenty of housing.”

She said the performing arts center could be used for any number of events, such as the upcoming presentation of Hallelujah Girls by Our Towne Productions.

“It’s also a great place for lectures,” she said. “And we just had a beauty pageant in it.”

A “bistro” is located in the main lobby of the center.

“There is always coffee in it, and Wi-Fi is available,” Wilba said. “Residents and visitors are welcome at any time.”

A free breakfast is served to visitors at 9 every Monday morning.

A large conference room of approximately 5,000 square feet can accommodate 450 to 500 people. That space can also be divided into three small “breakout rooms.” One of the rooms contains a stage and a small dance floor.

But the “wow” factor of the center, Wilba said, is the deck. Nestled up to the woods in the back of the center is a multi-layered wooden deck ,complete with tables and chairs.

“We’ve had weddings out here, cocktail parties, anniversary parties,” she said. “And the West Side High School prom will be held here in the spring. It’s all the bomb to them.”

The final phase of the reconstruction project is the kitchen, which is being funded in part by a grant that state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, has applied for.

Once a state-of-the-art kitchen, this space will be completely remodeled and available for catering purposes. Wilba said the official caterer for the center will be the Little Red Restaurant in Fairfield Bay.

“This is such a beautiful facility,” she said. “We are so happy to bring it back to the community.”

She said the center is a member of the Arkansas Hospitality Association and an associate member of the Arkansas Society of Association Executives.

The Our Towne Conference and Visitor Center, 110 Lost Creek Parkway, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (501) 884-4202.

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