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story.lead_photo.caption Ebony Smith, a Walmart Home Office associate, greets an arriving delegation of associates from Japan Sunday at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will hold its annual shareholders meeting on Friday in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. To see more photos, go to www.nwadg.com/photos. - Photo by Ben Goff

BENTONVILLE -- Thousands of people will be in town for the annual Wal-Mart shareholders week starting today, and city officials say dealing with large crowds is nothing new to them.

Photo by Ben Goff
A delegation of workers from Japan arrives Sunday at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill for shareholders week.
Photo by Ben Goff
Workers from Japan arrive Sunday for shareholders week.

The Bentonville Film Festival made its inaugural appearance in the city last month. Visitors have flocked to the city for years during shareholders week, making that preparation almost routine, officials said.

Employees visit

The Walmart Museum will have thousands of employees visit this week. International employees will visit Tuesday. Sam’s Club employees will visit Wednesday, and United States Walmart employees will visit Thursday.

Source: Staff report

The main task from a city perspective is to make sure things are ready, Mayor Bob McCaslin said.

"Spit polished so to speak," he said. "The main thing we do is our landscaping, picking up litter and just kind of straightening up things. I would tell you that we're there. This isn't something new to us."

Wal-Mart occasionally may ask for extra officers to help with security, but nothing on the scale of what was requested at the film festival in May, McCaslin said.

Some police officers' shifts were extended to cover various film festival events. A command center was created at Fire Station No. 1 and had representatives from the police, emergency medical services, the festival and other agencies.

The Fire Department will look very different for shareholders week compared to when the film festival was in the city.

Fire Department officials have met with Wal-Mart officials and received an itinerary for the week, said Kevin Boydston, deputy chief.

"For us, that's pretty much all we do," Boydston said. "It doesn't put any additional strain on us."

Other fire and EMS personnel are refreshed on rescue taskforce procedures in case there was a large-scale emergency, but the weeklong event "doesn't cause us to have to do anything different on a daily basis," he said

"They're well practiced at it. It's well organized," Boydston said of Wal-Mart and shareholders week. "They're the world's largest retailer. They have to be good at the things that they do."

Shareholders week doesn't require much preparation for most businesses around the downtown square, either.

Tusk and Trotter isn't doing any extra work beforehand, said Aubrey Barker, front house manager.

Business may actually slow down during the week because many visitors are from the Walmart and vendor community. Their tight schedules during the week prevents many people from being able to come in, she said.

The Walmart Museum and Walton 5&10 downtown does expect an uptick in business this week.

Alan Dranow, senior director at the Walmart Heritage Group, said he expects 6,000 to 7,000 people to come through the museum from Tuesday through Thursday.

This will be the third large event he and his team recently have taken part in. The museum celebrated its 25th anniversary with community events May 16.

Getting ready for shareholders week is different than the film festival or the anniversary celebration because the events have different purposes, Dranow said.

The anniversary was to celebrate the museum. Those who attended the festival often just happened upon the museum. Shareholders week is like a homecoming for employees as they are able to see the birthplace of Wal-Mart, he said.

"They're just so happy to be in the place where it all started," he said. "We have a very strong culture, and our associates are very passionate about it."

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art also expects an increase in visitors this week. There will be more staff and volunteers to accommodate the crowds, said Beth Bobbitt, public relations manager.

Visitors also can take advantage of the summer bonus hour. The museum will open at 10 a.m. instead of 11 a.m., during week days. The extra hour wasn't added because of shareholders week, but it's a benefit that it coincides with it, Bobbitt said.

NW News on 06/01/2015

Print Headline: Bentonville prepared for shareholders

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