NEWPORT Music, art and theater are taking center stage in downtown Newport.
Coordinated by DRIVE (Downtown Revitalization and Improvement Volunteer Effort), the new Downtown Entertainment Series is underway, offering a variety of entertainment weekly in the new park on Front Street.
“We’re transitioning to a new way of looking at our entertainment,” said Jon Chadwell, executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission.
“Instead of sponsoring a big festival during the summer like we have been doing with Portfest, we are going to have smaller events throughout the spring, summer and fall. It will be fun. Plus, it’s all free. Our sponsors are excited about it,” Chadwell said.
“We had a soft opening in April, which went well. Most of the musicians come from the Memphis and central-Arkansas areas. We also have some from the Jonesboro area,” he said.
“The artists who are teaching art classes are mostly from this area,” he said, adding that some are from Little Rock. “And the plays, which are mostly family-friendly, geared for preschool children to sixth-graders, are presented by Bright Star Children’s Theatre from North Carolina.”
The Downtown Entertainment Series will culminate with Depot Days at the end of September.
“Next year, we hope to introduce a new festival that will kick off the summer entertainment series,” he said. “We also plan to move the Delta Visual Arts Show from February to June.
“We are looking forward to the Downtown Entertainment Series,” Chadwell said. “It’s all good entertainment.”
Following is a look at the entertainment lineup:
Arkansas Steel Associates Bluesday Tuesday Concerts
This series, coordinated by KASU, a National Public Radio station at Arkansas State University, will bring blues and jazz groups to the Terry Scoggins Memorial Stage in the new park on Front Street.
Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain from Little Rock will take the stage at 7 p.m. June 19.
Additional groups include Jubilation Jazz, from several Arkansas cities, at 7 p.m.
Aug. 19, and Blues Boy Jag and the Juke Joint Zombies of North Little Rock at 7 p.m. Sept. 18.
M&P Banking, Investment and Insurance River Country Concerts
This series, coordinated by River Country 96.7, will feature talent from central and north Arkansas. Focusing mainly on country and Southern rock, these concerts will entertain fans from the area with musicians who live nearby.
The Roadies of Walnut Ridge will perform at 7 p.m. June 28, The Memphis Yahoos from Memphis at 7 p.m. July 26 and Queen Anne’s Revenge Dueling Piano Show from Jonesboro at 7 p.m. Aug. 28.
The Artist in U
Presented by Unity Health, this event will feature art classes for all ages.
Artists Maggie Maddison of Little Rock and Carol Davis of Bay will offer classes for elementary-school-age children at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. June 27; Donna Hohn and Debra Jackson of Newport and Dewana McIntosh of Smithville, classes for junior high/high school ages at 10:30 and 12:30 July 25; Amy Morris of Pocahontas and Peggy Meitzen of Batesville, classes for preschool ages at 10:30 and 12:30 Aug. 27; and Brenda Lawrence of Batesville and Don Smith of Newport, classes for adults, 10:30 and 12:30 Sept. 26.
Space is limited; reservations should be made by calling the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce at (870) 523-3618.
Farmers Electric Bright Star Children’s Theatre
This series offers 45-minute plays throughout the summer.
Upcycled Cinderella and Happily Ever After will be presented Friday; African Folk Tails and Freedom Songs, July 3; and Chicken Little and Alice in Wonderland, Aug. 10.
The first show each date will be at 10 a.m. at the Jackson County Library, and the second show will take place at 3:30 p.m. in the new park on Front Street. In case of rain, the afternoon shows will be in the Newport Business Resource Center, 201 Hazel St.
ASU-Newport Movies in the Park
This series will include the feature films Moana on Saturday; Star Wars: The Last Jedi, July 14; Coco, Aug. 9; and Ghostbusters, Sept. 18.
The movies will be shown at approximately 8 p.m. on a new state-of-the-art outdoor projection system with an inflatable 23-by-14-foot screen. Those planning to attend should bring a lawn chair.
The 21st annual Depot Days Festival
This event will be the grand finale of the Downtown Entertainment Series for the year.
“As usual, Depot Days has a fantastic group of musicians who will rock the Terry Scoggins Memorial Stage on Sept. 28 and 29,” Chadwell said. “The complete lineup will be released in the near future; however, the following artists have already been confirmed: The Arkansas Brothers Band, Larry McCray, Earl and Them, Cody Slaughter’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute and Rodney Crowell.”
“A large part of community development is improving the quality of life for those who live and work in our area, while at the same time attracting new visitors to Newport,” said Julie Allen, director of the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce. “This series offers activities and concerts that should be attractive for a wider, more diverse crowd while remaining free of charge to the public. And best of all, every event has an indoor alternate location in the event of inclement weather. We certainly want to thank all of the sponsors who are making this new series possible.”
For more information on Newport’s Downtown Entertainment Series, visit the chamber’s website, newportarcity.org.