Only in our state

Posted on August 12, 2016. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The headline on a Facebook news feed promotional post that caught my eye was “This Hidden Beach In Missouri Will Take You A Million Miles Away From It All.” The story was about an old rock quarry near Rolla, Mo., that had been developed into a water attraction, complete with a 60-foot slide, sandy beach and designated cliff-jumping areas.

When I was a teenager a popular swimming hole in Lawrence County was a flooded quarry over in Black Rock, and I thought the idea of commercializing it was pretty neat.

The website link in the story was for a company called “Only In Your State” (OIYS), so I clicked through.

OIYS is a product of the online revolution created by social-media colossus Facebook, which changed the world in a lot of ways.

As a digital turnstile for 1.65 billion active users, one of those ways is how consumers access and share content–about everything. People have always liked infotainment; Facebook is full of it.

The idea behind Only In Your State is that every state is home to countless hidden gems and incredible places, so the website seeks to document as many as possible.

I became one of the more than 30 million people who read OIYS posts every month. And across the Only In Your State Facebook network (there’s official pages for every state, and the Arkansas page has 120,000 likes), the company has 5 million fans.

Since my state is Arkansas, that’s what I selected on the Only In Your State home page.

Boom! I was immediately presented with 51 stories about things only in my state on a single, scroll-down screen. And that was just the first of nine pages, each with another 51 posts, dedicated to Arkansas.

The reality behind the Only In Your State mission statement struck home. There are a whole lot of very interesting places, people and things in my own state I didn’t and don’t know about.

I was familiar with only half the places profiled in the post titled “Nine Incredible Waterfront Restaurants Everyone In Arkansas Must Visit”—and kicked myself for missing out on LJ’s Cafe in Lake Village when I was down that way last summer.

Enticed by the “These 21 Beautiful Covered Bridges In Arkansas Will Remind You Of A Simpler Time” headline, I was surprised how few I had actually seen.

I haven’t been to Monticello to see the 1906 Allen House. But after reading through “The Story Behind Arkansas’ Most Haunted House Will Give You Nightmares” and seeing photos of the architecturally rich showplace that combines Corinthian columns and domed turrets, if I’m ever close I’ll make it a point to visit.

The preservationist in me was drawn to “These 10 Awesome Places In Arkansas Are In Danger Of Being Gone,” a list which included several structures I’d never heard of in places near and far.

Next time I’m near Des Arc, I’ll make time to drive down Main Street and see the only antebellum residence still standing, the Frith-Plunkett House. Even boarded up and weatherbeaten, examples of Greek Revival architecture retain an innate and inspiring beauty.

I love waterfalls, but don’t necessarily love hiking (or more accurately, don’t always have the time hiking requires) so when I saw the post headlined “Seven Unbelievable Arkansas Waterfalls Hiding In Plain Sight … No Hiking Required,” I was hooked.

From Natural Dam north of Van Buren in the Boston Mountains to Marble Falls on Arkansas 7 between Jasper and Harrison, I now have a “to do” list of easily accessible, quick waterfall stops to make whenever I’m in those vicinities.

As a holiday aficionado, I couldn’t pass on the article called “Here Are The Top 20 Christmas Towns In Arkansas. They’re Magical.” I could’ve guessed a few of the obvious ones on the list, but learned much about others I wouldn’t have thought of.

Scrolling through the site, the lists just keep popping up. “Five Amazing Castles That are Hiding in Arkansas.” “Twenty-six Bed and Breakfasts” that are excellent getaways.

There are posts highlighting 25 interesting bridges, 20 historic movie theaters, eight creepy ghost towns, and six cemeteries that will give you goosebumps.

Other lists and articles describe and show great cabins to stay in, unique antique stores and must-visit flea markets, small towns with mouth-watering restaurants, haunted streets, corn mazes, natural wonders, breathtaking views (from mountains and caverns and everything in between), and abandoned places being reclaimed by nature.

One post told the story with words, pictures and videos of the ruins of the zinc-mining region in the Ozarks that is now the Rush Historic District. A true ghost town with most structures intact (and essentially untouched since 1940), Rush is a rarity worth seeing sometime.

It’s easy to overlook great stuff in our own backyard, and one of the things Only In Your State does best is remind us of that fact.

I’ll leave you with this from the “10 Arkansas Jokes” list:

An Arkansas State trooper pulled over a pickup on I-40. He said to the driver, “Got any ID?”

The driver said, “‘Bout what?”

The site is onlyinyourstate.com. Read it and reap!

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