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We have friends who own a place on a lake near Hot Springs, Arkansas who invited us up for the weekend, so we went! Hot Springs is a tourist town with a horse racing track, a casino, several lakes, and historical bathhouses. Of course, the bathhouses were closed. Restaurants were recently allowed to re-open and operate at 33% capacity. Retail finally opened back up around the first of May. My friends reported that the casino closed in March, but the horses kept racing, to an empty grandstand, until the season culminated with the Arkansas Derby on the first Saturday in May. Apparently, with online betting, the family-owned racetrack did just fine, despite the lack of free-spending spectators on site.
The action appeared to be out on the lakes: Boats everywhere! Families loaded up on pontoon boats, dragging the kids on a tube across the water. Jet skis aplenty and show-boaters skiing or wake-boarding behind powerful in-board engines. Nearly every boat was flying an American flag and I spied a couple of boats flaunting a white flag with “TRUMP” in big red letters. Our friends’ neighbor popped over to say hello while we were grilling. They are a retired couple that live in Lake Tahoe, CA, but inherited the lakehouse next door. The CA folks said that CA will not allow any boats on the water on Lake Tahoe so they loaded up and drove the three days to Arkansas to escape from CA and enjoy time on the lake. They had no immediate plans to return to CA.
On Monday, we strolled back through some tourist shops. Mask wearing was below 50%. Two shops required masks to peruse the goods. Everywhere else welcomed in customers, with or without masks, with plenty of hand sanitizer and signs reminding you to keep your 6 feet of distance. As a business person, I am always interested in how other local businesses are doing. I asked the proprietress of the Bathhouse Soapary how business had been for the long weekend and she responded that they had their best Memorial weekend ever. She said that she had no idea what to expect going into the weekend so she staffed for what she hoped would be a good weekend. She said that it was busier than she had hoped for. She also said that the boutique hotel/restaurant across the street (a fairly new place) had their best weekend ever. The cupcake bakery was overrun with customers (clearly unable to maintain 6 feet of distance with their current set-up based on my observation), but business was brisk. Everyone on the streets seemed happy and pleased to be out and about and it seemed people were mindful of one another. I was glad to see people out spending money at the local shops and I hope this is an indicator of an economy that can recover. Now it’s Tuesday, and I am back to my own business, which, sadly, had its worst week ever last week. But, I am hopeful that the mindset I saw on display this weekend will trickle out and we will begin recovery as well. Fingers crossed!Published in