In The Parade - My Diverse Discoveries in Eureka Springs

Ahhh, spring in the Ozarks. After an especially long winter, the grass is greening, the trees are budding and the Ozark Mountain village of Eureka Springs, Ark., is hosting its annual Spring Diversity Weekend.

Looking at the atlas, you realize that as the crow flies, it’s really not a bad trip. As the GMC drives, it’s about 3.5 hours from door to door. We decided that we would leave Kansas City on a Thursday morning, hit 71 South and be on our way. Taking into consideration breakfast at McDonald’s in Harrisonville and pulling a fifth-wheel trailer, we would arrive shortly after lunch. Check, check and check.

Having celebrated many Gay Pride events around the country, I was not sure what to expect from Eureka. The quaint and celebrated hillside village of 2,200 people was as picturesque as I remembered. Most of the shops, if not all of them, displayed a rainbow-colored welcome sign, a rainbow-colored wind sock, a rainbow-colored windmill or a blue and gold “equals” sign, all in an effort to show solidarity with their weekend guests and in part, no doubt, an effort to show the big-city folks just how far removed Eureka Springs is from the rest of the state. I must admit that it works well for them.

However, Thursday is not a big day for a Diversity celebration in Eureka, and after an hour or so at Henri’s, we decided to head back to camp and enjoy the cool evening breeze.

Having picked up a weekend events calendar, we noticed that the real start of Diversity Weekend began at 6 p.m. Friday with a mixer at the Pizza Slut’s (yes, that’s what they call themselves) Pizza Bar. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but for the most part the buffet was fine, the drinks were cold, and the lesbians were well-represented.

Feeling somewhat despondent and out of place, we were lucky that Sparky, the Chamber of Commerce’s unofficial one-man welcome band, was also having pizza and shared with us a wealth of information.

Yes, there are more lesbians at Spring Diversity. Yes Jacque’s is a lesbian bar. Yes, Eureka Springs is also host to a weekend UFO convention. Yes, Eureka Springs is also hosting a motorcycle-riding club whose members are dressed in leather. Yes, Friday is leather night at Henri’s but don’t confuse the biker men with leather daddies. Yes, the Pizza Bar seats 22 people and is quite small for a mixer. Yes, there are two men down the street who own and operate a gift shop called A Byrd’s Eye View. Yes, these same two men also operate a private and exclusive men’s resort called Magnetic Valley Resort.

“You should really walk down the street,” was Sparky’s advice as he went back to the pizza buffet. “Introduce yourself.” And so I took his advice and walked one block to meet the shop owners.

Alvin Byrd and Charlie Thomas are probably the friendliest two guys in Eureka. They may be the only two guys in Eureka, but they are no doubt the friendliest. We stopped into Byrd’s Eye and introduced ourselves to the two gentlemen. Yes, they just opened the resort. Yes, they are taking reservations. Yes, it’s exclusive. Yes, they have six rooms on the property. Yes, they have a saltwater pool (keeps the skin from drying out and doesn’t burn the eyes). Yes, it’s clothing-optional and yes, please stop by and see the place. No, none of their weekend guests has been abducted by aliens, but there is a first time for everything.

Having rearranged our Saturday schedule to meet at the park for the thrice-annual PDA (public display of affection) at 11 a.m., we set about to watch the crowd. Noticeably different from other Gay Pride events was the presence of a ring of aliens arm-in-arm around the water fountain. In fact I was caught with a little green alien under my arm. Also unique was a rag-tag bluegrass three-man band playing some excellent music. I couldn’t confirm or deny that they were family, but the cash tips they received surely paid for their trip into Eureka.

After we learned of a nice side trip to a rescue park for tigers (as in Bengal, Siberian, etc.) south of town, we headed off for a three-hour tour culminating in a trip back into Eureka and a stop at Magnetic Valley resort.

The six-room resort was small, but Byrd and Thomas went out of their way to make sure guests were comfortable. I had to request that the poolside guests put on some type of swimwear in order for me to take a few pictures. The pool was cool and inviting, and the weekend guests were all very friendly. Thomas gave me a guided tour of the three houses that serve as guest quarters. The Barn’s “top” and “bottom” guest suites were rustic but very comfortable, as were the rustic duplex and the building that had three other rooms and a common area for preparing one’s own meals.

I’m not sure when I will be back to Eureka Springs for a weekend visit but the thought has crossed my mind to leave the fifth wheel at home and stay at Magnetic Valley instead.

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