Dreamland Ballroom Kerry McCoy

I Didn’t See That Coming! | French Hill and the Dreamland Ballroom

Since the purchase of the crumbling Taborian Hall in 1990, with its Dreamland Ballroom, I have been pleading my restoration case.

When I first asked my banker for the real estate financing to buy the building, he said no to the idea of investing in a non-income producing asset. When later, at dinner, I told my father-in-law what I was up to, he told me I was crazy to try and renovate such a broken down, shell of a building. In the end, it was my parents who, despite their misgivings but also desensitized to my outlandish ideas, gave me the $20,000 to buy the property. Though later, after Dad handed me the check and was walking away, I heard him mumble under his breath, “Well, I’ll never see that money again.”

Thirty years later, and because of my son, Matt, nominating me to the 2019 Arkansas Preservation Award, I spent Friday night at the Governor’s Mansion, in Little Rock, receiving the Special Recognition of Outstanding Stewardship Award.

Like all the non-communicative men in my life, son Matt didn’t bother to mention the nomination. So, when I received a congratulatory letter in the mail, I was surprised, to say the least! But the surprises didn’t stop there. I was humbled as I began to read and learn more about this very important organization, Preserve Arkansas, with its mission and clout.

The biggest surprise, though, came the night of the event. Just before Matt and I left for the award ceremony, Congressman French Hill posted on Facebook, for all the world to see, a video of himself speaking on the House Floor in Washington D.C. As I was putting on my shoes, Matt knowingly and casually logs in to his phone and plays the audio of Congressman Hill’s oration. In his speech, Hill gives accolades to Preserve Arkansas and this award ceremony, a shout out to his long-time friend Mr. John Gill, who received Preserve Arkansas’s highest Parker Westbrook Award for Lifetime Achievement, and then me! He called me by name on the House floor! Then elaborated on the story of Arkansas Flag and Banner’s humble beginnings, and expounded on the good work done by the non-profit Friends of Dreamland.

Since the half-a-million-dollar grant awarded to Friends of Dreamland in 2018 by the National Park Service, I have come to expect the unexpected. But I must tell you, I didn’t see that coming.

Thank you, French.

photo courtesy Stephanie Dunn King Photography

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