I'm sure that by now most everyone has learned of the decision made by the Elna M. Smith Foundation to close the Great Passion Play after 45 consecutive seasons. This is a sad time for many of us who love the Great Passion Play, respect its purpose and appreciate all it has done for the development of tourism in Eureka Springs. There is no doubt that the closing of such a long-standing attraction will impact our community greatly. My heart goes out to the dedicated employees, many of whom have spent the better part of a lifetime working to fulfill a mission.
It is my understanding that the property and assets are being turned over to Cornerstone Bank and they plan to move as quickly as possible in finding a buyer for the property. It is their hope that someone will step forward to redevelop and reopen a great attraction for Eureka Springs. However, no one knows if that will happen or how long that process may take.
With that said, I urge everyone to focus on the positives working for us right now in Eureka Springs. Losing an attraction such as the Great Passion Play is painful. We all can and should hope for a positive end to this unfortunate situation. We should all remember that Eureka Springs remains a wonderful vacation destination and, if packaged properly can and will rise above this challenge and grow stronger. I truly believe there is nowhere else in the country where you can find the combined offerings for relaxation, recreation and vacationing found in Eureka Springs.
Let's take a quick inventory of our assets starting with the history, architecture and natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains. History has been preserved throughout the entire city and our museums tell the story. We are surrounded by an array of great architectural works from our entire downtown district to Thorncrown Chapel. With the lakes, rivers, parks, and outdoor activities we have a tremendous future in Ecotourism.
Being one of the most vibrant arts communities in the U.S, and the fact that we are positioned less than an hour away from America's newest art destination, more and more art enthusiasts will discover our city. Contrary to what some may say we have many fun family attractions for families on vacation. There are two fantastic animal parks in our area, three commercially operated caves, two nightly music theaters, the railway, go karts, mini-golf, ghost tours, mystical illusion show, carriage rides and more; not to mention downtown entertainment, special events, festivals and parades throughout the year. We have many "one of a kind" attractions plus castles and mansions. Our shopping and dining is truly unique and we have fantastic spas to pamper and promote better health.
Our appeal reaches singles, couples, families, reunions, professional tour operators and groups, meeting and convention planners, motorcycle enthusiasts and more. Recognized as the "Wedding Capital of the South" we are a premier destination for weddings, honeymooners and anniversary couples.
The Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce is joining forces with the City Advertising and Promotion Commission to make sure that Eureka Springs is not left behind by the news of the Great Passion Play closing and we need your help. We are asking that you take every opportunity to promote the good things we have going for us. It is our hope that somehow, someway this great attraction will be rescued, improved and see many more glorious days. If so, it will certainly be welcomed and promoted as part of the many wonderful reasons there are to visit Eureka Springs. If that is not the case, we must move forward and use the assets we do have to continue to grow as the Extraordinary Escape!