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By Kaitlyn Rigdon

Staff Writer

As Brad Paisley walked off the stage when closing his Murphy Arts District performance, he said, “What an amazing place they’ve built right here in your town.”

His comment stood out to district Chief Marketing Officer Bob Tarren.

“That was perfect,” Tarren said. “To have a superstar like that say that as he’s coming off the stage. He didn’t have to say that.”

The weekend, full of entertainment, brought in around 21,000 people, according to ticket sales.

Most hotels in El Dorado were booked Friday and Saturday night, which does not happen often, said Jimmy Lunsford, general manager of the Hampton Inn El Dorado.

“This past weekend absolutely stood out to us. It brought in a lot of money and business,” Lunsford said. “Typically we don’t sell out that many

weekends because we’re mostly business travel during the week, not leisure travel.”

The grand opening coincided with the 30th annual MusicFest, and together hosted over 30 musical acts.

“I think the combination of the cool vibe at the square and what we were doing down here, it seemed like it just elevated the game for everybody,” Tarren said.

There were plenty of learning moments and adjustments that had to be made throughout the weekend, Tarren said. For instance, on the first couple of days, there were backups at the entrance gates. Staff made adjustments and by the final day, people were waiting in line for far shorter amounts of time.

“Any complicated enterprise that is public-facing learns things when it actually goes from planning and rehearsing to a real thing,” Tarren said. “We planned extensively. We had a lot of people give us advice. Best in class processes in the country.

“We went through our own internal rehearsals, rehearsals with our people who are brand new. Then we actually went live, knowing we would learn some things, and all of that did take place,” he added.

A concern many people had before the grand opening was parking, but Tarren said he did not receive a single complaint on the topic during the opening.

In addition to providing a ticket at the gate, concert-goers were ushered through an extensive security check. The process included going through a metal detector, being searched by wand, a bag search and an ID check.

These security measures were given by uniform security, including El Dorado police and MAD security staff. Most, if not all of these precautions, will take place at future events.

One of the long-term goals for MAD is to have an evolving effect on El Dorado, attracting people to the city for a gradual increase in business and tourism.

“That’s really the goal. We know if all of this works the way it’s supposed to, we will see improvements on all of these factors over time,” Tarren said. “We will see an increase in visitor stays, hotel stays, revenues of various stores. All of these things take time to occur.”

The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce released a survey asking what impact MAD’s grand opening had on businesses in El Dorado.

“Most of the businesses responding said they saw increased business,” said Mike Dumas, chamber president. “Everyone had high praise for MAD and the weekend shows.”

There is already a full quarter of entertainment booked for the rest of the year, including groups such as The Beach Boys, Dennis Quaid & The Sharks and Acrobats & Circus. To see a full calendar of events, visit

In addition to special events, live music is available every Thursday at the Griffin Restaurant on the cabaret stage. Music begins at 9 p.m., is free to all attendees and no reservations are required.

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or

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