CONVENTION: Opening Night Parties Are a Hit in Little Rock

Those who took in the opening night festivities at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center last night got their fix of saxophones, Oval Office replicas and White House Easter Eggs.

Many of the more than 450 attendees gathered at the center’s Great Hall said they looked forward to connecting with old friends and learning new tricks at the 29th annual AAN Convention.

But others seemed most interested in meeting the man himself.

“Of course we’re looking forward to seeing Bill,” Seven Days’ Pamela Polston said of Saturday’s keynote speaker.

A study of the presidential library brought insights on everything from the former President’s jam-packed schedule to his favorite pen pals.

“The letter from Tony Danza was heartfelt and moving,” said Carly Carioli of the Boston Phoenix.

After library tours, many stepped outside to soak up a gorgeous sunset over the Arkansas River. Next, a rooftop cocktail party a few blocks away offered a nearly 360-degree view of downtown Little Rock.

“It’s prettier than I thought it would be,” said John Saltas of Salt Lake City Weekly. “My only other experience with Arkansas was soybeans.”

The downtown roofdeck filled with convention-goers who drank the bar out of booze by 10 p.m. Refills were called up quickly.

“We’re just proud to have them,” Alan Leveritt of the Arkansas Times said of the visitors, many of whom were seeing the city for the first time. “We hope they appreciate Little Rock as much as we do.”

Hospitality and heat were the other frequent observations from newcomers to the Natural State.

“Your weather is all things to all people,” said Susan Belair of The Ruxton Group.

“The air smells like chewing tobacco, frying pork and diesel oil,” said Ben Fulton of Salt Lake City Weekly. “And that’s a good thing.”

For full Convention coverage, download Friday’s Convention Daily newsletter here.