[MENA, Ark.] Over 600 guests attended the ‘Jingle and Mingle’ Christmas Open House hosted by UA Rich Mountain last week. The event featured musical performances by area choirs including Acorn, Waldron, and Cossatot River’s ‘Noteworthy’. Guests also enjoyed pianist Benjamin Mooren from Wickes and the Ouachita Strings.
LeAnn Dilbeck, Director of Marketing, Community Relations and Business Outreach for UA Rich Mountain, remembers the event when she worked at the college for the first time during the early 90’s, “It was more of an annual employee ‘potluck’ event that we held in the board room, a much, much smaller affair than it is now.”
It wasn’t until Dr. Diann Gathright came to UA Rich Mountain in the late 90’s that the event became a community open house. Dr. Gathright reflected on the first event held in the old student union and how they wrapped Christmas paper over the coke machines to try to ‘dress up’ the space for the event. Now the event is held in UA Rich Mountain’s 13,000 s.f. Ouachita Center, constructed in 2014, and attracts hundreds of community members to enjoy each year. Chancellor Dr. Phillip Wilson said that the Christmas Open House is truly one of his favorite annual events since it brings everyone together… faculty, staff, students, business, and community, to celebrate this time of year, and another opportunity to showcase the Ouachita Center.
Chancellor Wilson’s and the board’s vision when constructing the Ouachita Center was to not only house the college’s events and activities but to offer a state-of-the-art community/conference center to the entire region. “Our commitment is to organizations, schools, businesses, and the community to encourage the creation, appreciation, and pursuit of mutual goals and richer cultural experiences. The Ouachita Center is a place where the arts and cultural related experiences that can stimulate innovative programming in west central Arkansas,” Wilson said. “In the five short years the Ouachita Center has been open, we have witnessed innumerable benefits to residents, businesses, and tourists and plan for it to continue to contribute to the economic success of other sectors.”
The facility hosts a fully equipped caterer’s kitchen with commercial warming ovens, convection oven, sinks, refrigeration, and dishwasher. The Dick and Frances Carver Grand Hall is used for large scale events but can be subdivided into smaller spaces for smaller gatherings. The Grand Hall also boasts 20 ft. Nano Wall (glass/louvered) for large equipment accessibility and round & rectangular tables. The facility is also equipped with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. Tables, chairs, audio & visual equipment set-up is included with rental.
“It is through the community’s support that a facility of this caliber could be constructed. You’ll note placards throughout the facility noting the many generous individuals and businesses who support our efforts and the mission of UA Rich Mountain,” said Chancellor Wilson.
According to Dilbeck, the venue hosted over 92 events in 2017, ranging from Spelling Bee’s and college fairs, to weddings and banquets. “The facility is available for community use and the versatility of the building allows us to setup to accommodate a plethora of events. We very much want the Ouachita Center to be the premier place for bringing people together to share meaningful experiences… socially, culturally, community, etc. Jessie Barr does a phenomenal job of coordinating the events at the Ouachita Center so it’s important to contact her when planning your events. During certain times of the year, the venue books up quickly.” For more information on scheduling or fees, contact Jessie Barr at 479-394-7622 ext. 1221 or by email.