CAMP 2017: Unplugging in Arkansas, conference registration opens April 24

By Roxanne Foster, JAWS Operations Director

Who’s ready for CAMP 2017 in Hot Springs?

You read that right. JAWS is headed to Arkansas!

Here’s the scoop: if you’ve never visited Arkansas, you don’t know what you’re missing. Just ask any of the JAWdesses whose faces lit up when I mentioned we’d be at The Arlington because they know all about this historic gem in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains where unplugging from the hustle of life helps melt the stress away. (Taking a dip in one of the thermal baths filled with 98 degree water brought up from the earth’s core, followed by a massage also helps.)

Since I grew up in Texas and have made it my goal to see as much of the U.S. as possible, I’d been to Arkansas before but had never visited Hot Springs until last December. While I was there I felt the end-of-year frenzy fade into the background as I strolled the promenade and looked with curiosity at the steamy springs that popped up along the brick pathway. In spite of my lengthy to-do list, sitting there, eyes closed, taking in deep breaths felt like the most natural thing to do.

Since I was in town on a site visit for CAMP 2017, I did eventually get to work. My plan was to check out the hotel and explore the nearby collection of shops and restaurants. I didn’t expect to come face to face with history at every turn. For instance:

  • Bathhouse Row, a collection of eight bathhouses lining Central Avenue that were built between 1892 and 1923, is just a few hundred feet from the main doors of The Arlington. Some are still functioning bathhouses that offer a variety of spa services. Some have been converted into restaurants, shops and museums. All are beautifully maintained and worth exploring.
  • Apparently, gangsters found it hard to resist the draw of illegal gambling, bathhouses and moonshine operations during the Prohibition Era. Tales of how Al Capone would stand in the window of room 442 at The Arlington to check for signals from the nightclub below that it was safe to venture out abound. There’s even a Gangster Museum on Central Avenue displaying artifacts from the 1920s and 1930s, when guys like Capone, Owen “Owney” Madden and John Dillinger would visit the area.
  • Hot Springs is called the “birthplace” of Spring Training. In the early days of baseball, teams would come to town to take advantage of the warmer weather and thermal springs. If you’re interested, you can grab a few friends, jump in a car and use an app to experience the town’s trail of baseball history.
  • All types of celebrities and political figures have found respite at The Arlington throughout the years. If you’re interested, the hotel takes reservations for the Presidential Suite (where the Clintons have stayed), the Ronald Reagan Suite and the Al Capone Suite year-round.

So, if you’ve never been to Arkansas and are working your way through the 50 states like I am, here’s your chance to mark the 25th territory to enter statehood off your list with 200 other amazing women journalists. If you’re familiar with the area, come unplug with us! We’re working on a fantastic lineup of workshops and sessions for the weekend but are also making sure there’s plenty of opportunities to just breathe.

I’m personally looking forward to heading back because I didn’t get to set foot on any of the 27 miles of hiking trails when I visited in December. I can’t think of a better way to earn another cupcake from the Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe around the corner from the hotel.

Early bird registration opens April 24. CAMP runs from Oct. 27-29. Come join me! For the most up-to-date information, visit the CAMP 2017 page.