Magnolia Blossoms to New Heights (Quality of Life | Honorable Mention, Between 5,000-20,000)

You could say Magnolia is landlocked in south Arkansas. The city is 50 miles away from the nearest interstate. The Red River is 30 miles to the west. Nevertheless, Magnolia entices visitors to come with a bustling downtown not seen in many other small towns across the region. It successfully promotes itself with events like the Magnolia Blossom Festival and the nationally-recognized Championship Steak Cook-off and keeps people returning with recent additions such as the Magnolia Arts Building. Add in the city’s numerous parks and walking trails, and you’ll see why people are still coming to Magnolia.

It’s also why Magnolia has earned an honorable mention as a 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction in the Quality of Life category for cities between 5,000 and 20,000 people.

A recent addition to the downtown square is the Magnolia Arts Building, providing acting seminars, improv classes and plays for both adults and children. It is the location for the art show during the Magnolia Blossom Festival and is the venue for many community benefits and weddings.

The Magnolia Blossom Festival not only shows off the town square, but also the community spirit found in Magnolia. Volunteers do the heavy lifting for the festival which also includes the Championship Steak Cook-off. Approximately 100 volunteers give their time for the festival that attracts 20,000 people each May.

“Without community support and volunteerism, it would not happen,” said Magnolia’s first-term mayor, Parnell Vann. “That’s our big event of the year. We draw teams from all over the United States and other countries. It’s a big deal.”

The event shows off the square, brings dollars from outside the city and attracts many to Magnolia, including the Food Network which featured the Steak Cook-off in 2006.

While the downtown square remains Magnolia’s centerpiece, residents enjoy municipal amenities all over. The mayor said the city is purchasing a new platform ladder for its fire department, which is appropriate for a city reaching new heights.

“Our city has grown tall, and our fire trucks couldn’t really do the job. Magnolia has always invested in itself. I’m excited about that.”