Every year, in the heat of summer, Arkansans flock to the Buffalo River to float, swim and relax. It’s a popular destination for tourists and plays an important role in Arkansas history. To celebrate this beloved river, the Searcy County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with local artist Jamie Craddock to produce new specialty Buffalo River license plates. The Chamber of Commerce released the license plates in early January after the laborious process of collecting enough signatures for the new design to be produced. Thanks to the perseverance of everyone involved at the Chamber of Commerce and the hard work and passion Craddock put into the design, you can go to any revenue office in the state of Arkansas and pick up a new Buffalo River license plate.
The area depicted on the license plate is Grinder’s Ferry, a location specifically chosen by Craddock after visiting a number of different sites along the river. According to Craddock, she was asked to create an image of the Buffalo River that would be easily recognized. When asked why she specifically chose Grinder’s Ferry, her response was simple.
“With its beautiful clear waters, colorful bluffs and recognizable cave, it’s a perfect example of what the Buffalo River offers,” she says, “Grinder’s Ferry was also important historically since it was a ferry crossing point on the river and holds very special memories for a lot of families.”
Craddock was, of course, delighted to be part of this project. She runs the Buffalo River Art Gallery in Gilbert, where she hosted a signature-gathering event complete with a giant mockup of the license plate. When originally asked if she would create the image for the plates, Craddock’s answer was a resounding yes.
“As an artist, creating license plate art is a huge opportunity to get your art to a wide audience,” she says. “But more importantly, as a local and lover of the Buffalo River it is an honor that I will never forget.”
If you’re interested in seeing more of Craddock’s work, information about her gallery can be found on the Buffalo River Art Gallery’s Facebook page.
For the Searcy County Chamber of Commerce, these new license plates represent hopes for future growth and prosperity in the county. Searcy County is home to about 50 miles of the Buffalo River, yet despite all the visitors to the river each year, the county receives very few visitors or tourists. So in 2019, Darryl Treat, the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, proposed the idea for new specialty plates to generate revenue for the county. The idea came to him after reading a news article about specialty plates being used to donate money to nonprofits and other organizations.
In order for these specialty plates to become reality, however, Treat and the Chamber of Commerce needed money, signatures and art for the plate. The county put $20,000 of its own money forward to campaign for the new license plates, they collected signature after signature, and of course, Craddock provided the artwork. For each plate that is purchased, the Buffalo River Community Development Corporation (BRCDC) will receive $25, all of which will go toward helping the county revitalize its tourism industry and create much needed jobs in the community. Already, the BRCDC is working to build a new multi-use trail for biking, hiking and running near Marshall. So not only are you paying for a beautiful looking new license plate, you also know that you’re helping your fellow Arkansans work toward new and profitable opportunities.
You can purchase these license plates at any revenue office in the state of Arkansas. So, all you have to do is go down to your local DMV, pick up a new license plate, and prepare for your summer trip to the Buffalo River. And don’t forget to drop by Jamie Craddock’s art gallery while you’re at it!
READ MORE: Arkansas Backstories: Buffalo River