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El Dorado Seeks Destination Status via Music

EL DORADO, Ark. — A piece of East Atlanta visited South Arkansas this fall when rapper Gucci Mane brought life to a quintessential small town.

While the El Dorado Music Festival usually attracts country lovers and listeners, patrons gathered at the festival for a different reason this year. Two of Atlanta’s biggest rappers — 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane — headlined the show.

The artists brought a mixed crowd of concert-goers: the young, the older and a myriad of races jammed to the tunes of Gucci Mane during Saturday’s late-night show.

Prior to Gucci’s performance, the crowd patiently waited to the sound of the rapper’s disc jockey, DJ Champ.

When the performer finally came to the stage, he provided the epitome of glitz and glamour. Donned in a Prada suit, Gucci shoes and a plethora of diamond jewelry, he definitely stuck out among the others in the music hall.

Perfectly contrasting with the lively, anticipatory behavior of the crowd, the rapper’s calm demeanor is his go-to way to perform.


Terry Stewart

Terry Stewart, CEO of the El Dorado Music Festival in the Murphy Arts District, formerly worked as president at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now he works with the team in El Dorado to turn the city into a destination spot. (Photo by Justin Bryles)

Many were surprised to hear such a huge performer was set to hit the stage in El Dorado. The little town is not what many would consider to be a “destination spot” but leaders in the city are working to change that.

Terry Stewart, CEO of the Murphy Arts District in downtown El Dorado, wants to help the town become a hub for arts and entertainment. Stewart is able to take knowledge from some of his former roles, most notably president of Marvel Comics and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“I’m sort of the bigger picture guy. I got here when we were still trying to figure out what this was going to be,” Stewart said. “People wanted all kinds of entertainment, they wanted all genres of music, they wanted comedy, they wanted really good food, they wanted good service and — something we hadn’t really thought about — they wanted things for kids to do. That’s why we built a children’s playscape.”

Stewart said after conducting a feasibility study to determine what the residents wanted, bringing an artist like Gucci Mane seemed like the perfect move. Bringing such mainstream acts to the district will help turn the small town into a place that people want to visit.


Gucci Mane

Rapper Gucci Mane headlined the El Dorado Music Festival. Concert-goers and citizens of El Dorado said they feel as though the rappers performance bring a different crowd to the area, a crowd that may have otherwise never visited the city. (Photo by Destini Lattimore)

During his performance, Gucci Mane performed some of his top hits and features, including “Black Beatles,” “Lemonade” and his latest release, “Wake Up in the Sky” featuring Bruno Mars.

As much of an oddity as a mainstream rapper in El Dorado might seem, many of the concert-goers and residents of the small town said they felt like the rap performance was just what the city needed.

“I’m excited to see Gucci because he’s a rapper that attracts younger people,” festival volunteer Ta’Nyeah White said. “I’m glad they’re bringing someone to attract the younger generation instead of just the older (generation).”

A major plus to having such names as 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane headline the festival is the type of crowd it attracts to the area.

“It brings people from out of town here,” El Dorado native Jameya Lovette said. “We get to see more people and meet new people.”

The rapper’s performance was aided by the voices of dedicated fans who recited every word to the top hits echoing through the music hall.

While the economic impact is a big plus, the Murphy Arts District is morphing into an area that preserves arts and entertainment and that art stretches across all genres, from Toby Keith to Gucci Mane. The holiday season will feature The Legendary Temptations, Roses and Revolvers, Josh Walker, Eskimo Brothers, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for New Year’s Eve.