It has been frequently said that if you are truly looking for a learning experience or something to do, you need look no further than your own backyard. Such is the case with the Delta Cultural Center.

It has been frequently said that if you are truly looking for a learning experience or something to do, you need look no further than your own backyard. Such is the case with the Delta Cultural Center.

The Visitors Center and The Depot are among Helena-West Helena’s brightest tourist attractions but unfortunately it seems to be rather under utilized by the local population. A great deal of information about life in the Delta, Arkansas and Helena can be found directly under those two roofs.

Frankly, I don’t believe it is due to the lack of publicity for information about activities and exhibits are promoted regularly through the local and statewide media.

So, we must stop and ask why in a community that constantly complains there is nothing to do, are the residents not taking advantage of some golden educational opportunities right here – literally in their own backyard?

In the midst of a very active weekend in Helena-West Helena – designated as Second Saturday and the eve of Mother’s Day – the DCC presented an informative video produced by The National Park Service on the history of the Trail of Tears. I learned a lot about yet another sad chapter in American History concerning the relocation of the Cherokee Nation and other Native American tribes that was “justified” by this nation’s great westward expansion.

As I recall studying American History in high school, this tragedy of epic proportions was delegated to probably no more than three or four paragraphs. Eastern Arkansas was involved in this part of history in which an entire nation of Native Americans was marched from their homeland in Georgia across as many as four states into Oklahoma. Thousands died along the trail that traversed Village Creek just north of us.

Each year a group of bikers make the pilgrimage known as the Trail of Tears Remembrance Motorcycle Ride. Their efforts generate thousands of dollars in scholarship funds for Native American youngsters and have helped place historical markers along the trail. These bikers helped bring attention to a terrible and most regrettable chapter in U.S. history.

Helena-West Helena residents do well turning out to provide food and drink for these weary travelers each September.  However, would you care to guess just how many turned out Saturday to take advantage of a grand educational opportunity concerning the Trail of Tears? There were three – including my wife and myself.

Folks, we have a rich heritage here in the Arkansas Delta – from the Civil War to the coming of the railroad to blues music. It can all be viewed on a regular basis through the exhibits, videos and activities that take place at the Cultural Center.

My kids and grandchildren have visited the DCC on numerous occasions and love it. I enjoy sharing it with my brother and his wife when they come for a visit. In fact, I try to take advantage of any opportunity I can to visit the DCC.

 I recall my children walking into the train caboose and looking it over in great awe and participating in the great riverboat race. Again, I must admit that I gained a lot of information about the Great Flood of 1927 – something that I was totally unaware of until I moved to Helena – from a video presentation at The Depot.

History almost repeated itself in the spring of 2011. I wouldn’t have known that without my DCC history lesson.

When my family and I first arrived in Helena, the old Helena train depot was just a shell of its former self from the glory days. We stood inside the building on a wet and rainy day with watering pouring down from the leaks in the ceiling as then Governor Bill Clinton announced a renovation project of what was to eventually become one of the area’s grand landmarks.

The DCC has since expanded to an impressive Visitors Center site on Cherry Street where more history was made Tuesday with the 17,000 broadcast of King Biscuit Time hosted by “Sunshine” Sonny Payne. King Biscuit Time is the longest running daily blues radio show in the nation and possibly the world.

Now, before you start saying there is nothing to do around here, go check out the DCC. Watch The Helena World and our website for announcements of coming exhibits and other activities.

Hey, you might be surprised what you can learn right here in your own backyard.