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Little Rock is closer than you think

It's mid-December and the snow is flying in central Kansas. We're gearing up for the holidays and wrapping up the end of the year.

All the same, in the back of my mind I know Little Rock — and the 57th annual convention — is literally just around the corner.

The annual convention will be held July 19-23, 2006, at the Doubletree Hotel in Little Rock AR.

Room rates are $71 single occupancy and $81 double occupancy per night. The hotel is located at 424 W. Markham, Little Rock and the website is www.doubletreelr.com. The phone number for reservations is 501-372-4371 or Central Reservations at 1-800-222-TREE. Cutoff date for the 99th rate is June 19, 2006.

There are six airlines servicing Little Rock, including American Eagle, Continental Express, Delta, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and USAAirways Express.

The airport is 10 minutes from downtown and the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle service.

There also is complimentary parking at the hotel.

The usual activities will take place during the convention. There will be a War Room and separate room to view videos. The Checkerboard Chorus will perform. A Memorial Service will be conducted as well as the usual business meeting and women's program. A banquet and reception will conclude the convention.

Tours have not been finalized, but there are several possibilities. Tours will be offered throughout the convention.

The Doubletree Hotel is located near the River Market District of Little Rock.

The River Market District is an entertainment district that includes a five-story museum center, home to the Museum of Discovery. The museum is housed on the first two floors, devoting the remaining floors to restaurants, offices, and retail shops.

Just outside the doors of the museum, a year-round farmers' market features produce, meat, flowers, and much more. Additional eating establishments and small retail stores also are located in the market area.

The Arkansas National Guard Museum tells two stories. First is the history of the Arkansas National Guard, from its start in 1804 as the Arkansas Militia to the present.

The history of Camp Robinson, from its start as Camp Pike in 1917, is the second story. Displays depict the use of the post as a U.S. Army training facility in both World War I and II and its use between the wars by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Citizens Military Training Camp.

The Central High School National Historic Site opened in 1997 to mark the 40th anniversary of the high school's desegregation when nine African-American students entered the school under federal troop protection.

Clinton Presidential Center & Park includes the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum which serves as the repository for the official records of the Clinton presidency.

The museum includes replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, exhibits focusing on life in the White House, and displays of presidential gifts and other objects related to state visits, holidays, and cultural celebrations.

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History interprets the state's military heritage and honors contributions of Arkansas servicemen and women. The Arsenal Building where the museum is located is one of the oldest surviving structures in Little Rock, built in 1840 to protect Arkansans from Indian attack. It later became the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur.

Old State House Museum opened in 1836, serving as Arkansas's first state Capitol building until 1911.

While you won't see the hustle and bustle of major Eastern cities like Pittsburgh, Little Rock offers a variety of tour opportunities as well as a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere and lower prices.

Make plans now to attend the 57th annual convention. Registration packets will be mailed in the spring.

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