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story.lead_photo.caption Lucy Josserand, from Texarkana, lets Victoria Carson from Arkansas State Parks put a black rat snake around her neck on Wednesday at the Arkansas Welcome Center in Texarkana, Ark. The center hosted an event with a live band and vendors to celebrate National Travel and Tourism week, May 5-11. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

Tourists stopping at the Texarkana, Ark., Welcome Center has increased to 304,021 during 2018 said Melissa Adams, manager of the center.

In 2017 a total of 275,000 people stopped at the Texarkana facility, she said. The center is located on Interstate 30 east
of Texarkana.

The numbers are gathered by visitors who come through the front door. The visitors who stop to rest but don't enter the main building don't count for the yearly total, Adams said.

"Last year it was easier to travel by car than airplane. People like to get out in nature. In Dallas they have a city and concrete. We're a natural state," said Adams.

The welcome center staff helps visitors to plan their stops in Arkansas.

The welcome center promotes tourism and businesses, introduces visitors to the natural beauty of Arkansas, Adams said.

The center employees help people find interesting locations for recreation, sightseeing and teach people about opportunities in the "Land of Opportunity.""

The staff visits the travelers and "talks to them" instead of question them, Adams said.

"We use good southern hospitality to get information and help them plan their vacation in Arkansas.

The guests included Tractor Relics and Victory Riders Motorcycle Club. Special entertainment was provided by Hempstead County Melody Boys.

There will be booths for White Oak Lake State Park, DeGray Lake State Park, Cossatot River State Park, Daisy State Park, Historic Washington State Park, and Arkansas Game and Fish, Ron Coleman Crystal Mine, Laura Wentz from Arkansas Department of Transportation, Main Street Texarkana and the Museum Systems, The Birth Home of William J. Clinton and Westrock Coffee.

"There will be free giveaways by Little Debbie Cakes, Riceland Rice, Cavender's Greek Seasoning, Yarnell's Ice Cream, Post Winery muscadine juice, root beer from Diamond Beer Brewery and Williams' Tavern Chocolate Earthquake Cake," said Adams.

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