When the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce board decided to hold a one-day spring festival downtown, they asked Executive Director Tonya Baumgartner to come up with an idea.
That led her to do some online research and she came across information about love locks. Love locks are padlocks people have been putting on bridges, public monuments and the like as a way of “locking” their love. Sometimes, the padlocks are engraved with the names of the loved ones or names are written on tags attached to the locks.
“That was a light bulb moment for me, so I just ran with it,” Baumgartner said recently.
Her idea became a reality Saturday at the Springtime in Paris festival. A fence to hold love locks was erected at Eiffel Tower Park. Miss Arkansas, Savannah Skidmore, was on hand to place the first lock on the fence and she then threw the key into the fountain at the park.
However, Baumgartner admitted there were some roadblocks to overcome before the idea became a reality in Paris.
“After the board approved the idea, I went to the Merchant’s Association,” she said. “Half of them liked it and half of them didn’t. That was a challenge. Chester Koprovic (of Paris) agreed to provide manpower to build the fence so that made it possible. Then I had to get approval from the Parks Commission. That was a big hurdle.”
Baumgartner said half of the commission liked the idea and the other half didn’t. The commission held three meetings on the idea before they finally approved, Baumgartner said.
“It took a while and there was opposition, but they finally got on board,” she said.
So, was overcoming opposition worth the effort? Will the love lock fence prove popular enough to bring people to Paris to put a lock on the fence?
According to Baumgartner, the answer is yes.
After seeing a segment about the love lock fence on TV last Friday, some people drove from Fort Smith to put up locks. They were politely told to come back Saturday, according to Baumgartner.
“Several merchants in town are selling locks for the fence,” she said. “Some people are talking about getting locks and engraving names on them. When the festival closed Saturday at 4 p.m., I counted 90 locks on the fence. At 9 p.m. Saturday, there were people putting locks on the fence. If we fill up the fence, the Parks Commission has allowed us to put up more fencing. Hopefully, we’re going to see that fence filled with locks.”