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L-R: Yell County Judge, Mark Thone; State Senator Breanne Davis; Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Celia Carter, Tysons Foods; Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Leticia Pina-Sierra, Pina-Gonzalo Landscaping; State Representative and House Majority Leader, Marcus Richmond; Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt; State Representative Mary Bentley; members of True Grit Trail Posse; Bob Gray, Marilyn Shay, Tom Shay; Dardanelle School Student and Ribbon Cutter, Miklyn McIntyre, portraying Mattie Ross; John T. Wayne; Branch Manager of the Arkansas Regional Library in Dardanelle, Wendy Wells; Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dardanelle Chamber of Commerce, Tonya Moles. Fort Smith Museum of History photo.

Launch of the First True Grit Trail Exhibit

“More than what I expected,” was the comment made by Jonathan Portis, brother of the author of True Grit, Charles Portis, when he participated in the launch of the first True Grit Trail exhibit on Friday, March 25.

Those attending comprised a “who’s who” of Arkansas lawmakers, tourism experts, and fundraisers:

  • Carolyn Joyce, the “First Lady of Arkansas Tourism”

  • Judge Jim Spears, the force behind the US marshal Museum and numerous statues in Fort Smith

  • Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt

  • Yell County Judge Mark Thone

  • State Representative Mary Bentley, responsible for creating the True Grit Trail

  • State Senator Breanne Davis

  • State Representative Marcus Richmond

  • Caroline Speir, director of the Fort Smith Museum of History

More than a hundred attendees stood wall to wall in the exhibit, eventually overflowing to adjoining rooms in the library. Miklyn McIntyre, the young actress chosen to portray Mattie Ross, the heroine and main character of the book, was introduced just before the ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by the Dardanelle Area Chamber of Commerce. As the exhibit was being presented, the True Grit Trail Posse announced it would be moving to the Paris Library later this Spring, and a new True Grit Trail exhibit would be coming to the Dardanelle Library. Exhibits will also be coming to the Charleston Library and the Fort Smith Museum of History. Additional components of the True Grit Trail theme will be coming to Dardanelle and communities in the Arkansas River Valley. 

Scenes from the True Grit Trail Launch Event

Dardanelle is the beginning of the True Grit Trail. If you don't think so, just ask Tom Shay, Marshal of the True Grit Trail Posse.

On March 25, 2022, Shay wrangled state and local political leaders, tourism and fundraising experts, beer-making monks, and the brother of True Grit author Charles Portis for a standing-room only celebration to launch the first True Grit Trail exhibit of many more to come.

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The event was a great success and our profound thanks go to Wendy Wells, Branch Manager of the Arkansas River Valley Library, Dardanelle, her hard-working staff and the talented volunteers who provided the delicious food and drinks.

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Future exhibits will be announced on this page, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile here are some scenes from the first event. Images by Isabelle Berryhill and The Fort Smith Museum of History


The Arkansas River Valley Regional Library

501 N. Front Street

Dardanelle, Arkansas 72834



Exhibits are compliments of the Yell County Historical Society and the Arkansas River Valley Regional Library system.

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