El Dorado, Arkansas: Raising the boom
Then: Home to a 1920s oil rush that brought high hopes, rows of new buildings and 30,000 people to "Arkansas' Original Boomtown," the golden opportunity of El Dorado's namesake gave way to the Great Depression and perpetual economic hardship. By 1980, the town's commercial district was barely ticking.
Now: Thanks to one huge civic mobilization, mass restorations, a new $14.4 million conference facility and a roster of annual festivals, El Dorado has recouped its reputation as "the pride of south Arkansas." The once desolate downtown is now lined with more than 65 specialty shops, eateries, inns and the state's only operating art deco theater.
Wow: Each May, the Bugs, Bands & Bikes festival features thousands of revving motorcycles gathered for a bike show/parade and a two-day Battle of the Bands -- all seasoned with hundreds of pounds of the region's best crawfish.