HILLCREST: Tara Protiva-Brown and Brandon Brown

After living in Oregon for nearly two decades, my family decided to return to its roots and set up residence in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the historic Hillcrest neighborhood, to be exact. Having lived in Hillcrest in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I knew this was where I wanted to return and a place where our family would thrive. We are in love with everything about this neighborhood. So much so, that in 2011 we opened a business, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, just a few blocks from our home. My husband, Brandon, jokes that he is lost when he travels outside the neighborhood, but it’s true. We live and breathe Hillcrest.

Our children attend two of the public schools in the neighborhood, Pulaski Heights Elementary and Pulaski Heights Middle. We couldn’t be happier with the quality of education and the community of families we have come to know and love. I helped establish the garden at PHE, along with a few other dedicated parents, and I continue to coordinate the garden activities each year. Besides my children, it is one of my proudest accomplishments.

We have a very involved and active neighborhood association, the Hillcrest Residents Association, of which I sit on the board. The HRA puts out a quarterly newsletter, supports neighborhood schools, funds numerous beautification projects, maintains a website and Yahoo newsgroup and communicates with the city about zoning issues, crime, etc. The business district in Hillcrest is alive and well. The merchants in the neighborhood also have an active association, the HMA, and they work hard to coexist with residential neighbors to create a great community.

The fact that we can walk or bike everywhere in the neighborhood, combined with a community of amazing people, all of whom know your name, makes Hillcrest the true gem in Little Rock.

Credit: Jane Colclasure

Tara and Brandon’s Hillcrest Top 10

1. Fletcher Library (823 N. Buchanan St.). From the architecture of the building to the friendly staff, this is our favorite place to spend an afternoon on a hot summer day. It’s a great reminder that bigger isn’t always better.

2. Hillcrest Farmers Market (along Kavanaugh). This market started at the same time we moved back, and we are so happy to see it becoming a thriving center of commerce. It is a great place to see your neighbors, meet the people who grow your food and keep your money invested in your local community.

3. Hillcrest Girls Softball League (Allsopp Park). I can’t say enough great things about this league. It is the epitome of small-town life in Hillcrest, and it has given my girls a great foundation in childhood.

4. Hillcrest Honey. Yes, there are hives everywhere in the neighborhood, but if you are lucky enough to live by Linda [Walker], you just might get your hands on some of this delectable nectar.

5. Little Rock Urban Farming (LittleRockUrbanFarming.com). You’ve probably seen them at the farmers market, but make plans to visit their farm and support their efforts to bring real food to your table. The mere presence of this place adds so much value and beauty to the neighborhood.

6. kBird (in the alley behind Ciao Baci and Mrs. Polka Dot). While the fact that he sources his meat from our store may seem biased, it truly is some of my favorite food in this town. It’s always delicious and fresh and my kids devour it. Try the papaya salad in summer. I could almost subsist on that dish alone.

7. Hillcrest Artisan Meats (2807 Kavanaugh Blvd., Suite B). Since we literally live here more than we do our own home, it has to be one of our favorite things about Hillcrest. We truly believe in the old adage “you are what you eat” and strive to connect people to the source of their food. We take great pride in producing food from our farms in Arkansas.

8. HarvestFest (October 4, 2014). This big hurrah happens right in the middle of our neighborhood. It’s just as fun as the state fair (minus the rides, but with a pancake breakfast and bird walk) and you don’t have to leave the neighborhood! It ends with a fashion show (started by Emese Boone of Box Turtle) and is a much-anticipated event.

9. The Fourth of July Parade. I’ve never heard of another neighborhood that celebrates with a brigade of decorated bikes/people/pets and culminates with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, fire truck display and cookies.

10. The Midland Street Pumpkin Roll (after Halloween). We have attended this every year and are torn between promoting its awesomeness and keeping it as a semi-secret neighborhood event. For every pumpkin you roll, you make a $5 donation (proceeds benefit a local charity). The thrill of exploding orange matter, mixed with the anxiety of watching a pumpkin charge towards a child or pet makes for a well-spent day!

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