I took my dad on a date to the Clinton Center and we both loved it

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

This is a sponsored post written in conjunction with my role as a Social Ambassador for the Clinton Center.

If you’re from Arkansas and you travel at all, when people find out where you’re from, they will always ask you what you think of the Clintons. I happen to be a fan politically, but I’m also a huge fan of the Clinton Center, which not only houses the Clinton Presidential Library, but also temporary historical, educational, and cultural exhibits that change frequently. I’ve been there to see Legos, de la Renta gowns, Chihuly glass, and had to make several trips so Etta and Claire could check out the dinosaur exhibit that closed last fall. Having frequently paid to see the exhibits with my family, I was thrilled to be asked to be a Clinton Center Social Ambassador this year. This means my family gets a membership to the Center, and I am compensated to attend events and help spread the word about this amazing place that I love.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

My first event as an ambassador was on Saturday, in conjunction with their Coca-Cola: An American Original exhibit which is open until February 15. When I realized it was a Coca-Cola exhibit, I knew I had to bring my dad. He’s a Coca-Cola man the way you might have said Don Draper liked drinking whiskey– his fridge is always stocked with Cokes, which I swipe on my way out the door to enjoy on the hour drive home, a little treat I associate with him. He also collects a particular type of Coke bottle, and I knew he would enjoy the exhibit, which focuses on the 100th anniversary of the iconic Coke bottle, and the event, which involved an Antiques Roadshow-style appraisal of locals’ Coke collectibles with Ted Ryan, the director of Heritage Communications for Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

It wasn’t until we were on our way to the Clinton Center that I realized I can’t remember the last time my dad and I got to hang out, just the two of us. I loved getting to tour the exhibit with him, and he loved peppering Ted with questions about the history of Coca-Cola’s advertising art, represented by several Norman Rockwell originals on display. Dad wanted to know if Coke invented Santa Claus, and the answer was yes and no– they didn’t come up with the idea of Santa, but the American image of a rosy-cheeked, chubby, bearded old man in red and white was created by Coke artist Haddon Sundblom. If the Coca-Cola brand is one of the major things Coke sells– at one point, Ted said “All we make is syrup and advertising,” Santa’s brand also owes a lot to them.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center
The first iteration of the Coca-Cola polar bears, the iconic Barefoot Boy by Norman Rockwell, and Santa as portrayed by Sundblom.
Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center
I loved these WWII-era servicewomen with their Cokes.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the Collectors Convention, especially seeing the vast knowledge Ted carries in his head about the brand, its advertising, and Coca-Cola items. No matter what people brought up to show him, he was never stumped. We saw a pretzel bowl valued at $800, a metal spinner ad that used to sit atop a gas pump valued between $600-1,000, a 1961 Westinghouse Coke machine valued at $1,500, and a stamp holder from the early teens valued at $500, among many other things. My dad, sadly, learned the vintage bottles he collects aren’t worth very much, because literally billions were made.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

After the convention, we headed upstairs to check out the rest of the exhibit, which tells the story of how the Coke bottle became what it is today. We learned that the original design was to look like the pods of the coca plant, but it was slimmed down to fit into the mechanized bottling equipment. We also learned from Ted that the phrase “soda pop” came from early bottles for carbonated beverages– the cork was inside the bottle, and the carbonation pushed up on it to maintain the seal. In order to drink the beverage, you had to pop the cork down into the bottle. I particularly loved the vintage photographs of celebrities and presidents drinking from Coke bottles, and a series of pieces Andy Warhol did, inspired by the famous brand. I’d like to think Warhol would enjoy the fact that I busted out my selfie stick and subjected Dad to his first selfie in front of the Warhols.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center
Dad’s first selfie! He even almost smiled!

After we had finished checking everything out, my mom, sister, and daughters met up with us for lunch in the Clinton Center’s restaurant, Forty-Two (because President Clinton was the 42nd President). I don’t think many folks know what a lovely, family-friendly dining option Forty-Two is, but they have an excellent kids menu and high chairs, and we have dined there with our girls many times. Saturday was unseasonably warm and we got to sit out on their fabulous patio and watch cyclists and walkers pass up above us on the River Trail. As we ate, Claire asked my dad, “How was your date with my mommy?” “I’m still enjoying it,” he said. I’m so glad I got to take my dad to this exhibit, and might have to convince him to come along to the next one too, which I am told will be Olympics-themed to tie in with this summer’s Games.

Coca-Cola: An American Original closes February 15. Be sure to check it out before then! A great opportunity to do so would be Saturday, February 13, as they are hosting free Valentine’s Day family activities from 10am-2pm.

 

hillary, oscar, and me

I told Hillary Clinton I love her.

When I met her.

Oh.

Did I forget to mention that I got to meet Hillary Clinton earlier this summer? I forgot to blog about it, but I will never forget it. I love Hillary Clinton. I admire her. I respect her. I hope she’s our next president. And when I found out they were naming our new children’s library after her, and she’d be at the public dedication, I knew I had to go, that I had to introduce her to Etta and Claire. I knew that with two babies in my arms, I’d surely be able to get close enough to meet her. And I did. I reserved us tickets, I saw her speak, and afterward, I walked up to her with two babies in my arms, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “Hi, I just love you and wanted you to meet my girls Etta and Claire. They’re future running mates!” And she smiled and said, “Thank you so much, they are so cute!”

I still can’t believe I tapped Hillary Clinton on the shoulder. I can kinda believe I told her I love her, though. Because I really do.

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Yesterday I got to hang out at the Clinton Presidential Center with some more folks I love– Jerusalem, Kerri, Kyran, Amy, Jennifer, and Amy, fellow Little Rock bloggers. We were invited to tour the exhibit of Oscar de la Renta’s 50 year career, and were treated to lunch in the Clinton Center’s restaurant 42. I loved it. Not just because I got to leave babies behind and wear a dress I actually ironed, but because I got to check out the work of a true master, in some truly fabulous company.

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I love Hillary Clinton in part because she knows that a woman should be valued for her work, her thoughts, herself, but she also refuses to be ashamed of the fact that she, the first First Lady on the cover of Vogue, cares about fashion, too. She is both the kind of woman who can shut down a reporter for asking her about her clothes, and at the same time, the kind of woman who knows what she likes, sticks with it, and even has a sense of humor about it, calling herself a “pantsuit aficionado” in her (awesome) Twitter bio, jokingly pitching a “Project Pantsuit” spinoff of “Project Runway,” and referred to her campaign as the “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.”

And the man behind most of those pantsuits is Oscar de la Renta. The exhibit, on display until December 1, is a retrospective of the designer’s career, starting with his upbringing in The Domenican Republic, his time in Spain and Paris, and his arrival in the US and establishment as an American Fashion icon. Each period is represented by GORGEOUS examples of his work which shows his varied influences. I don’t get a lot of chances to get up close and personal with couture clothing, and though I’m but a barely proficient seamstress, I found myself studying the details of their construction. I noticed that Oscar de la Renta, who personally oversaw everything down to the paint colors of this exhibit, is a man who cares deeply about the details of his garments, which range from intricately beaded and feathered gowns to impeccably tailored and restrained suits and coats. His clothes are showstoppers, but are clearly about making the woman, not the garment, the focus. I have a feeling this is why women like Secretary Clinton like his work.

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If you’re local, I highly recommend checking out this exhibit before it closes in December. And if fashion isn’t your thing, you’re in luck: they change the exhibits 3-4 times a year. There’s also currently an exhibit about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which I plan to go back and check out soon with my family, and they have an upcoming exhibit about Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs (opening in January). Tickets aren’t expensive, the permanent exhibits are also super interesting, and the building itself is beautiful.

*full disclosure: I was invited to this event, given free entry and a guided tour, and they fed us lunch. I love the Clinton Center and frequently visit with my family, so I wholeheartedly believe it’s worth a visit, free lunch or not.