LIANE HANSEN, host:
If you've ever wanted to walk through a medieval castle in Europe but didn't have the time or the money, then we have news for you: skip the transatlantic flight and take a road trip to Arkansas - yeah, Arkansas. Construction is underway there on a medieval fortress, and workers are using only the tools, materials and techniques that existed in the Middle Ages.
Missy Shelton of member station KSMU has more.
MISSY SHELTON: When Frank Falgarrett(ph) speaks, you don't exactly hear the southern twang that you'd expect from a guy working on a construction site in rural northern Arkansas.
Mr. FRANK FALGARRETT: I'm getting some stone. It's going to make it a nice way, the way you're supposed to do, by hand.
SHELTON: Falgarrett, who is French, is working on the Ozark Medieval Fortress, where, at 12 bucks a pop, visitors can stroll the grounds and see a stone castle being built the way it would've been done in the Middle Ages.
Wayne Hensen(ph) can tell you just how real it is. On this muggy day, he's straddling a log and is using a primitive tool to shape it into a square beam.
Mr. WAYNE HENSEN: Some of it is, you know, weathered out pretty good so it's softer wood, like that. But when you get on down in there a little bit further, it's going to be hard because it's good wood down in the center. I wish I could break a saw out sometimes.
SHELTON: The project began here thanks to Jean-Marc and Solange Mirat, a French couple who moved to Arkansas 20 years ago to be close to their grandkids. They broke ground a year ago and opened the site to the public on May 1st. So far, 14 investors - most of them French - have committed $1.5 million in start-up money - enough o hire staff and start work on the castle.
Jean Privo Dalund(ph) is among the investors.
Mr. JEAN PRIVO DALUND: I have to admit that I knew nothing about Arkansas before. I went several times in the States, but never in Arkansas.
SHELTON: Now that he's visited Arkansas, Privo Dalund says he's happy to invest and wants to see the project grow.
Mr. PRIVO DALUND: If we put more money, we will probably make something else around the castle. Maybe a church or abbey, as we say in French, or why not a medieval village?
SHELTON: The Ozark Medieval Fortress hopes to welcome as many as 150,000 visitors this year. Tim and Joy Gilzo(ph) recently brought their two-year-old son to watch the construction.
Mr. TIM GILZO: I want my son to be able to grow up with this opportunity, 'cause how often do you get to see a castle get built over a lifetime?
SHELTON: And there are plenty of things to see, including a Belgian horse named Tawny(ph) moving stones by cart from a nearby quarry.
This all takes time - lots of time. When the project is finished, in an estimated 20 years, the fortress will have towers that are 24 feet high, a drawbridge and even a moat.
For NPR News, I'm Missy Shelton.
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