Arkansas Goat Festival

The first Arkansas Goat Festival was held in Perryville (Perry County) on the first weekend in October in 2016, with festivals held each year after. While there are other goat-related festivals across the United States, the Perryville festival is said to be the only one of its kind, held totally out of appreciation for goats. Comparing the festival to the famous motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, one of the founders, Sarah French, stated, “If you have a motorcycle, you have to go to Sturgis. If you have a goat you have to go to Perryville.”

In 2016, French and Liz van Dalsem were discussing the development of possible activities to draw people to downtown Perryville for a program known as “Saturdays on the Square.” This discussion was a part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute program Uncommon Communities, an initiative to bring economic development into the downtown areas of Arkansas communities. In their discussions, the idea of a goat parade was brought up by French. The goat parade idea quickly developed into other goat-related activities.

The inaugural day-long Arkansas Goat Festival was held on October 1, 2016. The first festival was a great success, with approximately 1,200 people attending the event. While in many ways, it was a typical Arkansas festival, including music, food, and vendors, this one was unique, in that goats could be seen everywhere, and the schedule included goat-focused events such as a parade, a costume contest, races, and a goat-themed art show.

After the first festival, the event grew in size and attendance. Many food trucks began setting up at the festival, and well over 100 vendors began offering their wares. Additional activities were added over the years, such as a goatee contest, a goat talent show called America’s Goat Talent, goat yoga, a goat lingerie show, a celebrity goat-milking contest, and soap-making using goat milk. Attendance increased yearly, with the festival attracting approximately 8,000 visitors in some years.

As a result of the popularity of the festival and its promotion of goats, Perryville became the only town in the United States with a designated municipal goat park where one can take a goat to roam at leisure. The festival was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For additional information:
Arkansas Goat Festival. https://www.arkansasgoatfestival.com/ (accessed November 20, 2020).

Boulden, Jenny. “Herd of Fans Expected for 3rd Annual Arkansas Goat Festival.” Arkansas Life. http://arkansaslivingmagazine.com/article/herds-of-fans-expected-for-3rd-annual-arkansas-goat-festival/ (accessed November 20, 2020).

Larmoyeux, Mary May. “Idea Leads to Arkansas Goat Festival.” 501 Life. https://501lifemag.com/idea-leads-to-arkansas-goat-festival/ (accessed November 20, 2020).

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 11/20/2020

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