Festivals and Events

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Entry Category: Festivals and Events

Arkansas Apple Festival

The Arkansas Apple Festival in Lincoln (Washington County), held the first weekend of October, has been a feature of life in northwest Arkansas since 1976. The goal of the festival is to call attention to the value of the area’s apple crop and the history behind it. At one time, Arkansas’s largest apple orchard was outside Lincoln. Established traditions at the festival include live music (generally bluegrass and country); square dancing; an arts and crafts fair; and a parade that includes local organizations, politicians and elected officials, antique automobiles and tractors, and local riding clubs. Extremely popular are the free samples of apple cider and apple slices given away throughout the festival. The Apple Festival features two beauty contests: the …

Arkansas Derby

The Arkansas Derby is the most lucrative thoroughbred horse race in Arkansas, currently offering a “purse” of $1 million. The purse is the prize money that is divided among the horses competing in the race, based upon their finish, with the winner receiving sixty percent ($600,000). The one-and-one-eighth-mile race is restricted to horses that are three years old. It is traditionally held each year at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs (Garland County) on the second Saturday of April. Over time, it has developed into one of the nation’s leading preparatory races for the Triple Crown, which comprises the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. The Arkansas Derby was first held in 1936 and carried a $5,000 purse. The …

Arkansas Folk Festival

The annual Arkansas Folk Festival takes place on the third weekend in April in Mountain View (Stone County). Held since 1963, the event attracts thousands of people to the small mountain community, where the livelihood of many residents is based on tourism. The town has become nationally renowned for its folk music, and the downtown area is a popular place for impromptu “pickins” as musicians gather informally to perform. The Arkansas Folk Festival has its roots in the Stone County Folkways Festival held in 1941, celebrating the musical heritage of the area. Musical performances and a jig dance contest were among events held at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. World War II prevented subsequent gatherings at the time, but the …

Arkansas Rice Festival

The Arkansas Rice Festival, held during the second weekend of October in Weiner (Poinsett County), was founded to promote the consumption of Arkansas rice and to celebrate Arkansas’s status as the number-one rice-producing state in the nation. It coincides with National Rice Promotion Month and the final days of the rice harvest in Arkansas. In 1976, a rice-tasting and rice-farming history exhibit was organized as part of the state’s contribution to the country’s bicentennial commemoration. The success of the event inspired a group of local citizens to plan a two-day festival. The Arkansas Rice Festival Board was formed in 1977 and officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Nine board members, including rice industry representatives, millers, farmers, and financial officers, served …

Arkansas Scottish Festival

The Arkansas Scottish Festival is held every April on the campus of Lyon College in Batesville (Independence County). It began as the Ozark Scottish Festival in 1981 at what was then known as Arkansas College. The festival has grown significantly and evolved over the years but remains emblematic of the college and its Presbyterian roots. The Arkansas Scottish Festival is now known as one of the premier Scottish festivals in the southern United States. Established by Dr. Ralph Graham during his tenure as vice president of institutional advancement, the festival was initially held on the athletic field in conjunction with homecoming but was later moved to April. Over time, it attracted more and more participants from all over the country. …

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (AST) in Conway (Faulkner County) is Arkansas’s only professional Shakespeare theater company and is based at the College of Fine Arts and Communication at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). Its mission is to enrich the community of central Arkansas through creating professional productions of William Shakespeare’s works and making them accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. The AST was founded on December 1, 2006. The main catalyst behind the creation of the theater was Rollin Potter, who became dean of Fine Arts at UCA in 2004 and had previously served as professor of music and founding director of the School of the Arts at California State University at Sacramento. Potter appreciated the important …

Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show

aka: Arkansas State Fair
The Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show (usually just called the Arkansas State Fair) is an annual event sponsored by the Arkansas Livestock Show Association and held in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The fair features a midway/carnival, music concerts, a rodeo, commercial exhibits and displays, free shows (from exotic animals to acrobats and magicians), arts and crafts competitions and exhibits, food competitions and demonstrations, and various livestock competitions. It runs for ten days, usually in October, starting on a Friday and running through two weekends, ending on a Sunday night. The current Arkansas State Fair began in 1938, but there had been several other efforts over the years to establish a state fair. On November 6, 1867, the Arkansas State …

Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival

The Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival celebrates the pink tomato industry in southeastern Arkansas. Originally a one-day event, it has become a weeklong celebration that attracts approximately 30,000 people each year. In June 1956, the first Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival was held in Warren (Bradley County). Loran Johnson, who was director of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, was one of the founders of the festival. The one-day event included musicians, a carnival, and exhibits. Each year, a chairperson of the festival was chosen. A parade and beauty pageant were added the second year. Another festival event began after Jean Frisby, who was the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES) home economist for Bradley County, and Loran Johnson, who …

Cabotfest

CabotFest, an annual celebration hosted by the city of Cabot (Lonoke County), was first held in 1978 to commemorate the city’s recovery from a devastating tornado that struck in the spring of 1976. Since its founding, the festival has become Lonoke County’s largest, attracting thousands of visitors each year. On March 29, 1976, five citizens of Cabot died in an early afternoon tornado that also destroyed a large portion of the business sector. As the town neared complete recovery, local officials decided to organize a celebration for the fall of 1978. Committees, under the direction of local banker James M. Park, organized the event and chose the phrase “Cabot, We’re Back” as the festival theme. It was decided that the …

Camden Daffodil Festival

The Camden Daffodil Festival originated from a move to raise money for the restoration of a historic building in Camden (Ouachita County) and has become a means of promoting tourism in the area. The profits from the festival are donated to the community to promote tourism and help sustain the McCollum-Chidester House, which was built in 1847. It is today a museum maintained by the Ouachita County Historical Society. The Camden Daffodil Festival was started in 1994 by Dennis and Roxane Daniel as a result of a group of women motivated to help raise enough money to restore the old, dilapidated Missouri Pacific Train Depot and turn it into a historical site that would house the Camden Area Chamber of …

Centennial Celebration

Arkansas’s centennial preparations launched early, expanded rapidly to a galaxy committee, descended into financial uncertainties, burst into various celebrations crisscrossing the state, and finally rested on the laurels of an improved, culturally positive image. Officially held on June 15, 1936, the celebration commemorated the date President Andrew Jackson signed legislation making Arkansas the twenty-fifth state in the Union. Observances before and after the formal day included the composition of an official song and poem, the designation of a centennial flower, the issuance of a stamp, the crowning of a centennial queen, and the minting of two coins. There were also plays, parades, pageants, floats, contests, and exhibits, as well as a football championship, a visit by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, …

Delta Symposium

The Delta Symposium is an annual conference sponsored by the Department of English, Philosophy, and World Languages at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). The symposium welcomes multidisciplinary submissions and presentations dealing with the Mississippi Delta region; of particular interest are submissions that engage the question of the Delta’s culture, arts, and lifestyles, and their effect upon the blues. The Delta Symposium was created in 1994 as a conference that would appeal to both the general public and the academic community. First organized under the name of the Delta Studies Symposium, this changed when it became evident that the genre of the blues offered the most wide-ranging and multidisciplinary topic for exploration. A committee composed of faculty members of …

Dermott Crawfish Festival

The Dermott Crawfish Festival is one of the longest continuously running festivals in Arkansas. Every third weekend of May, Dermott (Chicot County) transforms its downtown streets into an entertainment district offering carnival amusements, arts and crafts, specialty foods, pancake breakfasts, live music, a disc jockey, beauty pageants, basketball contests, fire truck rides, magic shows, bingo, karate demonstrations, a “Show Your Rims” competition, and a dog show, as well as educational exhibits and visiting local and state politicians. The festival originated with the expansion of this Delta community’s farm-based economy into aquaculture. In the early 1980s, local agriculturists Ronnie Thomas, John Green, Jimmy Duncan, and Jerry Duncan began crawfish farming. Thomas, a fishery biologist, researched superior farming and food-preparation techniques. The …

Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race

Emerson (Columbia County) hosts an annual gathering for fans of purple hull peas and abnormally fast garden tillers. The PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is held the last Friday and Saturday in June on and near the grounds of Emerson High School. The festival encompasses numerous activities related to purple hull peas, some of which include the World Cup PurpleHull Pea Shelling Competition, the Great PurpleHull Peas & Cornbread Cook Off, the Senior Walk for World Peas, and the presentation of the Emerson PurpleHull Pea Farmer of the Year award. Both the festival and the tiller race began as the idea of Glen Eades of Brister (Columbia County). In 1990, Eades was the local area correspondent …

Festivals and Parades

Arkansas hosts a variety of annual festivals, fairs, and parades throughout the year. Some of the more well-known affairs, such as the Hope Watermelon Festival or the Arkansas Apple Festival, celebrate the centrality of agriculture to both local life and the wider state economy. Others celebrate some aspect of industry that is central to town life, such as the Malvern Brickfest or the Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival. A number of festivals focus upon arts and crafts, music, and movies, as well as an array of holiday-related celebrations centering upon Christmas or Independence Day. In addition, such events as Toad Suck Daze or the Lepanto Terrapin Derby simply provide opportunities for amusement.    For additional information: Arkansas South. http://www.arkansassouth.com/ …

Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival

The small town of Fordyce (Dallas County) celebrates the railroad and its historical significance with the annual Fordyce on the Cotton Belt Festival, which is held each year on the fourth Saturday in April. Along with fun for the community, the festival has a major financial impact on Fordyce and the surrounding area. Joe Bill Meador, a member of the board of directors of the Fordyce Chamber of Commerce, first had the idea for an annual festival. As Meador traveled across the Southern states, he saw how a festival could infuse life into a small town. In 1980, he began discussing the idea with the other members of the chamber. A committee was formed to plan a festival for Fordyce. …

Gillett Coon Supper

In Arkansas, one of the most acknowledged, anticipated, and attended wild game dinners is the annual Gillett Coon Supper held on the second weekend of January, with proceeds providing scholarships to Gillett (Arkansas County) area graduating high school seniors. The Gillett Coon Supper has also become a veritable rite of passage for people seeking election to political office. Hunters in Gillett, named in honor of railroad president Francis M. Gillett, at first gathered to share successful hunts, in this case raccoon, with friends and neighbors in a social gathering, which then escalated to an organized fundraising event for the Gillett High School Wolves football program. Recognizing the need for the community to have an avenue to deal with community ills …

Greek Food Festival

aka: International Greek Food Festival
The Greek Food Festival, which is organized by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is an annual three-day event that raises money for the church and for charities around Arkansas. In 2008, approximately 30,000 people attended to enjoy the food and entertainment. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox church was founded in 1913 and, a few years later, received an official church charter. By 1921, the members had their first building, at 15th and Center streets. For more than thirty years before they began the Greek Food Festival, members had a church pastry sale offering Greek food. The church moved to Napa Valley Drive in 1983 and began the first official Greek Food Festival that June. The one-day …

Hope Watermelon Festival

Hope (Hempstead County) annually celebrates its claim as the home of the world’s largest watermelons with a yearly watermelon festival. The event first originated in 1926 and has been ongoing, though not continuous, since 1977. There is no admission fee for the four-day event scheduled for the second week in August at Hope Fair Park. It is sponsored by the Hope–Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce. Activities include watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, fiddling, arm wrestling contests, as many as 200 vendors displaying their wares, and much more. The competition for growing big melons was a creation of John S. Gibson, who, in 1916, began to offer modest prizes for the largest vegetables and watermelons. Hugh and Edgar Laseter, local farmers, developed …

Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (HSDFI)

The internationally recognized Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (HSDFI) sponsors the annual ten-day Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which takes place each October in Hot Springs (Garland County). It also maintains a year-round schedule of film-related activities. Since its inception in 1992, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has become renowned as a prestigious venue for showing documentary films and attracting celebrities, filmmakers, and audiences from around the world. It bills itself as the oldest nonfiction film festival in North America. HSDFI has been awarded grant funding by organizations including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Deltic Timber, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It also receives sponsorships from local businesses. The festival …

Hot Springs Music Festival

The Hot Springs Music Festival is a non-profit organization whose dual mission is, first, to provide exceptionally talented young musicians with intensive mentoring to prepare them for the early stages of their professional careers, and, second, to have them share the music they make with people in central Arkansas. To fulfill its mission, the festival organization produces a two-week annual event by the same name every June in the historic downtown district of Hot Springs (Garland County). The festival was founded in 1995 by Richard Rosenberg, an orchestra conductor and music educator, and Laura Rosenberg, an arts administrator. Prior to founding the festival, Richard Rosenberg had been acting director of orchestras at the University of Michigan, associate conductor of the …

John Huddleston Day

Since 1984, Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro (Pike County) has been sponsoring John Huddleston Day to honor the discoverer of the first diamonds found in the area, John Huddleston. Hundreds of hopeful diamond hunters show up to take part in the activities and to try their luck at diamond mining. There were 1,322 paid admissions to the festival on June 16 and 17, 2006, along with 400 to 500 visitors taking part in the free activities and/or observing the festivities. In 1906, John Huddleston discovered diamonds in Pike County on his 160-acre farm located two and a half miles south of Murfreesboro. This is now the site of the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Beginning in 1984, the …

Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival is an annual event held in Dyess (Mississippi County), the small town where Johnny Cash lived until he was eighteen years old. The festival, begun in October 2017, features several days of music, arts and crafts, scholarly lectures, and appearances by Cash family members and nationally known performers. The event is sponsored by the Cultural Heritage Program at Arkansas State University (ASU), headed by Dr. Ruth Hawkins. The festival is held in October, traditionally a month of good weather in northeastern Arkansas as well as the period when farmers are harvesting cotton. From 2011 to 2014, ASU held the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro (Craighead County), featuring concerts by such country music luminaries as Rosanne …

Johnson County Peach Festival

The Johnson County Peach Festival arose from the area’s successful peach industry, which got its start in the 1890s. In 1893, James R. Tolbert and Johnson J. Taylor decided to purchase and grow Elberta peaches in Johnson County. Their success spread throughout the region into other states. In 1897, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company became interested in this rising industry and, after negotiations, created a partnership including the peach farmers, the county, and the railroad. Despite financial and environmental setbacks over the years, the industry thrived and became an integral part of the county. Plans for a peach festival were discussed as early as 1937, but no festival was held until the summer of 1938. The first festival was held at …

Jonquil Festival

The Jonquil Festival takes place the third weekend of March each year at Historic Washington State Park in Washington (Hempstead County). Along with people from surrounding communities, it attracts visitors from Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma who are eager to see the flowers, the crafts, and a culturally significant historic park covering the period from early settlement to Reconstruction. In 1966, a small tour around town during the March blooming of the jonquils (a type of daffodil) was started. In 1967 or 1968, the tour was established for one weekend and named the Jonquil Trail. What was then called Old Washington Historic State Park was established in 1973, and the park took over what had, by then, become the Jonquil Festival. …

Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a celebration held during the month of June in Arkansas and throughout the nation to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Texas in 1865 to mark the date when the news of the emancipation of the slaves reached the state. Since 2005, the third Saturday in June has been officially considered “Juneteenth Independence Day” in Arkansas. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the actual emancipation of the slaves came on different dates in different regions. In Galveston, Texas, for instance, it was on June 19, 1865, that a regiment of Union soldiers informed the residents that all former slaves were free. June 19 became a day of celebration …

King Biscuit Blues Festival

aka: Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival
The first weekend in October, the Mississippi River town of Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), about seventy miles southwest of Memphis, Tennessee, becomes a thriving community of blues musicians and their fans, gathered to celebrate the King Biscuit Blues Festival. The festival grounds now lie along a levee, but during the early years, the festival was held on the back of a flatbed truck in front of an old train depot, which is now a museum and the site of the Delta Cultural Center on Cherry Street. Cherry Street, which parallels the Mississippi River, is a National Historic District and the historic commercial center of the town. What began in 1986 as a one-day event with a crowd of 500 has …