Festivals and Events

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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 …