Festivals and Events

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Entry Category: Festivals and Events

Pine Bluff Film Festival

The Pine Bluff Film Festival was inaugurated in 1994 by local residents who wanted to honor the legacy of the silent film era and help revitalize downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Since that time, the annual event screened silent classics (often accompanied by a symphony orchestra), hosted world-famous guest stars, expanded to two theaters, implemented a silent film competition, and encouraged film and theater restoration. It was hosted each year by two world-renowned cultural experts from New York who were with the festival since its inception. The festival was recognized internationally as one of the oldest silent film festivals in the United States and the only one that regularly presented silent films with full orchestral accompaniment. The festival originated with …

Riverfest Arts and Music Festival

Riverfest Arts and Music Festival was Arkansas’s premier summer event, offering three days of music on the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Operated by Riverfest Inc., a nonprofit organization overseen by a board of directors, Riverfest attracted more than 250,000 people in 2013, creating an economic impact of more than $30 million in the local community. Founded by the Junior League of Little Rock as the Summer Arts Festival in July 1978, the first Riverfest presented the American Wind Symphony and other activities at Murray Park. Following the event’s initial success, the date of the Summer Arts Festival was moved the next year to its well-known Memorial Day weekend …

Saline County Fair and Rodeo

The Saline County Fair and Rodeo is considered one of the oldest continual annual fairs in Arkansas, with roots going back to a small gathering at Riverside Park in Benton (Saline County) in 1908. In comparison, the first Arkansas Livestock Show—later changed to the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show—was held in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1938, although there were other efforts to create a state fair in the later part of the nineteenth century. Since its inception, the Saline County Fair has grown to include a parade, a full rodeo, livestock sales, games, carnival rides, contests, live music, and exhibits showing off locally made products. Since the beginning, the Saline County Fair has been managed and funded …

Sesquicentennial Celebration

The Arkansas Sesquicentennial Celebration was a year-long event in 1986 commemorating the 150th anniversary of Arkansas’s admission into the Union. The celebration sparked a renewed interest in Arkansas and local history. Arkansas was admitted to the Union as a state on June 15, 1836. In 1986, a series of statewide and local events were held to honor the anniversary. Planning for the sesquicentennial began in 1982, with Governor Frank White appointing an Arkansas Sesquicentennial Commission. Tom W. Dillard, director of the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage (now the Department of Arkansas Heritage), was appointed by White to lead the commission. In early 1985, the Arkansas General Assembly passed legislation awarding a $400,000 grant to the Department of Arkansas …

Six Bridges Book Festival

The Six Bridges Book Festival is an annual celebration of literacy, language, and the written word. The event was begun by Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc., (ALC) with the goals of increasing awareness of the importance of literacy and raising funds for adult literacy programs in Arkansas—all through a culturally vibrant event that highlights the state of Arkansas and its rich literary heritage. The festival started in 2002 as the Arkansas Literary Festival (known as Lit Fest), and the Central Arkansas Library System took over management of the festival in 2008, renaming it the Six Bridges Book Festival in 2019. Proceeds from the event benefit the state’s community-based literacy programs that recruit and train volunteers to help adults improve their basic …

Timberfest

Timberfest is held the first weekend of October every year on the courthouse square in Sheridan (Grant County). Timberfest celebrates Sheridan and Grant County’s long involvement with the timber industry and is sponsored by the Grant County Chamber of Commerce. The idea for Timberfest began in 1982 when the Grant County Chamber of Commerce board of directors decided to combine the Blue Mountain Bluegrass Festival and the Merchants Fair into one festival. The first Timberfest was held in 1984 on the courthouse square in Sheridan. Since then, it has grown into a very large event. Around 1995, a lumberjack competition was added to the Timberfest activities. The funds raised by Timberfest are used for scholarships that are awarded to Grant …

Times-N-Traditions Festival

In the 1930s, Newark (Independence County) hosted Old Home Week, said to have been one of the state’s largest summer festivals. After several years, it was replaced by a three-day annual picnic known as the Old Settlers Reunion, which had ceased by the late twentieth century. In 1995, local business leaders initiated plans to develop a new festival, the Times-N-Traditions Festival (TNT). The festival, which is sponsored by the Newark Area Chamber of Commerce, began in 1995 as a Friday and Saturday event. While the previous festivals were held in downtown Newark, the TNT is held at the Newark City Park. Low attendance and competition with local Friday-night high school football resulted in a Saturday-only event. However, in 2014, a …

Toad Suck Daze

Toad Suck Daze is an annual spring festival in Conway (Faulkner County) that features arts and crafts vendors, live music, a variety of foods, and toad races for children. It is held on the streets of downtown Conway, where more than 150,000 people attend the three-day event. No admission is charged, and proceeds of the festival support Faulkner County residents attending colleges located in the county. While the festival is now one of the largest and most unique in Arkansas, it began as an idea John Ward had in 1982. Ward—managing editor of the Log Cabin Democrat, Conway’s local newspaper—wanted to raise the spirits of local residents experiencing the hard times of a recession and high interest rates. He thought …

Tontitown Grape Festival

The Tontitown Grape Festival is held each year in August as a celebration of the Italian heritage of Tontitown (Washington County). Featuring spaghetti dinners, carnival rides, arts and crafts booths, live music, and the crowning of Queen Concordia, the three-day festival is believed to be the longest-running annual community celebration in Arkansas. Tontitown was founded in 1898 by a group of Italian Catholic immigrants led by their priest, Father Pietro Bandini. At the end of June 1898, Tontitown settlers—who had cleared land and planted gardens, orchards, and vineyards—held a thanksgiving picnic in observance of the Feast of St. Peter, Father Bandini’s patron saint. The celebration was observed annually by Catholic families in Tontitown, and after a few years, an invitation …

Trumann Wild Duck Festival

The Trumann Wild Duck Festival is an annual festival held in Trumann (Poinsett County) on the last Saturday in September. It includes two days of music, food, arts-and-crafts vendors, softball games, beauty pageants, bingo, a car show, carnival rides, and a parade. A golf tournament is also held on the weekend prior to the festival. The event has its roots in the annual Singer Barbeque that was held each fall for the employees of the Singer Company in Trumann beginning in 1948. Trumann at the time was almost a company town, so the picnic brought out most of the residents, as well as county and state dignitaries. The Singer Barbeque was the brainchild of local facility manager Alfred Carlson. More …

Turkey Trot Festival

Turkey Trot is an annual festival held in Yellville (Marion County) on the second weekend in October, all day Friday and Saturday. Like many Arkansas festivals, Turkey Trot was founded to draw attention to local natural resources as well as to provide community entertainment. However, it has also been a source of controversy due to the treatment of turkeys during the festival. The festival originated just before Thanksgiving in 1946, when Yellville’s American Legion post, with help from local businessmen and professionals, sponsored a National Turkey Calling Contest and Turkey Trot. The day’s activities were intended to be a wild turkey–conservation activity, calling attention to Arkansas’s dwindling turkey population, which by the mid-1940s had dropped to only 7,000, very few of …

United Confederate Veterans Reunion of 1911

Little Rock (Pulaski County) hosted the twenty-first annual United Confederate Veterans Reunion on May 16–18, 1911. The reunion drew more than 140,000 people, including approximately 12,000 veterans, making it the largest event in Little Rock history until William Jefferson Clinton’s election night in 1992. The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) formed in 1889 with a goal of keeping alive the memory of the men who fought for the South during the Civil War and to bring national attention to the needs of the aging veterans. The annual reunion was one of the group’s major projects, and towns across the country vied to host the event. Judge William M. Kavanaugh chaired Little Rock’s planning committee for the event. Subcommittees arranged for lodging, …

United Confederate Veterans Reunion of 1928

The thirty-eighth annual national reunion of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), held on May 8–11, 1928, marked the second time that Little Rock (Pulaski County) served as the event’s host city, seventeen years after the much-celebrated 1911 reunion. Governor John Ellis Martineau’s personal invitation, along with a $30,000 legislative appropriation to provide free entertainment for all veterans, helped Little Rock beat out the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Lexington, Kentucky, for the honor. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) oversaw all planning. Edmund R. Wiles, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Division of the SCV, served as general chairman of the reunion committee and used the War Memorial Building (now the Old State House) as committee headquarters. In November 1927, Wiles dispelled …

United Confederate Veterans Reunion of 1949

The fifty-ninth annual national reunion of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) marked the third and final time that Little Rock (Pulaski County) served as host city for the event. Thereafter, the UCV held only two more national reunions. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) planned and organized all of the event’s activities. Little Rock’s Robert C. Newton Camp of the SCV served as the host organization throughout the reunion. Other organizations associated with the reunion included the Order of the Stars and Bars and the Confederated Southern Memorial Association (CSMA). Due to the limited number of living Civil War veterans, reunion officials expected no more than eight veterans to attend the event. Even this modest attendance expectation went unfulfilled, however, …

Wiederkehr Weinfest

Wiederkehr Wine Cellar’s Weinfest is one of the oldest and best-attended festivals in western Arkansas. The first Wiederkehr Weinfest was in 1963, and the event continues to be an annual attraction for locals and tourists. Weinfest celebrates the heritage of the Swiss-German immigrants who settled in Wiederkehr Village atop St. Mary’s Mountain near the city of Altus (Franklin County) during the 1880s. Al Wiederkehr, the winery founder’s grandson, initiated the festival after he returned from an oenological (relating to the study of wine and winemaking) research trip to Europe. During his expedition, he traveled to wine- and grape-producing countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and attended a variety of local festivals. When he came home, he realized that having a …

World Championship Quartz Crystal Dig

The World Championship Quartz Crystal Dig is held annually the second week of October in the Mount Ida (Montgomery County) area. According to Montgomery County: Our Heritage, “The Quartz Crystal Festival held October 24, 25 and 26, 1986, was attended by some two thousand residents and tourists from coast to coast.” The event was the idea of Paul G. Griffiths Sr. of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce and Sonny Stanley. The dig is a two-day event with two divisions: crystal points and clusters. The winners keep the crystal they mine and share in $1,500 in prize money. Contestants pay a $75 registration fee and compete in both divisions. On each of the three days of the dig, the …

World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest

The World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest is held every Thanksgiving weekend in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The winner is named the World Champion Duck Caller. To qualify for the contest, a contestant must win a preliminary state or regional duck-calling contest sanctioned by the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce and held in one of thirty-eight states. A preliminary contest is also held in Canada for Canadian residents. The first National Duck Calling Contest was held on Main Street in Stuttgart on November 24, 1936, in connection with the annual Arkansas Rice Carnival. It was sponsored by American Legion Post No. 48. The contest was originated by Thad McCollum of Stuttgart after a dispute broke out among local duck hunters as to who …

World’s Fairs, Arkansas’s Exhibitions at the

In 1876, the United States hosted its first World’s Fair in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: the United States Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. International expositions, or World’s Fairs, emerged from the Great Exposition in London in 1851, which primarily focused on industrial innovation. World’s Fairs in the United States invited participation from each state, with each state funding its own building and displays. Arkansas’s participation in numerous World’s Fairs in the United States presented an opportunity to advertise the state’s accomplishments and promote settlement. While Arkansas participated in a number of World’s Fairs over the years, the most significant expositions occurred around the turn of the century. The Centennial Exposition (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1876) …

World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is held in Hot Springs (Garland County), began in 2003 when a group of Hot Springs residents gathered in a pub on the city’s Bridge Street and began musing about ways to capitalize on the fact that the street had been named in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! during the 1950s and 1960s as the world’s shortest street in everyday use. The idea of holding a celebration on the ninety-eight-foot street in the heart of the historic city’s downtown area arose, and the approaching St. Patrick’s Day holiday emerged as an appropriate time to capitalize on Bridge Street’s reputation. The First Ever First Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held …