Recreation and Sports

Entries - Entry Category: Recreation and Sports - Starting with O

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

aka: Oaklawn Park Racetrack
aka: Oaklawn Jockey Club
aka: Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
Even before the Civil War, the former pasture where Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort now stands in Hot Springs (Garland County) was home to impromptu races between local farm boys riding their fastest ponies. Today, the track is Arkansas’s only thoroughbred horse racing venue and the lone remaining gambling center in a city once known as much for its casinos as for its famous thermal baths. The popularity of Sportsman’s Park, built on the southeastern edge of Hot Springs in the early 1890s, sparked an interest in developing the sport of thoroughbred horse racing in the area. Following the 1903 repeal of anti-gambling laws, Essex Park was built in 1904. Charles Dugan, Dan Stuart, and John Condon—owners of the Southern Club—decided …

Ohio Club

The Ohio Club at 336 Central Avenue in Hot Springs (Garland County) is considered Arkansas’s oldest continually operating bar. It was founded by John “Coffee” Williams and his nephew, Sam Watt, in 1905. It became a popular watering hole and meeting place for notorious figures such as Al Capone, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, as well as local legends like Owen “Owney” Madden and Arkansas gambling czar William Stokley Jacobs. The Ohio Club has never closed its doors despite bans on both gambling and alcohol. The Ohio Club was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Hot Springs Central Avenue Historic District on June 25, 1985. In 1905, Coffee Williams and Sam Watt …

Oil Town Festival

Smackover’s Oil Town Festival, which is held the third weekend in June, is one of the state’s oldest festivals and attracts more than 10,000 visitors each year. The first festival was held in 1971 and was sponsored by the Smackover Chamber of Commerce and Lions Club. The year 1971 was the fifty-year anniversary of the Busey No. 1 well, which was being celebrated in neighboring El Dorado, so the town of Smackover (Union County) organized a celebration of the Smackover oil field discovery well, the Richardson No. 1. Over the years, the festival has grown in size and events and has changed locations to accommodate the growth. Originally held in downtown Smackover, the festival has moved to Tennyson Park, which …

Old Folks’ Singing

What became known as Old Folks’ Singing started on May 17, 1885, with the dedication of a new Methodist church and cemetery in Tull (Grant County). The event was multi-denominational, with the entire community participating in the singing and midday dinner. The annual event, which celebrated its 125-year anniversary in 2010, is held in Tull at the Ebenezer United Methodist Church on the third Sunday in May. It is believed to be the oldest continuous singing day held west of the Mississippi River. While the shape-note system of learning music is no longer part of Old Folks’ Singing, the musical heritage of the event can be traced back to the shape-note singing popular in New England and moving to rural …

Old Mill

Famous for its appearance in the opening credits of the 1939 classic movie Gone with the Wind, the Old Mill in the five-acre T. R. Pugh Memorial Park in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) contains the work of noted Mexican sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez, who perfected the folk art style known as faux bois (fake wood) by crafting reinforced concrete to resemble petrified logs. Justin Matthews, the developer of the town’s Park Hill and Lakewood subdivisions, hired Rodriguez in 1932 to create a tourist attraction for his new suburban development. Formally named Pugh’s Mill in honor of Matthews’s lifelong friend Thomas R. Pugh, the mill features a two-story stone building, bridges, benches, and other examples of Rodriguez’s art, all designed to …

Olympians

From 1908 to 2016, nearly eighty athletes with ties to Arkansas (either natives/residents or affiliated with the state through its universities) have participated in the Olympic Games. Summer Olympians have competed in track and field, basketball, boxing, baseball, rowing, shooting, cycling, kayaking, modern pentathlon, swimming, golf, and art. One Winter Olympian competed in short-track speed skating. Thirty-five Arkansas-affiliated Olympians have won medals. Veronica Campbell-Brown leads this group, with eight medals. A former sprinter at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), the Jamaican native won a silver medal for Jamaica in the 4×100-meter relay in 2000, gold medals in the 200 meters and the 4×100-meter relay and a bronze medal in the 100 meters in 2004, a gold medal …

Ostrich Farm in Hot Springs

In the early twentieth century, a number of distinctive tourist attractions enjoyed tremendous popularity in the resort city of Hot Springs (Garland County). These attractions drew visitors to the town, as did the Spa City’s hot springs. Beginning in 1900, one of the city’s most remarkable places to visit was the Ostrich Farm on Whittington Avenue. After the Civil War, visitors from all parts of the country began to pour into Hot Springs. With the increasing patronage and resulting improvements in facilities and services, the sleepy little village rapidly acquired the characteristics of a wide-open boom town. By the end of the 1870s, Hot Springs enjoyed widespread acclaim across the nation as a health resort. Naturally, the health seekers needed …

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest, originally called the Arkansas National Forest, was created through an executive order issued by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907. Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot remarked at the time that this national forest was the only major shortleaf pine forest under the federal government’s protection. In January 1908, the Arkansas Sentinel newspaper reprinted an article from Forestry and Irrigation Magazine that praised the hearty spirit of cooperation manifested by Arkansas’s people and spoke of benefits to be gained by the conservation of timber supplies. At first, the Arkansas National Forest consisted solely of reserved public domain lands (part of the Louisiana Purchase) south of the Arkansas River. The 1911 Weeks Law, which authorized federal purchase …

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail, an approximately 225-mile back country trail, runs east and west the length of the Ouachita Mountains. More commonly referred to as the “Ouachita Trail,” it lies primarily within the Ouachita National Forest. Most of the trail (177 miles) is in Arkansas, with forty-six miles extending into Oklahoma. Both ends of the trail are in state parks. The eastern terminus is in Pinnacle Mountain State Park west of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the western terminus is in Talimena State Park in Oklahoma. The trail also crosses a third state park, Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Polk County. Terrain across the length of the trail is rugged, providing a variety of hiking experiences and scenic opportunities. Elevation …

Ouzts, Perry Wayne

Perry Wayne Ouzts, a professional jockey from Lepanto (Poinsett County), is one of twenty-one professional riders to have won 5,000 races. Around horseracing tracks, he is nicknamed the “Workingman’s Hero” or, for his unique riding style, “Scoot N’ Boot.” He has also been noted for overcoming numerous potentially career-ending injuries. Perry Ouzts was born in Lepanto on July 7, 1954, but was raised primarily in Rivervale (Poinsett County). During his years in Rivervale, Ouzts began riding horses with his cousins Earlie and Jackie Fires. Earlie Fires was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame of Jockeys, while Jackie’s career ended when his body was crushed during a horse race in 1977, paralyzing him. Ouzts began riding professionally in the spring …

Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair

aka: War Eagle Fair
The Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair (a.k.a. War Eagle Fair) is an arts and crafts festival held each October. The event takes place on historic War Eagle Mills Farm, seventeen miles east of Rogers (Benton County). The fair, begun in 1954, grew out of an exhibition hosted by a local handweavers guild and into an institution that some have described as the “granddaddy of craft fairs.” Each year, hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors flock to this rural community in the northwest corner of the state. Throughout its history, the fair has served as a major economic stimulus within the state and contributed thousands of dollars to scholarship funds at major universities and colleges throughout Arkansas. The War Eagle …

Ozark Folk Center State Park

The Ozark Folk Center State Park at Mountain View (Stone County) may be the only state park in Arkansas dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of Southern mountain folkways and traditions. When opened in 1973, the park was hailed as a home for traditional crafts and music and has since become one of the important institutions preserving this particular way of life. The idea for the folk center grew from the success of the Arkansas Folk Festival, which debuted in April 1963 in Mountain View under the sponsorship of the Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild (later known as the Arkansas Craft Guild) and the Rackensack Folklore Society. Although the Folk Festival continues to highlight the crafts and music of the area, …

Ozark Foothills FilmFest

The Ozark Foothills FilmFest takes place in Batesville (Independence County) and was established in 2001 by Bob and Judy Pest. The Pests had previously operated the City Movie Center in Kansas City, Missouri, for seven years. The festival soon became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to excellence and accessibility in the media arts. The festival supports and encourages Arkansas filmmakers and strives to serve the people of north-central Arkansas. The first festival in 2002 had Arkansas native and musical icon Levon Helm as the headliner; more than 300 people attended a concert he gave. At the historic Melba Theater, festival goers also watched several films in which he appeared. Helm spoke to the audience and encouraged them to help the festival succeed, which …

Ozark Golden Wedding Jubilee

The Ozark Golden Wedding Jubilee was a commemoration of couples who had been married fifty years, during which they reaffirmed their wedding vows. Taking place in 1949 and 1950 in Rogers (Benton County) and hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, the celebration was open to couples across the country and featured a recently married honor couple at both June events. The day of June 23, 1949, marked the first golden wedding event, at which seventy-eight couples celebrated their renewed vows. Married the preceding Wednesday during the Bride and Groom radio broadcast in Hollywood, California, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Tandy Gardner of Seattle, Washington, both pre-med students at the University of Washington, were the honor couple, awarded a week’s honeymoon in …

Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail

The Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail is a 165-mile-long hiking and backpacking route across northwestern Arkansas. The trail’s western terminus is Lake Fort Smith State Park in Crawford County, and its eastern terminus lies within the Buffalo National River park in Searcy County. The trail runs almost entirely through the Ozark National Forest, which regulates use. The Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), as it is often called, was created by the National Forest Service in the 1970s, though inadequate federal funding limited route planning and construction to short segments. In response, area hiking enthusiasts in 1981 formed the Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA). This all-volunteer group took over trail design and construction, completing the OHT in 1984. The association, working in …

Ozark Mountain Folk Fair

The Ozark Mountain Folk Fair was a music festival and craft fair held north of Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1973 on Memorial Day weekend (May 26–28). The festival drew an audience from around the United States, with an estimated attendance of up to 30,000, and featured a diverse mix of rock, blues, bluegrass, gospel, country, and folk music performances. The rise of 1960s and early 1970s counterculture throughout America was especially relevant within the environmental back-to-the-land movement burgeoning in the Arkansas Ozarks, in which people sought a more mindful and sustainable way of life and rejected commercial aspects of society. In this culture, journalist Edd Jeffords, founder of the Ozark Mountain Folklore Association, organized the Ozark Mountain Folk Fair. …

Ozark Mountain UFO Conference

aka: Ozark UFO Conference
The Ozark Mountain UFO Conference takes place each year on the second weekend of April at the Inn of the Ozarks Conference Center in Eureka Springs (Carroll County). As many as 700 attendees hear national and international researchers discuss their findings regarding unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and related topics. A typical three-day conference begins at 1:00 p.m. on Friday and ends at noon on Sunday, featuring between nine and twelve speakers, a speakers’ panel discussion, and the showing of documentary films. Nationally known speakers in attendance have included Dr. John Altshuler, Peter Davenport, Dr. James Deardorff, Richard Dolan, Linda Moulton Howe, Antonio Hunneus, Dr. David Jacobs, Dr. John Mack, Kathleen Marden, David Marler, Jim Marrs, Ted Phillips, Wendelle Stevens, and …

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are replete with distinct topographical, geological, and biological features. The forests are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, which employs a multiple-use management concept to serve the best interests of the landowners and visitors. The forests serve as a source of renewable hardwood for industry and as prime recreation areas in the state. On December 18, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating the Arkansas National Forest (now the Ouachita National Forest) from the land south of the Arkansas River. On March 6, 1908, he signed the proclamation creating the Ozark National Forest from the land north of the river. The Ozark National Forest was the only major hardwood timberland …