LITTLE ROCK What started out as a community fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club in Russellville has morphed into a regional summer event drawing approximately 20,000 people to the city.
ValleyFest, now in its 20th year, will be held Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6, at Old Post Park in Russellville.
The jam-packed festival will be 6-10 Friday and 8 a.m. to 10p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Armbands for the carnival rides are available for $12 a day at the park. The pre-purchase price is $10, and bands are available until noon June 5 for that price at participating banks, stores, Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Boys and Girls Club of the Arkansas River Valley.
Parking fees are as follows: $5 Friday night; $5 until 5 p.m. Saturday; $10 after 5 p.m. Parking rates apply to each vehicle.
Traditional midway games and amusement rides will thrill the young and the young at heart. The popular bingo will return, and commemorative Tshirts will be sold.
In addition to the 2,000 pounds of pork prepared by the Knights of Columbus and the chicken cooked up by the Pope County Sheriff's Department, typical festival food will be offered, such as funnel cakes, corn dogs, hamburgers, hot dogs and cotton candy.
Competitive sorts have a choice of challenges, from the Tour de Valley bike marathons and fun runs/walks to beach volleyball, tennis, softball, basketball and horseshoes.
There will be an extreme show on wheels with the addition of Freestyle Connection BMX Stunt Team, which will perform at 6 p.m. Friday, and at noon, 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday.
A fishing derby is planned as well as a car show judging.
To really get those taste buds popping, there's a barbecue cook-off with the fruits (or meats as it were) of the teams' labor offered at the concession stands.
Friday night entertainment on the main stage starts at 6 p.m. with Colgate Country Showdown sponsored by River Valley Radio followed at 7:30 p.m. by local favorite Some Guy Named Robband A Tribute to Willie Nelson at 8:30 p.m.
The Saturday night entertainment will begin with On the Verge playing at 4:45 p.m., Big Daddy and the Pork Chops at 5:45 followed by Singletree and Mr. Lucky.
Restless Heart, an Academy of Country Music Award winner, will take the stage at 9 p.m. The group's songs include "That Rock Won't Roll," "I'll Still be Loving You," "Why Does it Have to be (Wrong or Right)" and "The Bluest Eyes in Texas."
The Boys and Girls Club of the Arkansas River Valley is partly supported by two major fundraisers - the John Daly Golf Classic and ValleyFest - which provide 30 percent of its annual budget.
Cathy Andrasik, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the River Valley, said other funds are obtained through grants, foundations, individual and corporate donations, United Way, civic clubs, and the city of Dardanelle.
Don Stout, co-chairman of the ValleyFest committee and longtime board chairman, said, "Although we project to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 [from Valley-Fest], only half of that is profit," Stout said. "We have to pay the entertainment, incidentals and insurance. This nonprofit uses every penny and wrings out miracles."
He said that $50,000 represents 10-12 percent of the overall budget, but "without ValleyFest, we wouldn't have the Boys andGirls Club."
The Boys and Girls Club provides its members, ages 6 to 18, opportunities that include homework help, individual tutoring, arts and crafts classes, computer classes, organized games, leadership-developmentgroups, resistance training for drug, alcohol and negative behavior, life skills, physical recreation and educational programs all squeezed into the after-school hours of 3-7 p.m.
During the summer months, a 10-week camp is provided to allow members to enjoy organized activities.
"The $10 biannual membership fee is a bargain for what the kids receive," Stout said. "That figure is intentionally set low so that any and all kids can get involved. Even kids who can't afford that, we will scholarship them. We don't want to deny anybody."
Stout has also served in the capacity of chairman of the building and grounds committee and oversaw the constructionof the new club building in Russellville.
"There's a lot of hard work, prayers and tears in this building," he said.
After volunteering 19 years with the Boys and Girls Club, Stout, whose two grown children participated in the club, has no intention of leaving. "Once you get something going this worthwhile it's hard to let go," he said. "My greatest thrill is when I come down to the center and see all the kids, and I hear one of the adults holler the familiar admonition, 'Don't run!'"
Keeping the center sustainable so that the greatest number of children can benefit spurs the legions of ValleyFest volunteers, Stout said.
There are 1,500 children who call themselves members of the Boys and Girls Club.
In 2007 the committee decided to move the ValleyFest event from August to earlier in the summerbecause of the milder temperatures.
"It was just miserable working out in the Arkansas heat in August," Stout said.
"We're praying for sunshine, and we're not going to mention the rain. It can stay away," he said.
For more information, call the Boys and Girls Club of the Arkansas River Valley at (479) 968-7819 or go to www.valley-fest.org.
River Valley Ozark, Pages 153, 154 on 05/31/2009