HEBER SPRINGS Of the 23 officially sanctioned Razorback clubs in the country, the Greers Ferry Lake area boasts one of the most successful. It’s also the newest.
In late 2007, four Heber Springs-area sports fans decided they wanted to launch an official Razorback Club in their area. But when they first approached the head of the University of Arkansas’ Razorback Foundation, Chris Campbell, Bill Lynch, Ricky Davis and Leon Nicholson were turned down.
“Chris called, and they said, ‘Absolutely no,’” Davis said. “There was a club at Batesville, Mountain View and Searcy already.”
But the group was persistent, calling back every few weeks to explain why an officially sanctioned Razorback club in the Greers Ferry Lake area would be beneficial.
After more than a month of phone calls, the foundation gave in. After filing for nonprofit status, the group came up with its official name — The Greers Ferry Lake Area Razorback Club — and began planning its first banquet.
“We thought we’d try to fit everyone in the whole county and Clinton, Pangburn, Rose Bud and Quitman. … Everyone would feel like they’re part of it,” Davis said.
But getting Razorback fans into the new club turned out to be harder than the founders had thought.
“We had just a couple months to get everything together for our first banquet,” Davis said. “We were trying to sell the tickets, and we just couldn’t get anybody to buy them. We got down to less than four weeks and only had maybe 50 or 60 tickets sold.”
The club leaders began to wonder if the foundation had been right — maybe the Greers Ferry area just didn’t have enough support for its own club.
Rather than give up, Davis and the other club founders hit the ground hard over the next two weeks to sell as many tickets as they could. They called every Hogs fan they knew. They got air time at local radio stations, and slowly, the response began to build.
“By the time we had our first banquet, we had about 300 people there,” Davis said.
The group has been growing ever since. In its first year, the club donated $5,000 to the Razorback Foundation; the next, $9,000, and the year after that, $13,000. In its fourth year, the club raised $17,000. Last year, the club raised more than $20,000 for the Razorback Foundation.
“They’re in the top five in terms of dollars raised and given back,” said Sean Rochelle, senior associate director for the Razorback Foundation. “When you think about the population of the area, to think what they’ve done has really been incredible.”
According to Rochelle, the Greers Ferry Lake Area club is one of five Razorback Clubs in the state that has reached the “Platinum” level in terms of donations, meaning they’ve raised $20,000 or more for the foundation. The other clubs are in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Northwest Arkansas and the Petit Jean area club in Morrilton.
“Personally, I’ve been there for a banquet
every year for the past few years, and they have an incredible crowd,” Rochelle said. “The energy and dynamic are very impressive. I’m always excited to bring our coaches there.”
That energy was part of the reason the Greers Ferry Lake Area Razorback Club was picked as one of two that incoming Razorback football head coach Bret Bielema will visit for a banquet this spring.
“Coach Bielema is trying to get out to as many different areas of the state as he can, and it was a club that deserved to have him come,” Rochelle said.
Over the years, the club has had visits from baseball coach Dave Van Horn, men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson, former football coach Bobby Petrino and others.
“People today still talk about the first banquet at the Methodist church,” Davis said. “The whole crowd in the Razorback red, with video highlights playing and the music — we had everyone fired up. We were off and running.”
Bielema will speak at a banquet on April 1, during spring football practice.
“It’s created such an excitement,” Davis said. “It was amazing to get that phone call.”
Davis, who grew up a Razorback football fan during the Frank Broyles years, is excited to hear from Bielema in April.
“Bielema is coming in with such an unbelievable lineup of coaches,” Davis said. “He’s such a home-run-hit coach hire.”
Though tickets aren’t yet on sale for the spring banquet featuring Bielema, Davis said information on tickets will be released on the club’s website at gflarazorbackclub.com.
In the years since the club was founded, around 300 individuals and families have gotten involved with the club. In 2013, it plans to charge a $20 membership fee for individuals, which includes a T-shirt and car decals.
“It’s been incredible to see this club come together,” Davis said. “We’ve got 12 board members from all over the area, 18 to 20 sponsors at our banquets and attendance from 300 to 600 fans. The community is so supportive of it now.”
Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.