Residents return home for annual Augusta Days

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published May 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 15, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
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The Augusta Days Festival brings thousands of people home to Woodruff County each summer. The event includes a carnival, music, food, vendors, fireworks and more. The festival takes nearly a year to organize, and many volunteers have been working with the fest since its inception 16 years ago.

— Sixteen years after she first started working with the fest, Janice Beard is still nervous as the Augusta Days Festival approaches. She wants it to be a success.

Each year, Beard finally lets out a sigh of relief as the Sunday night fireworks show marks the end of another year.

“It started out as a small-town event with just a few people, and it’s just grown and grown,” said Beard, one of several festival coordinators.

Now, Augusta Days has grown to draw participants from neighboring towns, as well as past residents who travel back to their hometown just for the weekend. Last year, the festival drew around 9,500 attendees, coordinator Morgan Berry said. For a town with just more than 2,000 residents, it’s a big influx.

“To my knowledge, we never had a festival in the town like this before it started 16 years ago,” said Berry, who has lived in the town since the ’40s. “It’s a homecoming for everyone that’s ever lived in Augusta and the surrounding area.”

Over the years, class reunions have started being scheduled for the same weekend as the festival to capitalize on all the people in town.

“People get to visit with old schoolmates and family,” Berry said. “As long as the weather stays nice, it’s always a great time.”

During the festival weekend, Berry can typically be found with an ear to his phone. He hands out his number to each vendor at the start of the festivities and helps troubleshoot through the weekend, leaving only a half-hour or so of free time the whole weekend.

“The best moment for me is on Sunday night, when the fireworks happen,” Berry said. “It’s always a real pretty show.”

Berry, Beard and other festival coordinators start planning for the festival just as the previous year’s fest is winding down. The organizers meet once a month through the year to get everything arranged.

This year’s Augusta Days Festival will take place Wednesday through May 26, starting with a 4 p.m. fishing derby at Berry & Berry Pond in Augusta on Wednesday and culminating with the fireworks display at 9 p.m. May 26 downtown.

Other events include boat races, a pet parade, a community church service, a tractor pull, live boxing demonstrations, a parade and music. Main-stage music headliners include Batesville native Matt Dame, who will take the stage at 8 p.m. May 24, and country singer Billy Joe Royal will headline at 8 p.m. May 26.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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