Brickfest 2014 builds on recent success

By Wayne Bryan Published July 10, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Wayne Bryan

It is only natural that the World’s Largest Brick, made by Acme Brick in Texas, would pay a call to Brickfest in Malvern for the annual festival in the town that was once called the “Brick Capital of the World.” Baby Clay, as the huge brick is called, is 116 inches long, 39 inches tall and 39 inches wide, and weighs more than 6,000 pounds, making it nearly 3,000 times the size of a standard brick.

MALVERN — In 2010, the future of Brickfest was in doubt. The annual festival in Malvern celebrating the community’s self-proclaimed title of “Brick Capital of the World” had seen better days, and festival leaders were looking for something to spark new life into the city’s biggest event.

“How many visitors we have and the level of participation we have will decide if the festival will continue,” Brenda Weldon, a longtime member of the Brickfest Festival Committee, said four years ago. “For the last four or five years, there has been a lack of interest from the community, and participation is way down.”

Changes were made, and year after year, things have improved. Attendance estimates provided by the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce and members of the the Brickfest committee state that the 2014 celebration, held June 28, might have been the best-attended festival ever.

Nikki Launius, who is executive director of the chamber and active in promoting the event, said she had heard estimates of more than 10,000 coming to Malvern’s City Park to enjoy the event. That would be almost one in three of the population of Hot Spring County, although many visitors from the surrounding region came to Malvern to be part of the event.

“Malvern police estimated the crowd at Saturday night’s Tracy Lawrence concert at 8,000,” Launius said. “Josh Garrett (promoter of the Brickfest Bull Bash event) said the rodeo bull riding was a sellout with more than 2,000 tickets sold.”

This was the first year for the bull riding, and last year’s concert by Lonestar drew about 5,000, according to estimates.

In City Park, visitors to Brickfest found attractions for all ages. The Classic Car and Truck Show, the Brick-B-Que Baby Back Rib Cook-Off, the Brick Throw and other events caught the attention of adults, while rides, a mobile fish tank from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission filled with examples of the game fish found in the state’s lakes and rivers, a petting zoo, pony rides and the Brick Car Race attracted the children.

Moving Brickfest to Malvern’s City Park was a major step in building a larger Brickfest. When the Brickfest Committee asked the public for ways to improve the annual event, one of the problems mentioned was that the the former site of Brickfest, the Hot Spring County Courthouse grounds, had gotten too small to house the many events that made up Brickfest.

For years, streets in the downtown business district were closed for the event. When organizers and city officials decided it was not practical to look for additional streets to barricade, they decided to move the festival to the park in 2010.

Last year, the Summit Bank Stage was constructed, creating a better venue for concerts. The event is funded with donations from area businesses, the sale of vendor booths, sponsorships and T-shirt sales, Weldon said.

Plans for Brickfest 2015 are already underway.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 and wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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