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Daffodil Festival has some manly attractions

By JACK SCHNEDLER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published March 6, 2014 at 2:38 a.m.

the-mccollum-chidester-house-dating-to-1847-is-among-the-homes-that-can-be-toured-during-this-weekends-21st-annual-camden-daffodil-festival

The McCollum-Chidester House, dating to 1847, is among the homes that can be toured during this weekend’s 21st annual Camden Daffodil Festival.

CAMDEN - Organizers of this weekend’s 21st annual Camden Daffodil Festival are no dummies. Aiming for the largest possible turnout, they know that many guys would just as soon scrub the bathroom as drive somewhere to gawk at clumps of mainly yellow flowers.

So one highlighted festival event is the Championship Steak Cook-Off. Starting at 5 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, 348 W. Washington St., it’s a red-meat magnet for the testosterone-fueled. There’ll be sizzle aplenty while cheering on the charbroiling contestants, then tucking into a 14-ounce ribeye dinner.

Male urges are also targeted by the festival’s Antique Car Show, featuring the collection of Dr. Fred Dietrich. Contestants can register from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, with trophies awarded at 3 p.m. There’s no charge to admire the vintage vehicles and second-guess the judges at 1108 W. Washington St.

Military demonstrations are another chest-thumping event on the schedule. Along Camden’s Ouachita River walkway, Civil War artillery will be fired hourly to give visitors a whiff of what that titanic conflict was like in a community occupied by Confederate and Union forces. There’ll be infantry exercises by re-enactors as well.

As for the headline act, daffodils galore can be admired at three locations on the festival’s Daffodil Garden Tour, along with three other floral farms. The picking of fresh flowers is permitted at two of the sites. A brochure detailing the spots, along with other information, is available at First United Methodist Church Welcome Center, 121 Harrison Ave. NW.

There’s also a Historic Homes Tour of five properties, the most notable being the McCollum-Chidester House Museum, 926 W. Washington St. Built in 1847, the house was occupied during the Civil War’s Red River campaign first by Confederate Gen. Sterling Price and then by Union Gen. Frederick Steel. Bullet holes and cannon-fire damage can still be seen.

The Civil War is one focus of the Historic Oakland Cemetery Walk, which can be visited as part of the garden tour. The cemetery on Maul Road has southwest Arkansas’ largest number of Confederate graves. Interpreters in period dress will portray pioneers of Ouachita County.

More local history is on display at Camden Visitors Center and Museum, in the century-old train depot at 614 W. Adams St. SW. Along with Civil War relics, the displays feature a couple of distinctive products once made locally: Grapette soft drink and Camark pottery.

And if the 100 miles from Little Rock to Camden still seems too far to drive for flower-peeping, it’s only 35 miles west to the site of the Wye Mountain Daffodil Festival. The seven-acre setting surrounds Wye United Methodist Church, along Arkansas113 at Bigelow.

Wye Mountain organizers aren’t sure when there’ll be enough blossoms to open the event officially, so it’s wise to check ahead by calling (501) 330-2403. During festival weekends, amenities will include arts and crafts, food and beverages - but no sizzling steaks.

More information on the 21st annual Camden Daffodil Festival, starting at 6:30 a.m. Friday with the Camden Noon Lions Club Daffodil Breakfast and winding up Saturday evening, is available by calling (870) 836-0023 or visiting camdendaffodilfestival.com.

The two-day Daffodil Showcase ticket, priced at $75, includes the garden tour, the house tour, the Oakland Cemetery Walk, the Steak Cook-Off dinner, Dining With the Daffodils and shuttle transportation. The garden tour with cemetery walk and shuttle rides costs $35 for adults, $15 for those 6 to 18. The cemetery walk alone is $8 ($5 for kids 6 to 12). The tour of historic homes with shuttle is $25 ($7 per house without shuttle). The steak dinner is $22.

A Camden best bet for lunch is Postmasters Grill, in the historic 1896 post office at 133 W. Washington St. The Po’ Boy Trio sandwich with fried calamari, crayfish and shrimp is delectable. Call (870) 836-5579 or visit postmastersgrill.com.

Weekend, Pages 38 on 03/06/2014

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