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ARE WE THERE YET?

Spring is here - and so are the many festivals

By JACK SCHNEDLER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published March 20, 2014 at 2:40 a.m.

Courthouse Square in Mountain View will serve as the stage for an array of performers April 18-20 during the Arkansas Folk Festival.

This winter has seemed a lot longer than the calendar’s three months, but spring finally shows up officially today. Along with the new season comes a burst of Arkansas festivals.

Here’s a sampler of Natural State fests that aims to tickle your fancy for road trips in the vernal days ahead. Some are free, while others have charges for some activities:

Edamame Festival, Mulberry, March 29. This is the debut of a festivity to spotlight the opening two years ago in the Crawford County town of Mulberry of what is said to be the first U.S. facility for processing edamame. There’ll be contests for shelling and eating this variety of immature soybean now in fashion as a snack food.

Arkansas Scottish Festival, Batesville, April 11-13. The Scottish and Presbyterian roots of Lyon College will be celebrated at this tartan-tinged yearly fling. Highland dancing, bagpipers, sheepdog demonstrations and tea with scones are ingredients in the ethnic recipe. The Bonniest Knees Contest hints at a wee flash of flesh.

German Heritage Festival, Stuttgart, April 12. This seventh annual Old World gathering in Stuttgart starts with a 5K run and walk. Later, hearty Teutonic food and drink come to the fore - juicy bratwursts with sauerkraut plus full-flavored beers from the Fatherland. Then it’s time to exercise again by dancing to a polka band’s oompahs.

Arkansas Folk Festival, Mountain View, April 18-20. Calling itself, with good reason, “Folk Music Capital of the World,” Mountain View and Ozark Folk Center State Park on its outskirts will pulsate with folk and bluegrass. At the center’s Craft Village, workshops will demonstrate and display a host of crafts.

Alma Spinach Festival, April 19. Bands will play gospel and country music on the Popeye Stage at Alma’s 28th annual spinach fest, northeast of Fort Smith. The spinach-eating contest starts at noon, followed by the Spinach Drop. Clumps of the green vegetable are plopped onto a grid marked with winning numbers - think of it as edible Keno.

Fordyce on the Cotton Belt, April 21-26. Displays of model trains are one highlight of this festival hearkening back to railroading’s heyday. There’s gospel singing and karaoke as well, along with classic cars. As for the Redbug Reunion Rally on April 25, it salutes Fordyce High’s mascot - “redbug” being a more polite term for the pestiferous chigger.

World Famous Armadillo Festival, Hamburg, April 30-May 3. Evidently it is possible to persuade armadillos to race, because that’s a headline event of a fest that also offers arts and crafts, music, a magic show and carnival rides. There’ll even be an armadillo meat-eating contest - and no smart remarks, please, about roadkill.

Toad Suck Daze, Conway, May 2-4. No fried toad legs will be dished up as fast food at this big-time festival. However, there will be World Championship Toad Races. The name “Toad Suck,” in case you’re new to these parts, goes back to the 19th century. Watching riverboat crews booze it up at the local tavern, locals would joke, “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.”

Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-off, May 12-17.Along with buds and blooms, these festivities will include the 63rd Magnolia Arts Annual Art Show, as well as a motorcycle show and a puppet show. Wrapping up the fun the evening of May 17 will be the high-stakes steak competition, offering $10,000 in prizes.

Contact information along with event times, costs (if any) and more details on these and other spring festivals can be found on the website of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism: arkansas.com.

Weekend, Pages 40 on 03/20/2014

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