A new event at this year’s Toad Suck Daze is a physical challenge — a cross between a bounce house and boot camp.
The Crain-Arvest Challenge is an 85-foot-long military-style, inflatable obstacle course, which will be set up on Oak Street between Chestnut and Court streets.
Toad Suck Daze will be held May 2-4 in downtown Conway.
Lori Melton, vice president of business development for Arvest Bank, said people and teams can compete in several divisions for prizes.
The individual grand prize is $5,000, and sponsors will provide secondary prizes, she said.
“The Daze Dash is going to be the big competition,” Melton said.
“It will simulate a military course, which would be a climbing wall, a rope swing and where you kind of have to crawl through the ropes — that kind of thing,” she said.
Bleachers will be placed along the attraction so people can watch the competitions, she said.
“We’re hoping to get celebrity emcees,” she said.
Melton said that when she heard that Centennial Bank’s Stuck on a Truck promotion wouldn’t be held at the festival this year, she started planning.
“There was such an outcry that Toad Suck Daze wouldn’t have something fun to watch now that Stuck on a Truck was gone,” she said.
Melton is a former Centennial Bank employee and helped launch Stuck on a Truck, which started as Hug a Bug in 2001.
Although not an official Toad Suck Daze event, the contest was held at the festival for 13 years in the Centennial Bank’s parking lot at Oak and Front streets.
This year, the bank offered its downtown parking lot to the city for a central command location for emergency services during the festival.
Melton said she called Jay Myers, general manager of Crain Buick GMC in Conway.
“We brainstormed,” she said. “One of his co-workers came up with [the idea]. It was an instant, ‘Oh, yes, that would be great,’” Melton said.
She said the idea is similar to Wipeout, a television show on which contestants navigate an inflatable obstacle course.
“We even looked at the Wipeout course, and that wasn’t conducive,” she said.
The inflatable course that Arvest and Crain plan to buy has a water feature, she said, and will be filled by the Conway Fire Department. “We may even put foam in there,” she said.
Myers said someone in his marketing department came up with the idea.
“We just wanted it to be something fun and wanted it to have bleachers so people can sit and watch,” Myers said.
Also, he said, “There are lots of prizes, and the grand prize is $5,000.”
“It’s sort of a trial run for us, and it could turn into something big,” Myers said.
Speaking of big, neither Myers nor Melton has decided where to store the mammoth inflatable piece.
Mary Margaret Satterfield, director of Toad Suck Daze and events for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said she looks forward to the Crain-Arvest Challenge.
“We think it’s going to be a good addition to Toad Suck Daze. It’s an event we’ve never done before,” Satterfield said.
“We hated to see Stuck on a Truck go; it’s been a great event,” she said.
“We think [the new competition is] going to kind of help fill that void of not having Stuck on a Truck left. Nothing can completely replace it; they’re totally different,” Satterfield said.
However, she said, the obstacle challenge is something she thinks the Toad Suck Daze crowd will want to “watch, see and participate in.”
Melton said that Crafton Tull, an engineering company, is partnering with Crain and Arvest to make sure the obstacle course is set up correctly. The company’s largest branch office is in Conway.
Competition on the obstacle course will be held May 2-4 in various individual divisions and a corporate team division. Teams must be made up of four people, with at least one being female, Melton said.
To be eligible for the $5,000, people must sign up two weeks ahead of time at central Arkansas Arvest Bank or Crain locations, she said.
“Total, it will be over 40 locations,” she said.
Preliminaries will be held throughout the three-day festival for the ultimate prize.
Twenty people will be given a chance to compete on May 4 for $5,000.
Individuals can compete in a media division, in which a trophy will be awarded, and a nonprofit category, in which one person can win $1,000. Other divisions are political; seniors, male and female, age 50 or older; adults, male and female, ages 20-49; and teens, 13-18, both male and female.
“The political division will be interesting to see if we can get any candidates or their representatives,” Melton said.
Individuals can sign up for an event an hour prior to the start time. Corporate and nonprofit competitors must sign up at Arvest Bank, 2590 N. Donaghey Ave., and registration must be received by the end of April 30.
The course will be deflated each night, and Melton said it takes about three hours to inflate and deflate.
Melton said people sat and watched contestants stand with their hands on a truck, so she thinks people will enjoy watching this active event.
“We’re a little late in the game, but we have no doubt we’re going to pull it together,” she said.
Myers said he plans to compete.
“We’re going to have to,” he said.
Melton isn’t so sure.
“Oh, yeah, she’ll just have to be encouraged,” Myers said.
One of the best parts of the event, Melton said with a laugh, is “no sleep deprivation.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.