Arkansas Goat Festival set for Oct. 7

By Tammy Keith Published September 7, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Rebecca Roetzel gets a kiss from her goat Roger as her husband, Mike, holds their goat LeBron last year at the inaugural Arkansas Goat Festival in Perryville. Sarah French of Perry founded the festival, and Rebecca, now an employee of Heifer Ranch in Perryville, is in charge of the Kids Corral this year. The festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 7 in Perryville City Park.

PERRYVILLE — The Arkansas Goat Festival is back this year. No kidding.

The second annual festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 7 in Perryville City Park. Admission to the festival is free. Activities include goat races, a goatee contest (for humans), a goat parade, goat yoga (for humans and their goats), live music, food, a Kids Corral and vendors selling goat-related products — goat lipstick, anyone?

The festival will culminate with a new event, Nannies at Night, a goats-in-lingerie fashion show.

Sarah French of Perry organized the unique festival last year in downtown Perryville as an idea to boost tourism.

“We were hoping for maybe 500; we think we had about 1,200 attend,” she said.

That’s people, not goats. French said she estimates there were 40 to 50 goats, too.

“Honestly, we’re hoping for more [people this year], and the word is spreading, for sure.” French said.

Although attendees can show up with their goats the day of the event, goat owners who preregister their animals by Sept. 29 for one of the goat events will receive a special thank-you gift at the welcome tent.

Preregistration is available at arkansasgoatfestival.com, along with a schedule of events.

French said the festival focuses on Arkansas vendors and Arkansas crafts.

“I don’t want the money from this to pack up and go home,” French said. She said “everything goat” will be sold, running down a list that includes goat art, goat lipstick, goat cheese and goat lotion. “Heifer International calls them a seven-M animal — milk, manure, meat, muscle, money, materials and motivation — goats give you all these.”

French said the goat festival “just kind of came about as a rare piece of independent, original thought.”

She was the member of two organizations that encouraged community involvement. One was Uncommon Communities, a community and economic-development program of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain.

French said she was talking to a friend participating in Uncommon Communities who had organized Saturdays on the Square in downtown Perryville to promote tourism. French, a former employee of Heifer Ranch in Perryville, used to own goats. She suggested holding a goat contest one Saturday in Perryville.

Then French went all Bubba Gump on it.

“I said, ‘We could have goat-cheese-making, goat this and goat that.’ I said, ‘We could have a goat festival.’ As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I thought, ‘Oh, this sounds like so much fun,’” she said.

When she researched goat festivals, French said she found “they don’t really exist.” She found one jazz festival in Tennessee that included goats, but no festival that glorified goats.

“People love, for the most part, the idea of a goat festival,” French said. She butted heads with one person about it.

“My husband said, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in my life,’” French recalled with a laugh.

French decided to do it anyway, and it was a big success, she said. People came from out of state, including Texas, to mingle with other goat lovers.

Goat-lover Rebecca Roetzel of Perryville helped French organize the first festival. Roetzel and her husband, Mike, were volunteers at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, and now Rebecca works at Heifer Ranch as the education manager, as well as volunteer manager.

Roetzel said that when French asked her what she thought about a goat festival, “it was 100 percent thumbs up, right away.”

“I had no doubt it would be a supported idea, especially out here, but I had no idea how popular it would be,” Roetzel

said. “I think we were all shocked by the attendance, but I love public events, and I love planning.”

Roetzel made all the signage for the first event.

“I also got the ranch involved, and I’m really glad that happened, and [the festival is] going to be even bigger and better this year,” she said.

“This year, we’re calling it the Kids Corral — a huge free section for kids with a

petting area, games, activities, crafts, all kinds of stuff that is not just for kids but anybody can do.”

Heifer USA is the financial sponsor for the event, but Heifer Ranch is sponsoring the Kids Corral, she said.

As they did last year, the Roetzels will bring their two personality-plus goats. Rebecca said one is named Roger after Roger Federer, “the greatest tennis player of all times,” and the other is LeBron for NBA basketball player LeBron James because the goat “can jump over every fence we have; he is a jumper.”

Last year, the goats donned Hawaiian shirts for the festival.

All attendees who come to the festival with a goat, dressed as a goat or with goats on their clothes will get a door prize this year.

French said it really gets her goat when she hears someone criticize the Nannies at Night lingerie fashion show.

“It’s just something funny and crazy,” French said. “It’s just like dressing up your dog. A lot of goats, they’re just fabulous; they’re born to be fabulous. You can tell they’re happy in their little shiny outfits.

“There are a lot of goat aficionados. A lot of people don’t think of them as livestock; they think of them as pets, just like dogs.”

French said that when she had goats, she also considered them to be pets.

“They had no purpose; they were just to be my friend and chew my shoelaces,” she said. They don’t smell bad, she said, except for male goats who haven’t been neutered. “They will jump up on stuff and eat stuff. They’re vegetarians; they’re not messy. They’re quiet and very friendly. They may bite you, but it won’t hurt.”

French said people are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs to the festival and their kids — those with two legs or four.

“It’s really just about having fun and just coming together and celebrating our favorite ruminant,” she said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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