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— Each fall, thousands of people have come to Dupree Park for the annual Wing Ding Festival. But after 13 years, the annual Wing Ding Festival in Jacksonville will no longer take place.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors made the decision earlier this month to cancel plans for future Wing Ding festivals because the festival in 2011 resulted in a $12,000 loss.

“This was not an easy decision,” said Amy Mattison, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO. “The board met and discussed the festival.”

Mattison said chamber board chairman Jody Urquhart met with Mayor Gary Fletcher and Advertising and Promotions commissioners to discuss the decision to cancel the festival. She also said volunteers haven’t been coming forward to help, and the attendance to the festival has dropped.

Festival attendance began to drop in 2009, Mattison said, and it dropped progressively more in 2010 and 2011. She attributes that to so many other festivals going on in surrounding areas during the same weekend.

Although Mattison said consideration was put into moving the date of Wing Ding, there wasn’t an agreeable date on which other activities weren’t already scheduled.

The festival, which always took place the first Saturday in October at Dupree Park, was created for families to spend the day outside. The festival featured a fishing derby, inflatables, a chicken-wing-eating contest, paddle boats, a 5K run and musical entertainment.

“There are no plans to replace the Wing Ding Festival with another event, but the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to helping Mayor Fletcher with his vision of bringing a regional fair to Jacksonville,” Urquhart said in a press release from the chamber.

Mattison said she doesn’t believe it will be as hard to find volunteers to help out with a regional fair.

“I don’t think it will be difficult,” she said. “The chamber will not be organizing the fair - we will just be a cog.”

The chamber office hasn’t received any feedback from the community on the decision to cancel the festival.

“It was a business deal, and I haven’t heard anything, positive or negative,” Mattison said..

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

Three Rivers, Pages 117 on 02/26/2012

Print Headline: City cancels Wing Ding Festival

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