New stage, old favorites at annual Malvern festival

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published May 9, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 8, 2013 at 10:21 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Anthony Bloom, general manager of Sykes, and Brenda Weldon from Summit Bank are shown at the new stage being built for the 33rd Brickfest in Malvern. The annual festival is expected to attact more people and provide more entertainment with the permanent, state-of-the-art outdoor stage at Malvern City Park.

For the past year, the nonprofit organization that puts on Malvern’s biggest annual event has been setting the stage for a big show to draw more people to the 33rd annual Brickfest.

“The event brings together the cultures and communities of Malvern,” said Nikki Launius, executive director of the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce. “We have the city, local businesses and citizens working together to make this Brickfest our best ever.”

While there have been additions to Brickfest this year, the time of the festival has been compressed to a day and a half of music and fun.

Summit Bank, a longtime supporter of the annual event, and other businesses have been working with the city to finish a permanent, state-of-the-art outdoor stage at Malvern City Park on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

“When the old Boys and Girls Club was torn down, we were left with a 70-foot by 90-foot slab, which is a perfect foundation for a stage,” said Summit Bank’s Brenda Weldon, a member of the Brickfest Committee. “[The stage] is being built primarily for Brickfest but will be available all year long for the citizens of Malvern.”

Anthony Bloom, general manager of Sykes in Malvern and also on the committee, said preparing the stage has been a costly cooperative effort.

“The city gave $20,000 to the project, and after we found out what the costs were going to be, they added another $20,000 to the project,” he said.

Summit Bank initially gave $15,000 for the project, then added a donation of $6,000 to help with the cost of the roof.

Weldon said Summit also has the naming rights for the stage, which will be known as Summit Stage.

In addition, much of the beginning work on the project was provided by inmates of the Ouachita River Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction, through an agreement between the city and the prison. Guards at the facility also contributed $1,000 to Brickfest.

“The larger stage will help us book bigger acts for the Brickfest concerts,” Weldon said. “This year, the big closing band will be Lonestar.”

The four-member country band from Nashville has been touring and making albums for 21 years. The band was named Vocal Group of the Year in 2001 by the Country Music Association and has sold more than 10 million albums and produced 10 No. 1 country hits.

Lonestar will play at 8:30 p.m. June 28. The Riverbilly Trio, a country-rock band, will open the evening’s concert at 6:30. Brickfest will end with a fireworks display after the concert.

Bloom said that without the new stage, Lonestar would not have been able to play for the Brickfest audience.

“They needed different requirements with more electrical power for lights and the sound system,” he said.

Sykes contributed $46,000 to Brickfest for 2013, including $17,000 for the band and its production company.

Summit Stage will also be the sight for two concerts on June 28, the opening night of Brickfest.

At 5:30 p.m., local school choirs will perform, followed by Brian Free & Assurance, a Southern gospel quartet. At 8:30 p.m., Malvern-native Martha Burks and her band will play gospel, blues and jazz.

Brickfest will officially open at noon Friday, although the Quilt Show, sponsored by the Hot Spring County Extension Homemakers, will open at 9 a.m. at the park.

The carnival rides will be open from noon to 11 p.m. Bloom said a new carnival company will be at the festival this year, offering new rides and more attractions for younger children.

Also new this year will be the BB Shooting Gallery, sponsored by the Wild Turkey Federation.

“Last year there was a BB-gun contest,” Weldon said, “but this will be a much bigger event, including a contest with trophies.”

She also said there will be more food vendors this year because the festival has expanded utilities at the site.

“This year, the vendors will be divided with retailers, nonprofits, and the arts and crafts booths all in their own area,” Weldon said. “We hope this will put more attention on the arts and crafts and attract more people to bring the things they have made.”

Weldon said committee members have been visiting other festivals around the state to look for new ideas. She and Bloom said they gathered several ideas from the annual Pink Tomato Festival in Warren.

“We have also been meeting with the festival association and the Arkansas

Department of Parks and Tourism,” she said. “Several good ideas came from that.”

“Our theme this year is to be moving forward without losing tradition,” Bloom said. “The committee has been working with that in mind. We want the residents to have a quality event.”

For more information on Brickfest, call (501) 458-1115 or visit

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or