MORRILTON — It didn’t take long for Munchin’ on Main Street in Morrilton to make a good impression.
The festival, held for the first time in 2017, was the winner of an Arkansas Downtown Network Award, the Best Downtown Event from Main Street Arkansas. It was awarded Jan. 10 at the Arkansas Municipal League winter conference in Fort Smith.
The second Munchin’ on Main Street, facilitated by Main Street Morrilton, is scheduled for March 24.
Sarah Croswell, executive director of Main Street Morrilton, said she was surprised when she was notified in November about the honor.
“It was the first time, actually, for the downtown networks to be included in the awards process, our first time to apply and our first time for Munchin’, so we really weren’t expecting anything,” she said. “There are so many outstanding programs [in the network],” Croswell added.
The free-admission festival features food trucks, live musical entertainment, local arts and craft vendors, a beer garden and free children’s activities.
Croswell said she thinks the festival stood out because “it’s just something different and unique for such a small town to have the food-truck festival, and it was more than just food trucks — it was free kids events; we had car shows and the motorcycles and the local craft vendors and such,” she said.
“I think a lot of people remember Pig Out in Morrilton, so it’s like, ‘Oh, something else is coming out in Morrilton.’ We threw in the music, trying to recapture that hometown festival.”
Croswell said that although she is proud of the honor, the event takes a total community effort.
“It’s a Main Street event, but it’s so much bigger than Main Street. I think that’s the beauty of it; the community carried it and brought it forth,” she said.
Croswell reeled off a list of people and organizations involved with the inaugural festival — the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute’s Uncommon Communities initiative, Leadership Conway County, churches and civic groups, the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce, the mayor, police, the county judge — “you name it,” she said.
Morgan Zimmerman, a member of the Main Street Morrilton Board of Directors, said the event started when a man contacted the organization about having a food-truck race. She said the Main Street Morrilton board, the chamber and the Uncommon Communities committee came together and seized on the opportunity to create a festival around the food-truck race.
“In the last minute, the food-truck race kind of fell through. Fortunately, we have a lot of good food trucks in our area,” she said.
The Morrilton groups organized local food trucks, live music, vendors and other activities.
“We were so pleased. We estimated 1,000 to 1,500 attended, and we literally planned it in six weeks,” Zimmerman said in an earlier interview. “The weather was not great; we were overwhelmed with the participation. We want to grow it this year.”
Zimmerman also said she was excited to hear about the festival’s award.
“We were so honored to receive the Best Downtown Event award from Main Street Arkansas. This event shines a light on our historic downtown and all it has to offer, and that is really the goal of Main Street, to support our small businesses and help promote our town,” she said.
Courtney Stell, director of student activities at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton, is a member of the festival planning committee. She’s in charge of the food-truck lineup and music this year.
“One of our goals with Munchin’ on Main Street is to highlight our local gems. We strive to find as much of our entertainment, food trucks and vendors as possible within Arkansas, and the majority of those are from the River Valley area,” she said. “I’m excited to announce that Road Hog BBQ plans to return in 2018 as the defending champion of our Favorite Food Truck competition. A slate of up to 10 additional food trucks offering a variety of menu items is still being finalized.”
Stell said her brother, Matt Stell of Nashville, Tennessee, will return as the headliner at 8 p.m. with an acoustic set of original songs, as well as cover songs. Courtney Stell said they grew up in Center Ridge in Conway County.
“A full entertainment lineup will be announced soon,” she said.
The Munchin’ on Main Street committee is accepting applications for food trucks and art, craft and handmade-item vendors until Feb. 16. Sponsors will be accepted until March 1. Forms are available at munchinonmain.com.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the event, now an award-winning festival, may sign up online.
“It’s nice to know that our efforts are being recognized at the state level,” Stell said. “This award not only gives us the satisfaction of a job well done the first time around, but it allows people in other parts of Arkansas to know that great things are happening in Morrilton. We’re so proud
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.