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— Community festivals are a great place for family fun and neighborly unity. The Jacksonville FestiVille is no different, and organizers promise this year will be bigger and better than ever.

The two-day festival will take place Sept. 28 and 29 at Dupree Park. Megan Vandergriff, facilities and programs administrator for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation, said the festival has always been well-attended and is a signal for the seasons to change.

“It’s one of the largest events we have for Jacksonville,” she said. “It’s a carnival, musical festival, vendor showcase, a chance to meet up with your family. It kicks off the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.”

This is the sixth annual FestiVille, and Vandergriff said families from Jacksonville and surrounding areas come out in droves for the event.

“Last year, we saw about 12,000 people over the weekend,” she said. “This year, we’re projecting about 15,000, who will come out not just for the carnival but for the music and the food trucks and for everything that makes it the event that it is. People come out, and they really get proud for the town that they live in.”

The festival features carnival rides and games, live entertainment, concessions, vendor booths, a volleyball tournament, a petting zoo, a kids area and more. Admission and parking at FestiVille are free, but Vandergriff said some of the activities may cost money.

“The [Jacksonville] Fire Department will have their trailer with activities for the kiddos, and we’re going to have a petting zoo free of charge,” she said. “The carnival charges for wristbands, and we also have an inflatable laser-tag course this year. That will be $5 to get into per child, but it’s a real laser-tag course that will be set up on the field, which is really cool.”

Vandergriff also said there will be a rock wall, dunking booths and other activities.

There will be two stages with musical groups and performances throughout the weekend, including local high school bands and choirs, as well as Arkansas-based musical groups.

The Jacksonville FestiVille T-shirts can be ordered by calling (501) 982-4171.

“This is kind of a collectible,” Vandergriff said. “They’re different colors every year. … Everyone gets really excited about them.”

One new feature to the FestiVille is a chili cook-off.

“Typically, in the past we’ve done a barbecue cookout,” Vandergriff said. “We’ve decided to step into a more fall-type setting with chili instead. We’re still looking for chili cook-off contestants, so if you or someone you know cooks the best chili you’ve ever tasted, come on out.”

Another shift the FestiVille is experiencing this year is with the annual 5K race.

“This year, the Boys & Girls Club [of Jacksonville] and the Jacksonville Chamber [of Commerce] are raising funds for the 5K,” Vandergriff said. “And it’s going to be downtown at 5 Points. It will not be at the FestiVille site this year. It’s actually gotten a little too big, so it had to move, but it’s still connected with FestiVille.”

Registration forms for the chili cook-off and the 5K — along with other FestiVille information — can be found at www.cityofjacksonville.net/270/FestiVille.

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