Downtown Little Rock parking lots, usually empty at such times, were packed last Sunday afternoon as people took advantage of glorious weirdly cool late-summer weather to spend time and money at the annual Main Street Food Truck Festival.
A couple, departing after a few hours at the jam-packed event, ran into a friend as they headed east of Main Street toward their parked car. “Who knew there was so many cultural events going on in Little Rock on a Sunday that you couldn’t go to all of them?” she marveled.
She had a point. This happily overfed crew had plenty of other choices for entertainment that day. The sprawling multi-block food truck festival was overflowing with visitors who cheerfully waited in really long lines to enjoy an unbelievable array of eats from 60-some vendors, among them Ocko’s Hibachi Island, Pappy Jack’s Street Pies, Katmandu Momo, and ice cream served in crunchy cylindrical shells from Wondersticks.
In between, festival goers could shop for a curious assortment of crafts from the likes of Poke Sallet Pottery, Hillcrest Waterbugs, Judd Mann Art Glass, and Ruthie’s Soaps, relax in a beer garden (ID check required), meet some baby goats from nearby Heifer Village, enjoy the company of about a million dogs from a Great Pyrenees to a ridiculously cute Chi-Poo (chihuahua-poodle mix) and their doting owners (the dogs not only were conversation starters; they also did a great job of cleaning up remnants of kettle corn, sandwiches, and funnel cakes that fell to the ground), and enjoy music from buskers including a pre-adolescent kid belting out an a capella version of Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a couple of highly danceable DJs, a decent blues band, and a fiddle duo known as Bow Tanglers.
The crowds at this annual festival are ample—it is, after all, all about food—but especially so on this day, which veered way off from September’s usual sun-baked heat. This time we were treated to an overcast sky, a light breeze, and temperatures in the 70s.
It took place on Sunday because a continuation of that week’s downpours (remnants of tropical storm Gordon) was expected on Saturday. In what must have been a mighty feat of logistics, organizers took a huge risk in the middle of the week by believing in the weather forecast and moving everybody—lots and lots of everybody—from Saturday to Sunday.
Saturday’s rain came as predicted, steady and plodding, accented here and there with thunder. It would have emptied the streets after 3 p.m. Taking a chance on the move paid off.
Although it was a big hit, the festival had competition. And not the kind that gives our city a bad name.
The other big draw downtown that day was Comic Con, a two-day event at Statehouse Convention Center that drew plenty of attention, what with costumed superheroes from comic books and movies (Deadpool was spotted, along with versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman) and a list of guests whose names are probably not familiar to those who aren’t comic-book fans selling selfies and autographs to starstruck fans.
A quieter but no less dedicated fan base made its way to a book signing and visit with Civil War book authors Mark Christ, Tom DeBlack, Michael B. Dougan and Carl H. Moneyhon at Old State House Museum.
An opening reception was going on at Community Bakery for a display of evocative oil and watercolor landscapes by Andrew Deiser, a language professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
And the annual Student Cabaret celebration of talent was being staged at Arkansas Repertory Theatre—which survived the summer in spite of the theater’s recent financial woes that caused suspension of operations until January.
And that’s just in downtown Little Rock.
The publicity machine hasn’t been kind to the capital city lately, and with good reason. But a few days of lots to do with plenty to offer all sorts of people can go a long way toward improving the city’s image. With so much going on, there’s an argument for spreading some of these attractions out so they don’t have to compete with one another.
Little Rock, and Arkansas in general, has a long-standing affinity for scheduling blockbuster events on the same day. We in the media who review musical events and theatrical performances were always stymied by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre’s insistence on opening shows on the same Friday evening.
Last weekend had about all we could handle. Soon we’ll be entering October, as overbooked with events as June is overbooked with weddings (or was before couples started moving their nuptials to the fall because of the heat). October is not a month for the faint of heart when it comes to enjoying statewide events.
The Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock and the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena were often scheduled on the same weekends. Not this year; the fair is Oct. 11-21 and King Biscuit is Oct. 3-6. The fair still has competitors: It’s up against Hillberry: the Harvest Moon Festival in Eureka Springs (Oct. 11-14), El Dorado Music Fest (Oct. 18-20), and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Oct, 19-27).
Wait, there’s more: World Fest at War Memorial Park (Oct. 5), Arkansas Honey Festival (Oct. 6), and Great Arkansas Goat Festival in Perryville (Oct. 7) will be here before you know it. Hugely popular World Cheese Dip Championship is coming Oct. 20, as is Boo at the Zoo (Oct. 24) and Arkansas Cornbread Festival (Oct. 27),
November opens with the Hillcrest neighborhood’s Harvestfest and nearby Pulaski Heights’ Chili Fights in the Heights both happening Nov. 3.
You see the problem.
Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.
Print Headline: There’s something going on around here