Arkansas festivals blossom in the spring, with a few actually focusing on floral blooms. But other themes of these fun-filled events vary widely, from gumbo and railroading to old-time radio and herds of elk.
Here's a sampler of this year's vernal potpourri. The communities staging the festivals take pride in sharing their particular allures, and visitors from around the state are welcome to join in the jollity. Admission to festival grounds is free in most cases.
• Kite Festival, Eureka Springs, Saturday. It's normally an insult to shout, "Go fly a kite!" On Saturday, however, it'll be a cheerful call-out to let spring breezes carry kites aloft at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge just south of Eureka Springs. The kite flying is free, whether you bring your own or make one on the spot with an expert's help. Viewing the tigers and other carnivores inside the refuge costs the normal admission fees.
• Arkansas Folk Festival, Mountain View, April 19-20. A cornucopia of music is a prime two-day attraction at Ozark Folk Center State Park and the surroundings of Stone County Courthouse in Mountain View. Adding to the pleasure is an artisans' market with 30 or more exhibitors selling flame-worked beads, Ozarks musical instruments, hand-thrown stoneware pottery and other crafts. There will be a parade the morning of April 20.
• Hot Springs Gumbo and Crawfish Festival, April 20. This delectable event raises funds for the Spa City Blues Society. For $10, visitors can taste an "unlimited" amount of gumbos from competitors in the cook-off -- with the caveat that "we do not guarantee you will be able to sample gumbo from all the teams." A combination feast of gumbo and crawfish is $29.95.
• Dogwood Festival, Siloam Springs, April 26-28. Colorful dogwood blooms give this spring festival its name. But food is a major focus, "including fried green tomatoes, gumbo, bread pudding, smoked chicken dinners, tacos, turkey legs, catfish, alligator on a stick, corn dogs, caramel apples, funnel cakes, kettle corn, homemade root beer and fresh-squeezed lemonade." More than 200 arts-and-crafts booths are also in the mix.
• Fordyce on the Cotton Belt, April 27. The Dallas County seat of Fordyce celebrates its railroading heritage with a day of fun echoing the name of the vanished Cotton Belt line. The festival's name is also said to mimic a long-ago gambling expression, likely a pun on "Four Dice." The most flavorful feature of the gathering is a steak cook-off with a first prize of $1,200.
• Toad Suck Daze, Conway, May 3-5. Races that feature hopping toads, some of them coached by girls and boys, are the headline act of a festival wildly popular since its inception in 1982. The name is said to date to the 19th century, when locals thus pictured the riverboat crews slurping their liquor in rustic taverns. Festival proceeds have contributed more than $1.7 million since the mid-1980s to scholarships and other school funding.
• Southern Food and Wine Festival, El Dorado, May 10-11. As El Dorado's Murphy Arts Center continues to develop, this flavorful get-together matches regional foods with wines. Tastings and an upscale dinner at a range of prices are on the agenda. Musical acts and art exhibits add spice to the May weekend.
• Magnolia Blossom Festival and Championship Steak Cook-off, May 17-18. A parley of alluring aromas will be in the air at Magnolia's spring celebration. The fragrance of blooming magnolias will be paired with the mouth-watering smells of 3,500 rib-eye steaks being grilled by cooks competing for $10,000 in prize money.
• Old Timers Day Steampunk Festival, Van Buren, May 18-19. "Steampunk" is not a novel pop-music offshoot. According to organizers, "Steampunk consists of elements such as steam power, gears and wheels -- with a backdrop of Victorian England or America's Wild West. Included are "pop-up acts, stilt walkers, fire breathers, sword swallowing, acrobats and so much more." It sounds like a circus or a carnival -- a hoot of old-fashioned fun.
• Lum & Abner Festival, Mena, June 7-8. Back in the 1930s, when radio ruled as home entertainment, the fictive Arkansans Lum & Abner became national celebrities airing their backwoods humor. Mena's festival plays on nostalgia for those allegedly more congenial times -- never mind that the Great Depression was a grim reality for many here and elsewhere. Festival attractions usually include a quilt show, fishing derbies and a baby-crawling contest.
For details on these and other spring festivals, visit arkansas.com.
Toad Suck Daze, complete with toad races, takes place May 3-5 in Conway.
Weekend on 03/21/2019
Print Headline: Springtime heralds the arrival of Arkansas festivals. Here's a look at 10 set for the coming weeks: