The state’s many spring festivals return – to celebrate all sorts of things
Among the many pleasures derailed by the pandemic over the past two years were nearly every spring festival that normally brings fun and funds to Arkansas communities. With many events returning in 2022, here’s a sampling of time-tested favorites. In most cases, admission is free at the festival site. Other festive events are listed on arkansas.com.
◼️ kite festival, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, 7 miles south of Eureka Springs, Saturday. “Go play kite!” will not be an insult but rather an invitation this weekend to the famous northwest Arkansas sanctuary for tigers and other large carnivores. Admission is free to the kite field, while regular rates apply for entry to the refuge. Visit turpentinecreek.org.
◼️ Arkansas Folk Festival, Mountain View, April 15-16. A cornucopia of music is a main attraction at this event tied to the seasonal opening of the Ozark Folk Center State Park. Much of the show takes place on the lawn and steps of the Stone County Courthouse. A craft market sells exhibitors’ crafts. Admission is free to Craft Village in the state park. Visit arkansasstateparks.com.
◼️ Fordyce on the cotton belt, April 16-23. Model train exhibits evoke the halcyon days of the railway at Fordyce’s week-long event which schedules its main activities for April 22-23. There will be music downtown on the evenings of April 21-23. Motorbike and classic car shows are also held, as well as a steak. Visit fordyceonthecottonbeltfestival.com.
◼️ dogwood festival, Siloam Springs, April 22-24. The colorful flowers give this festival its name. Food is also a major focus, “including fried green tomatoes, okra, 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 two hundred craft stalls are expected. Visit Discoversiloam.com.
◼️ Cabot Strawberry Party, April 29-30. The Junior League of Cabot hosts this tasty festival in downtown Cabot to celebrate the berry trade in surrounding County Lonoke, as well as to support league wellness projects. In addition to a carnival, there is a children’s zone and food trucks, as well as a strawberry amplitude. Visit jacabot.com.
◼️ Toad Sucking Daze, Conway, from April 29 to May 1. The mere idea of toads competing in the amphibious version of the long jump has been enough to make Toad Suck Days a festival favorite since its inception in 1992. Some of the hoppers are driven by girls and boys. As for the name of the event, it dates back to the 19th century, when locals described the crews of river boats sipping their alcohol in rustic taverns. Visit toadsuck.org.
◼️ World famous armadillo festival, Hamburg, 7 May. Armadillo races in the Ashley County seat don’t have the allure of pari-mutuel betting, but they are considered something entirely different. Jumping frogs have their own competition. The day of fun ends with evening music by the Troy Hawkins Band and Diamond Rio. Visit hamburgchamber.com.
◼️ Alumni Steam-Punk Festival, Van Buren, May 14-15. According to the organisers, “steam-punk consists of elements of steam power, gears and wheels – with a backdrop of Victorian England or the American Wild West”. Performers include “pop-up acts, stilt walkers, fire eaters, sword swallowers, acrobats and more”. It is fair to wonder if much more is needed. Visit vanburenchamber.org.
◼️ Magnolia Blossom Festival and Championship Steak Cookoff, May 20-21. Two quite different alluring smells vie for the attention of visitors at the Magnolia Spring Festival. The scent of freshly blooming magnolias mingle with the tantalizing aroma of 3,500 rib eye steaks on the grill. The red meat maestros are vying for $10,000 prizes. Visit blossomfestival.org.
◼️ Lum & Abner Party, Mena, June 3-4. This event takes visitors back to the 1930s, when radio reigned supreme as the primary home entertainment. The fictitious Arkansans Lum & Abner have achieved national stardom spreading their backwoods humor – thus aiding and abetting our state’s highlander image. Regular festival activities include a quilt show and fishing tournaments – and sometimes a baby crawling contest. Go to visitmena.com.