Arkansas is full of festivals. The just concluded Memorial Day Riverfest 2009 was a near wash out, but the loyal festival goers and entertainers drowned out the steady sounds of raindrops. I weathered some of the Riverfest and am ready for next crop of festivals.
The five weekends in between Memorial Day and July Fourth, feature nearly 30 festivals throughout the state. The standouts are the ones that feature food products. For families and solo visitors like me, there are many free offerings. Here’s a sample of the inexpensive events featuring good eats such as the PurpleHull Pea Fest, Pink Tomato Festival, Ice Cream Social, Pig Out, Peach Festival and various fish catching events.
1. What comes first? The free, 22nd Annual Chicken and Egg Festival in Prescott, June 5 – 6. Don’t miss the cackling-crowing event and golden egg hunt.
2. One of the oldest, continuous running festivals in Arkansas is the weeklong, 53rd Annual Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival in the southeastern region of the state. Beginning Saturday, June 6 and wrapping up on Saturday, June 13, there are nearly 70 unusual and well-planned activities such as Pink Tomato Idol Competition, and the viewing and eating of the 160-foot-long bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. The big entertainment will come from the Arkansas Delta Bluesman Ben Coulter.
3. There’s the Kid’s Fishing Derby in the top northwest corner of the state in Siloam Springs where the young learn to fish and win prizes on June 6. At the conclusion of the 9th Annual Spearfishing Contest in northern Jordan, there is a fish fry on the dock and the website promises the “best potato salad ever” will be served on June 20. There is a $15 per person advance fee for the fresh fish and salad. Nearby and on the same day is the Calico Rock Trout Fishing Tournament with a $25 entry fee although the children’s derby is free
4. Another flavored event is the 24the Annual Berryville Ice Cream Social and Craft Fair, June 12 and 13. Plans are still being scooped out so check the website for the latest details on how to get in your licks. Don’t be deterred by the website that welcomes the visitor to the 2008 festival, although the ice cream truck graphic is for 2009.
5. The 67th Annual Johnson County Peach Festival offers free admission June 18 – 21 and lots of great tasting peach dishes, including peach cobbler. There are also contests and events such as a pageant. The free, 21st Annual Great Arkansas Pig Out in Morrilton on June 26 and 27 will honor its namesake with events such as the pig chase and foods.
6. The final weekend of June is best celebrated in Emerson, just six miles from the Louisiana border on Highway 79. That’s the site of the PurpleHull Pea Fest and Rotary Tiller Race, which officially opens on Friday, June 26. Even the popular chef Emeril has a recipe on the PurplePea website. PurplePeas are the better natural tasting “cousin” to black-eye peas and its origins date back to slavery. The website says the “white population got wise” and began to enjoy the cow pea. The pea for all people celebration now has various events throughout June. There are more than 20 distinct events that include The blessing of the pea crop, Pea Stompin’ Street Dance, a beauty pageant, cook-offs and the highly competitive dirt race where the 200-foot track is tilled by the operators who must abide by the rules that include requiring them to wear shoes.