Live horse racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs
The start of the live Thoroughbred horse racing season at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs has been set for January 11. Oaklawn is one of the premier race tracks in the country. Best known as the home of the Racing Festival of the South and Arkansas Derby, the track has played host to some of the biggest names in the sport including champions Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Smarty Jones. New this year, Oaklawn is planning to open its Infield, complete with a Beer Garden, live music and family-friendly events every Saturday from Rebel Stakes through Arkansas Derby. The popular “Dawn at Oaklawn” program returns Feb. 16 and will allow guests to get up close and personal with the horses and top racing personalities from 8 – 10 a.m. every Saturday through the end of the meet. Visitors can also take barn tours as part of the Saturday morning program. The racing action culminates April 13 with the 77th running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Oaklawn is located at 2705 Central Avenue in Hot Springs.
Eagles Et Cetera
DeGray Lake Resort State Park’s signature event. The 34th annual celebration takes place at the Bismarck park January 25-27. Wintering eagles flock to the Ouachitas and Ozarks in the winter for favorable habitats. Eagles, unique to North America, begin to arrive in Arkansas as early as mid-October and stay all winter long, departing around February and as late as mid-March. Over 1,700 eagles may winter here depending on weather conditions. The bald eagle became the national emblem of the United States in 1782. Once endangered in all of the lower 48 states, the bird’s plight has increased awareness, protective legislation and widespread conservation efforts over the past 50 years. The population has made a remarkable comeback, and eagle watching is a popular pastime for nature lovers across the country. Visitors making the trek to EEC, the largest festival of its kind in the state, can expect many opportunities to see eagles in their natural habitat. Programs featuring the American Bald Eagle and other birds of prey make the festival fly by. Activities are scheduled throughout the weekend including eagle-watching lake tours, guided bird walks, falconry demonstrations and more.
The First Ever Eleventh Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The event was created in 2003 and has always been referred to as "The first ever" each year it has taken place. It’s an entertaining event. The parade is held on historic Bridge Street in Hot Springs, known as the “shortest street in the world.” Thousands of people flock to the downtown area each March 17 to celebrate the unfettered fun and exuberance the parade generates. There will be leprechauns, floats, marching bands, Irish Wolfhounds, green fireworks, and Irish Elvis impersonators, etc. Remember to wear green. 2013 Grand Marshals were Bo Derek (known as the actress from the movie “10”) and John Corbett (best known for his work on Northern Exposure). The parade has been recognized worldwide with numerous international awards. Last year, CNN named it #1 among Quirky St. Patrick's Day Parades. Website: shorteststpats.com
Arkansas Scottish Festival
The sound of bagpipes echoes through the Ozarks again this spring, as Lyon College in Batesville hosts the 34th annual Arkansas Scottish Festival April 12-14. The festival, honoring Scottish heritage and traditions, features a vast array of events and exhibits, pipe bandst
competition, food vendors offering traditional Scottish dishes, Celtic music, sheepdog demonstrations, and, of course, bagpipes. A traditional Feast and Ceilidh is celebrated on Saturday evening and an Iona Worship Service takes place on Sunday morning. website: lyon.edu/scotfest
Arkansas Folk Festival
The 51st Annual Arkansas Folk Festival will be held April 19-21 on the court square in Mountain View and at nearby Ozark Folk Center State Park. This family festival salutes Ozark culture with folk, mountain and bluegrass music. The annual spring celebration also features handmade crafts, frontier life demonstrations, a parade, dancing on the courthouse square and a window decorating contest. Admission to the Ozark Folk Center State Park Crafts Village is free during the event, and a free shuttle is offered from downtown. Website: yourplaceinthemountains.com
Wild Hog Motorcycle Rally and Musicfest
Motorcycles and music take over Cherry Street during the 14th annual Wild Hog Motorcycle Rally and Musicfest in historic downtown Helena April 24-27. The event features food and merchandise vendors, a motorcycle parade, a poker run, field events, Ms. Wild Hog contest, and music, music, music!
Tales of the Crypt Fort Smith
Tales of the Crypt is a popular, family-friendly living history tour of Oak Cemetery featuring storytelling by some of the pre-Civil War cemetery's most famous "residents." This year’s event takes place on April 27th.
Toad Suck Daze - May 2-4, 2014
The Legend of Toad Suck -- Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at the 32nd Annual Toad Suck Daze, May 3-5 in downtown Conway. This popular festival includes arts and crafts, the Toadal Kids Zone, a carnival, local and national entertainment, food, a rock wall, a petting zoo, the Stuck on a Truck endurance giveaway, a 5K/10K, a golf tournament, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, magicians, and The World Championship Toad Races. Proceeds support higher education in Faulkner County. Website: toadsuck.org
Magnolia Blossom Festival & World Championship Steak Cook-off
Magnolia celebrates the arrival of magnolia blooms during the third weekend of May every year. The Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak-Cook off is set for May 16-17, 2014 this time around. This year, the event celebrates 25 years. One of the main draws of the event is the World Champion Steak Cook-off, where cooks compete for a $4,000 grand prize. Visitors can pay for tickets to sample the different rib-eye steaks. The cook-off has been selected as an automatic qualifier to the World Food Championships November 1-4 in Las Vegas.
The event also includes a parade and the Sidewalk Art Show (which is celebrating 63 years!), with works by local artists. Website: blossomfestival.org
Dermott Crawfish Festival
If you’re a fan of crawfish, Dermott is the place to be as the town hosts the 30th annual Crawfish Festival May 17-18. The two-day festival also features live music, a dog show, children’s rides, vendors, arts and crafts…. and crawfish!
International Greek Food Festival
The 29th Annual International Greek Food Festival will be held May 16-18 at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock. Billed as the largest ethnic festival in the state, it features a huge array of homemade items from cooks from various culinary traditions, such as Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Romanian, Russian, Indian, Middle Eastern, English and American. Both savory and sweet dishes are offered. All types of entertainment, and Old World Market, a children’s area and church tours also take place. Since it was started, the Greek Food Festival has raised and donated over $1 million dollars to more than 20 charities.
Arkansas’s largest festival encompasses the weekend of May 24-25 along the south bank of the Arkansas River at Little Rock. It’s the 36th Annual Riverfest, a celebration of visual and performing arts with over 100 acts on four outdoor stages over three days. Riverfront Park will be jammed with artists, merchants and food vendors, children’s activities, and fireworks. Over 250,000 attended in 2012.
The Riverfest Recycles program collected 17 tons of recyclable materials. The program encourages festival-goers to keep recyclable plastic bottles and aluminum cans out of landfills by collecting them from the festival grounds and exchanging them for fun items at the Riverfest Recycles centers.
Great War Memorial Balloon Race
An estimated crowd of over 30,000 spectators came out to enjoy the balloons our first year. We were overwhelmed and overjoyed with your enthusiasm of the sport of hot air ballooning! This 2nd year it is our goal to bring in even more Hot Air Balloons, approximately 25 -30 from all over the country that will magically color the Little Rock sky in the mornings and will “Glow” with a rainbow of twinkling colors in the evenings with new Special Shaped balloons to add to the fun. We will have jazz music, food, vendors, and children’s activities throughout the weekend as well. In addition, this event will aid in community involvement, as we are once again, inviting local businesses and nonprofit charitable organizations to participate so that they may showcase their products and raise awareness and funds for their special services and programs. Visit: Great War Memorial Balloon Race
Lum & Abner Festival
The 36th annual Lum and Abner Festival will be held June 7-8 in Mena. Chester “Chet” Lauck and Norris “Tuffy” Geoff of Mena created Lum and Abner in 1931. Their radio broadcasts of the ‘30s and ‘40s were among the most popular on the air and they were the first network program broadcast from Radio City in New York in 1933. If you head to the festival, you’ll want to make a side trip to the Lum and Abner Museum and Jot ‘Em Down Store, located in Pine Ridge on the side of Hwy 88. The museum opened in the 1970’s and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Website: visitmena.com
Portfest at Jacksonport State Park
Start summer with a bang at Portfest in Newport June 6-7 with the excitement of live music and fireworks. Held along the banks of the White River at Jacksonport State Park, Portfest’s features live music on Friday night. Saturday’s events include a large carnival, activities for children, a bass tournament and arts and crafts and live music. Saturday evening concludes with a fireworks extravaganza.
Petit Jean Show & Swap Meet
The 56th annual Petit Jean Show & Swap Meet, The Museum of Automobiles will be held on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton June 10-14. Over 100 antique and classic cars compete for awards in various categories, from turn-of-the-19th century to 1982 models. About 800 antique cars for sale. Over 1,000 vendor spaces filled with antique cars, parts and related items; arts and crafts section and food vendors. Website: motaa.com
Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival
Our future flies on the wings of pollinators! Head to Mount Magazine State Park near Paris for a weekend celebrating the park's butterfly and wildflower diversity. The Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival 17 is coming up June 20-21. Programs, guided walks, and the ever-popular Bug Bonanza await discovery. Don't miss the special concert that closes the celebration. This nature-themed festival is one of the most popular family-friendly events in Arkansas with a little something for everyone. Admission is free. The City of Paris also celebrates with a live butterfly observatory, art show, photo contest, pageant, arts and crafts, food vendors, and more. Websites: ButterflyFestival.com.
Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Races
Tiny Emerson, Arkansas boasts a meager population of 368 residents… but during the last weekend of June each year, the town grows by thousands. Visitors from all over the United States converge to celebrate the hallowed PurpleHull pea and to watch earnest racers vie against each other to see who’s best on the dirt track with a tiller. The 24th annual Purplehull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race will be held June 28-29 this year. The festival garners exposure and pays homage to purple hull peas, a local delicacy found in most south Arkansas backyard gardens. If there is one thing the festival is known for – besides peas – it’s the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race. The world record for covering 200 feet of plowed ground was set by Shane Waller of Junction City, who piloted a modified tiller over the course in 5.72 seconds, an average speed of almost 24 miles an hour. The world championships are the highlight of the tiller racing season. But then again, they are the entirety of the tiller racing season!