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Festivals are big business in Arkansas: 25 largest festivals attract 1.7 million.

MORE THAN 700 FEStivals are held in Arkansas each year, from the five mammoth events that draw more than 100,000 people to smaller ones that attract less than 200.

The 25 largest festivals bring in about 1.7 million people.

The festivals date back to at least 1898, when Tontitown's Grape Festival began. This year, the 95th annual Tontitown Grape Festival will be Aug. 10-14.

Unless otherwise indicated, the figures for economic impact used in the description of these festivals were determined by multiplying the estimated attendance times an average expenditure of $36, then multiplying that total by 1.86, according to information supplied by the state Department of Parks and Tourism.

Here is a synopsis of Arkansas' largest 25 festivals. For the dates, locations and a contact person for each festival, see the accompanying list (Page 22).

Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival: Founded in 1969. More than 400 exhibitors from more than 35 states will be at the largest arts and crafts festival in the state. The exhibitors come from as far as California and Minnesota. No admission or parking fee. Estimated economic impact: $10.04 million.

Riverfest: Founded in 1978. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performs on the last night of the Little Rock festival. A major attraction is the professional storytellers, as well as amateur local storytellers. It is run by an independent, nonprofit board of directors. The budget is about $350,000. Estimated economic impact: According to a survey, the 1991 impact was more than $5 million.

War Eagle Fair: Founded in 1954. The first arts and crafts fair in northwest Arkansas, with more than 400 exhibitors in a five-acre area in Hindsville. It has 100 acres of parking. The arts and crafts, all handmade, are heavily judged, according to fair organizer Shirley Sutton. About $1.1 million in crafts were sold last year. At least 22 festivals are held the same weekend in northwest Arkansas, attracting more than 350,000 people. The events are so large that the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has no on-campus football game scheduled on War Eagle Fair weekend until after the turn of the century. No fee for admission or parking. Estimated economic impact: $9.04 million.

Toad Suck Daze: Founded in 1981. The Conway festival is almost a town project, with most of the work donated. There is live entertainment from sunrise until sunset. Activities include the toad jumping contest and a "Tour de Toad" cycling race. Proceeds have helped fund permanent endowments at the three Conway colleges. No admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $7.37 million.

Antique Auto Show & Swap Meet: Founded in 1968. The show is held on the grounds of the antique automobile museum on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton. About 100 antique and classic cars compete for awards. More than 1,000 vendor spaces have antique cars, parts and related items for sale. No admission fee to the show. Estimated economic impact: $6.7 million.

Arkansas Folk Festival: Founded in 1962. There are two major crafts shows and crafts lining the streets of Mountain View. There is continuous music on the court square. People are encouraged to bring their musical instruments and play. The festival's budget is only $5,000 a year. No admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $5.4 million.

Hope Watermelon Festival: Founded in 1977. A major attraction is the enormous watermelons. The largest, 260 pounds, was displayed in 1985. There is also a gas engine show, a baseball card show, a fish fry, a fiddling contest and plenty of watermelon to eat. The budget is about $95,000. Estimated economic impact: $5.4 million.

Sugar Creek Arts & Crafts: Founded in 1985. All the crafts at the Bentonville festival are required to be handmade. No admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $5.4 million.

Summerset: Founded in 1980. The concert each year in North Little Rock usually has big-name entertainment. The festival also includes a Labor Day motocross race and golf and tennis tournaments. The budget is $100,000. There is a $1 admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $5.4 million.

Arkansas Holiday of Lights: Founded in 1990. The Searcy courthouse has more than 50,000 Christmas lights, every tree in two parks are wired for lights and many businesses are decorated with lights. There are also plays, concerts and other activities. The annual budget is $20,000. Estimated economic impact: $5.02 million.

Old Applegate Place Autumn Arts & Crafts Festival: Founded in 1987. Vernon and Darlene Patton bought the 35-acre Applegate ranch in Bentonville and began creating festivals, which are now held in each of the four seasons. The Pattons spend about $100,000 a year on the festivals. No fee for admission or parking. Estimated economic impact: $5.02 million.

Old Fort River Festival: Founded in 1980. The festival in Fort Smith raises about $60,000 for 50-60 area non-profit organizations. There is a large children's area, ethnic foods and handmade arts and crafts. The budget is about $160,000. Estimated economic impact: $5.02 million.

Hot Springs Arts & Crafts Fair: Founded in 1968. Exhibitors come from about 15 states. There are seven buildings filled with exhibitors and 40 outdoor spaces. About 85 percent of the exhibitors return annually. No admission fee. The budget is about $14,000. Estimated economic impact: $4.62 million.

Hillbilly Corner Arts, Crafts & Antique Fair: Founded in 1987. Crafts at the War Eagle festival include handmade quilts, iron bells and door chimes, antique furniture and reproductions of primitive furniture. No fee for admission or parking. Estimated economic impact: $3.35 million.

King Biscuit Blues Festival: Founded in 1986. Robert Jr. Lockwood again will perform. The festival, a Main Street Helena project, is held to preserve and promote the rich Delta blues heritage. The budget is more than $100,000. No admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $3.35 million.

World's Championship Duck Calling Contest and Wings Over The Prairie: Founded in 1936. Winners of sanctioned duck-calling contests in 27 states and Canada compete in Stuttgart for the world championship. Last year, Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, attended and the team's cheerleaders performed. There are also more than 80 arts and crafts booths, a carnival and the Queen Mallard beauty contest. No admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $3.35 million.

Main Street Jonesboro Celebration: Founded in 1985. There is an arts contest, a turkey-calling contest and gospel, country and rock music. The Northeast Arkansas Symphony performs. There will be a Miss Main Street pageant. The budget is about $30,000. No admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $2.34 million.

Texarkana Quadrangle Arts & Crafts Festival: Founded in 1971. The festival, which illustrates the culture and heritage of the four-state region, is sponsored by and benefits the Texarkana Museum Systems. Activities include a children's area with amusement rides. There are about 250 arts and crafts booths. The budget is about $20,000 a year. Estimated economic impact: $2.34 million.

Bean Fest & Great Arkansas Championship Outhouse Race: Founded in 1962. More than 1,000 pounds of pinto beans will be cooked on the court square in Mountain View. Contestants are given about 20 pounds of beans to cook with their own recipe. At noon, the masses are fed free pinto beans, corn bread and onions. The race is styled after a soap box derby race using outhouses. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.

El Dorado Musicfest: Founded in 1988. The festival is sponsored by Main Street El Dorado. The main attraction is the variety of music. Other activities include a "Western Day," children's area, jugglers and food and beverage sales. There is a nominal admission fee. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.

Governor Conway Days: Founded in 1985. There is a fiddling contest and bluegrass music. The event in Bradley has won a Henry Award and an award from the Arkansas Festival Association as one of the top 10 festivals in the state. The annual budget is about $10,000. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.

Magnolia Blossom Festival: Founded in 1989. There is a World Championship Steak Cooking Contest, along with a sidewalk art show and sale, and fishing, archery, softball and bowling tournaments. The main entertainment this year is Jason D. Williams, a Jerry Lee Lewis imitator. There will be a fly-in of the Arkansas Pilots Association, with some antique airplanes. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.

Old Applegate Place Spring Arts & Crafts Festival: Founded in 1987. There are more than 300 judged arts and crafts exhibitors at the Bentonville festival. There is bluegrass, country and folk music. No fee for admission or parking. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.

Siloam Springs Dogwood Festival: Founded in 1974. The festival is held in the downtown city park. Exhibitors from as far away as Arizona and Colorado will display their arts and crafts. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.

Zoo Days: Founded in 1979. The major attraction, of course, is the 660 animals at the Little Rock Zoo. The Dinosaurs Alive exhibit will also be at the zoo for Zoo Days. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children. Estimated economic impact: $2.01 million.
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Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Directory
Date:Mar 8, 1993
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