The first step, of course, is to have a good idea. You don't want to have an eggplant festival if the town in the next country also has one -- it's not unique. You want a theme, an idea that can draw in a crowd and entertain.
North Little Rock's Argenta District just might have struck it right.
The redeveloped district is growing, drawing in young professionals and folks of all ages seeking an upscale downtown lifestyle. The Argenta Foodie Festival fits right into all of that.
Of course, there's also a matter of venue. And for this first time out, that venue was... a parking lot. A parking lot next to another parking lot, but not just another parking lot -- the lot where the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market gathers each week. Across the street from the soon to open Argenta Market. Such a location... located within easy walking distance of plentiful parking and just blocks from many of the hot new restaurants in the district, is just full of win.
I ventured out with my youngest traveling companion to check out the first ever Argenta Foodie Festival this past Saturday. We arrived around 10am on this particular Independence Day, and were quite happy to find that the heat had not yet blossomed and the sun was still obscured by clouds.
We found easy parking a half-block off Main Street and set out quickly, following the sound of folk music. The span of the festival bloomed before us at the intersection of 6th and Main.
One of the first we encountered was a table selling fried apple and peach pies from Chef Richard Lindsey for $2 -- a perfectly reasonable price.
And more offerings followed -- such as Peach Ginger Smoothies from Cregeen's Irish Pub, some incredible looking Arkansas boudin made from pork and rice from the Stuttgart area, purplehull peas with ham, and more.
There was a fantastic line of folks for roasted corn on the cob ($2 an ear or two ears for $3).
There was more -- lovely spring rolls from Lilly's DimSum Then Some, Arkansas grown Fried Green Tomatoes, and Arkansas Fruit Sorbet from Starving Artist Cafe.
We decided to do like many others were doing, and walk across the street to the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market. It's a picky market, sure. Every vendor allowed to set up has to be certified as an Arkansas producer or farmer. That means all the stuff you can find there, comes from here. Excellent.
Also to be found at the market -- fresh meat. A couple of vendors were selling fresh-quick-frozen beef cuts and whole frozen pasture-raised ducks. Honeysuckle Farms had its cheese on display, and the Argenta Market folks were selling preparations of salsas and dips and fresh-made breads.
That's where we tried fried pies and BBQ beef ribs and the like, and enjoyed ourselves rather a lot. The offering of hand-wipes were pleasantly and gratefully accepted, and except for the difficulty in finding a place at a table that wasn't directly in the sun did quite fine with our early lunch.
The Argenta Foodie Festival seems to have been a success. We've heard that 600 people came out, which is not a bad showing for a first time festival.