Friday, July 10, 2009

Late Summer Doings.

Ah, summer in Arkansas. Festivals celebrating all aspect of life in our fine state are as plentiful as orange and white construction barrells and grown men wearing rubber shoes. But they're a darn sight better to look at.

Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to...

July 11
Bountiful Arkansas Day -- Winthrop Rockefeller Institute at Petit Jean Mountain
Local food and wine vendors, horticulture workshops, tomato tastings, a lecture on how to eat locally (within a 100-mile radius, at that), and garden tours of Heritage Farmstand.

July 18-19
2nd Annual Wakefest -- Heber Springs
If it involves a board, chances are it’s a competition at this mid-summer festival on Greers Ferry Lake. Competitors face off on skis, wakeboards, skateboards, and more to determine who’s the best and who’s the most extreme.
Side trip: Cool off in Greers Ferry Lake. Swimming and fishing are the traditional ways of enjoying the lake, but there are also spectacular places to cliff-dive.

12th Annual Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival
The funny named festival is the largest gathering of mountain bike enthusiasts at a festival in Central America. A good chance to “roll with it” on challenging slopes both on and off the road. Downtown.

July 23-26
30th Annual Dumas Ding Dong Days -- Dumas
Inspired by a popular song from the 1920s, this festival is known for the World Championship Ding Dong eating contest and the crowning of the Ding Dong Daddy and Mama.

July 24-25
26th Annual Grapefest -- Altus
Where else can you stomp grapes to your heart’s content? Enjoy sample after sample of wines from the area’s four wineries? Arkansas wineries aren’t all -- the comfortable festival on the city square draws in friendly crowds.
Side trip: Dinner at Kelt’s, hands down. This little Irish pub off the city square serves up fantastic pub fare and what could be the most decadent butter-cooked steak in all of Arkansas.

July 25

World Championship Cardboard Boat Races -- Heber Springs
You’ve probably never seen the like -- grown men and women commandeering constructs of cardboard and duct tape to see who can keep from sinking the longest (and who’ll make the bravest show as they go down).

July 31-August 1
66th Annual White River Water Carnival -- Batesville
Music and a road race highlight this longtime festival that draws thousands from all over Northeast Arkansas for a good time. Side trip: Check out the Ford dealership that’s owned by NASCAR racing star Mark Martin… it includes a museum and is free of charge.

July 31-August 2
48 Hour Film Festival -- Little Rock
Would-be producers, videographers, and actors crowd into town to create a production from scratch on a random theme within 48 hours over this weekend. You too could be a star.

August 4-8th
111th Tontitown Grape Festival
One of the state’s oldest festivals, thankfully held mostly indoors in the mid-summer heat. There’s a fantastic book sale in a church and lots of vendors to peruse. The traditional I-talian Spaghetti Dinners will be served Thursday-Saturday nights.

August 6-8
30th Annual Cave City Watermelon Festival
The world’s sweetest watermelons are the star of this community-centered small town festival in Cave City. Stick around for a free watermelon feast.
Side trip: Check out the nation’s only ghost town within a living community in Calico Rock -- for free. Drop by the Chamber of Commerce for a map and instructions.

33rd Annual Hope Watermelon Festival
The largest watermelons in Arkansas come from the Hope area… watermelon eating contests, a baseball card exhibition and 50,000 visitors.

August 13-15
10th Annual Bargains Galore on 64
All across US Highway 64 from Van Buren to Beebe, check out yard sales, garage sales, and swap meets in this annual offering along 160 miles of highway.
Side trip: Enjoy delicious music at the 4th Annual Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Festival just north of Ozark on the Pig Trail. Acoustic, Jam Band, Folk, Rock, Country, and Americana music haunt the hollows this fantastic weekend.

August 20-23
5th Annual Mountains, Music & Motorcycles Weekend -- Mountain View
A gathering of the chrome and leather type, bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts converge on the small North Central Arkansas town to celebrate regal rides, cool curves, and smokin’ tunes.
Side trip: Dig into a slice of pie at Tommy’s Famous Pizza, BBQ and Ribs. The accolades are thick, and so’s the sauce. Carpenter at West Main.

August 29th
Festival Latino -- Little Rock
A new festival featuring regional handcrafts, flamenco dancing, an art show and more. Could be Arkansas’ only tobacco and alcohol free festival.

September 4th-6th
National Championship Chuckwagon Races -- Clinton
A sight to behold -- hundreds of competitors and horses vy off against each other for yearly titles at the Bar Of Ranch.
Side trip: Cool off with a canoe or kayak ride down the lower Buffalo. Put in at Gilbert and float to Rush for a late-summer trip to remember.

September 5-7
58th Annual Prairie Grove Clothesline Fair
If it’s handmade, chances are someone will be selling something like it at one of the oldest arts and crafts gatherings in the state. More than 200 vendors are expected at this year’s festival -- and all of the products are guaranteed to be handmade and non-commercial.

September 12
30th Annual Arkansas Championship Grape Stomp and Cowie Wine Festival -- Paris
The smallest commercial winery in Arkansas celebrates with its wine stomp, wine tasting, and good food all around.

September 18 - 19
18th Annual Hot Springs JazzFest and Smoke on the Water Festival -- Hot Springs
Two events rolled into one -- the first an all out musical celebration, the second a barbeque competition beyond compare.

September 27
Septemberfest -- Mountain Home
The North Central Arkansas town gets a jump on other German food-based festivals around the state with brats, sauerkraut, and much more.
Side trip: Do drop in for hemp and bead products and hippiewear at For Mother Earth, a beautiful little store in Mountain Home.

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