Oil Town Festival Starts Today in Smackover

Zoie Clift

Smackover’s annual Oil Town
Festival starts today and goes through Saturday (June 19).  The festival (which is celebrating it’s
39th year) takes place at City Park and is a celebration of the city’s
oil boom heritage.  There will be a
5K Oil Run, free concerts every night, and many activities you associate with
The history of the area is quite interesting. Arkansas was
settled by a band of French fur trappers in 1844. They called the area
“Sumac-Couvert”, meaning covered with sumac bushes. Later this was
shortened to the named Smackover. The town was a small agricultural and sawmill
community until oil was discovered in 1922. After this, the city was
incorporated and almost overnight the population increased by the thousands. For
five months in 1925 Smackover’s oil wells led the nation in production.
The oil
boom of the 1920’s was relatively short-lived; however a steady production
began to lead the industry. Millions of barrels of oil were wasted because of
overdrilling, fires and inefficient extraction, storage and transportation
methods. When a gusher came in, owners frantic for quick money often stored the
oil in earthen pits, which allowed much of it to seep back into the ground and
most of the valuable gases to evaporate. Early on in the Arkansas boom, there
were no pipelines and crude oil was hauled on trucks to railroad tank cars to
be refined.  Despite improved
drilling techniques and conservation efforts, oil prices were lower than the
cost of production during the Depression. But, in 1937, a second boom –
spurred by the discovery of oil at twice the depth of the existing
2,700-foot-deep wells – lasted for a number of years.
Today the oil industry
remains a significant contributor to the economy but it is no longer center
stage such as in the days of the 1920s and ’30s.  If you head to the festival, be sure to swing by the
Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, which preserves the state’s oil history. In
1980, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Turner of El Dorado donated 19 acres at Smackover as a
site for the museum, which is located at 3853 Smackover Hwy. 
Outside, the center’s Oilfield Park features seven
operating examples of the oil-producing methods employed from the 1920’s
through today. The park contains a 112-foot wooden derrick similar to the one
at the original Busey  #1. Admission
to the museum is free and is open from 8-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from
1-5 p.m. on Sunday.


Join the Conversation