2018 Arkansas Anniversaries
From popular festivals to historic commemorations, Arkansas is ready to celebrate in 2018. Learn more about the festivals, performances and other events that mark a milestone anniversary this year.
80th anniversary of the Great River Road
Region: Upper Delta and Lower Delta
In 2018, the Great River Road turns 80! Arkansas’s 362-mile section of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway winds its way through the state’s eastern Delta region along the mighty stream. The waterway created a scenic and natural border that has beckoned people to its banks for centuries. Visitors can gaze upon acres of cotton, soybeans or rice as they travel through some of the most fertile land in the country. Along the trek, numerous historical and cultural sites preserve the history of Arkansas and its people and welcome visitors to learn more about this remarkable region. In The Natural State, Old Man River carved its way under its own terms…man tried to control it and failed miserably.
The Great River Road was established in 1938 when governors from the 10 states bordering the waterway decided to develop a network of rural roads and new highways to create a transcontinental parkway along the Mississippi River, crisscrossing the mighty river, totaling 2,340 miles. The Mississippi River Parkway Commission was formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to preserve, promote, and enhance the scenic, historic and recreational resources of the Mississippi River; to foster economic growth in the corridor; and to develop the national, scenic and historic Great River Road.
CONTACT: Kim Williams, Arkansas’s Great River Road, 870-295-2005, [email protected].
March 16-18: 50th Annual Jonquil Festival, Washington
The town of Washington was an important 19th century stop for travelers along the Old Southwest Trail. Among those who paid a visit were Jim Bowie, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett. It is believed many of the first settlers in Washington planted jonquils in their yards as they built along the trail. Today the jonquils that remain at old homesteads along the way mark portions of the route that are unrecognizable by any other landmarks. Jonquils have been in the area longer than anyone can remember and were common-place by the time the Civil War rolled around. Celebrate a tradition at Historic Washington State Park by heralding the arrival of spring in Southwest Arkansas by attending the annual Jonquil Festival. Thousands of jonquils welcome craftspeople, entertainers, and visitors to the town of Historic Washington. Unique crafts and delicious foods are just part of the attractions from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, then again from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. Tours of the park, historic homes, and museums are available at regular price. Be sure and get some down-home cooking at Williams Tavern Restaurant.
CONTACT: 870-983-2684, www.HistoricWashingtonStatePark.com.
March 17: The First Ever 15th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Hot Springs
The event this year features Joey Fatone as the Grand Marshal and Jon Heder of “Napoleon Dynamite” as the official starter. There is also slated to be green fireworks, Irish belly dancers, floats, the Irish Order of Elvi (a group of Elvis look-alikes), marchers, Irish Wolfhounds and more. The event is held on historic Bridge Street, which is known as the shortest street in the world.
CONTACT: 501-321-2851, www.HotSprings.org.
April 19-21: 20th Annual Hot Springs Corvette Weekend, Hot Springs
This event is hosted by the Central Arkansas Corvette Club and is the 50th Anniversary of the club. A corvette show is indoors at the Hot Springs Convention Center and is free to the public to see. The club was founded by a group of Corvette enthusiasts to promote the ownership, restoration of corvettes and the fun of driving one.
CONTACT: 501-590-3506, www.CentralArkansasCorvetteClub.com.
April 26-29: 15th Annual Arkansas Literary Festival, Little Rock
A mixture of literary sessions, panels, book signings, workshops, performances, activities, and special events in downtown Little Rock at various venues. The Arkansas Literary Festival is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System.
CONTACT: 501-918-3098, www.ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org.
May 4: 50th annual Great Passion Play Opening Night, Eureka Springs
The Great Passion Play takes you back 2,000 years to “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The Play is a 1 hour and 45 minute reenactment of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. The opening night anniversary is set for May 4 on the Play grounds, located at 935 Passion Play Road in Eureka Springs. Admission is $27 for adults, $17 for youth, and $13 for children.
May 17-20: 35th annual Arkansas Fiddlers Convention, Harrison
Stage performances and jam sessions are held May 17-20 at the North Arkansas College South Campus in Harrison. Admission is free.
CONTACT: Carl J. Wills, 870-429-6174.
May 18-19: 30th Annual Magnolia Blossom Festival and 29th annual World Championship Steak Cook-Off
The enticing aroma of steak grilling over an open fire is sure to get your attention during this event. Cooking teams compete for prize money and tremendous bragging rights during the World Championship Steak Cook-off, which is part of the 30th Annual Magnolia Blossom Festival. Other activities include a 5K race/walk, arts and crafts vendors, the 68th annual art show, a car and truck show, jet boat show, and motorcycle show, free concerts, food vendors, a children's area and more.
June 12-18: 60th Annual Auto Show and Swap Meet, Morrilton
The Mid-America Old-Time Auto Association (MOTAA) hosts this event on the grounds of The Museum of Automobiles. Classic and vintage vehicles from all over the region will be on display. The event is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
CONTACT: 501-727-5427, www.motaa.com.
July 4: 105th annual Gentry Freedom Fest
Celebrating the birth of the nation, Freedom Fest takes place from noon to 10 p.m. on July 4 at the Gentry City Park, located at 611 W. Main St. There will be concerts from noon until the fireworks show, which starts at dark. Also enjoy food, fun, a car show and more. Admission is free.
July 4: 35th Annual Pops on the River, Little Rock
This free community event in Little Rock is the largest Fourth of July event in the state. The event has expanded to include more activities and a bigger fireworks show. Activities include free children’s activities, a shopping marketplace, food trucks and entertainment inside the First Security Amphitheater such as the Oh Say! Can you Sing? contest, live music, and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The event takes place in the River Market District and First Security Amphitheater.
July 17-21: 125th Old Soldiers’ Reunion, Mammoth Spring
Region: North Central
This week of fun starts nightly at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Activities includes carnival rides, games, prizes, food, bingo, and more. Free access and parking. Sponsored by VFW Post 7831. The reunion takes place at the Mammoth Spring State park baseball field in Mammoth Spring.
CONTACT: Mammoth Spring State Park, 870-625-7364, [email protected].
August (TBA): 120th annual Tontitown Grape Festival
In Tontitown, more than 6,000 lbs. of homemade pasta and sauce will be served at the Italian spaghetti dinners, more than 100 crafts exhibitors, biathlon, entertainment, Queen Concordia pageant, plus nightly carnival. Takes place annually in August (2018 dates TBA).
CONTACT: Tontitown Grape Festival, 479-361-2615, www.TontitownGrapeFestival.com.
Aug. 1-25: 35th Annual Ouachita Expressions, Mena
Ouachita Expressions has been the main competition at Mena Art Gallery for years, even during the periods when the gallery did not have a home. There are four categories: works on canvas, works on paper, photography and 3-D art. The show is open to artists from Arkansas and the surrounding areas. The gallery is located at 607 Mena Street in Mena.
CONTACT: 479-394-3880, www.MenaArtGallery.org.
Sept. 1: 35th Antique & Classic Car Show, Mammoth Spring
Region: North Central
Antique and classic cars will be on display and judged by year class. Gates open at 9 a.m. and judging begins at 11 a.m. Dash are given plaques for the first 50 registrants. Classes will be 1894 -1930, 1931 - 1955, 1956 - 1975, 1976 - 1998, RAT class. The event is held at the Mammoth Spring State park baseball field in Mammoth Spring.
CONTACT: Mammoth Spring State Park, 870-625-7364, [email protected].
Sept. 14-15: 30th annual Mountain Bike Race, West Fork
Devil’s Den State Park in West Fork is known as the place where mountain biking got its start in Arkansas. Its trails are well known and its races are popular. Come and ride in the race or just enjoy watching all the levels of riders compete.
CONTACT: Devils Den State Park, 479-761-3325, [email protected].
Oct. 18-20: 50th annual Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival
Celebrating 50 years, this completely juried show takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18-20 at 1991 Forest Hills Boulevard in Bella Vista. Event planners are introducing a family tent this year with various activities sponsored by the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville and the Gold Bear from Haribo gummy bears. Admission is free.
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