Sometimes a brilliant idea has a meager beginning that ultimately and strangely blossoms into an incredible outcome.
Such is the enterprise of those two intrepid and creative brothers — John and Bill Ward — on whom hang the mantle of being the Toad Suck Daze architects.
So it was on a spring day in 1982 when the Wards conjured up plans to give the city of Conway an injection of spirit, of joie de vivre.
They mulled over the wonder of the tomato festival that energizes the town of Warren, the duck-calling contest hailed by the town of Stuttgart, and Malvern and its brick festival.
But what of Conway? A nice town where the living was easy and pleasant. But, the Wards concluded, something was missing.
John Ward, managing editor of the Log Cabin Democrat, and Bill, an advertising specialist, were inclined to believe what the city needed was a celebration that would create a sense of pleasure and fun and "attract some much-needed attention to the many attributes of Conway."
So it was relatively easy to zero in on a festival - family oriented and something really fresh and quirky and different from all other celebrations. But what to call it? A clever, unique name was the ticket. It had to be Toad Suck. But Toad Suck what?
"Thinking about it and remembering the euphoria of the spring season we hoped to engage, we changed ‘Days to Daze’ and the rest is history," the brothers Ward said.
Now, convincing others about the validity of the idea of Toad Suck Daze was work ahead. First and foremost, the publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat, Frank Robins III, had to be convinced. The newspaper had to be behind the plans solidly. Robins agreed readily. The Conway Chamber of Commerce climbed on board.
"We began recruiting leading citizens to support us; and participate," John said. Several agreed to serve. Ward was named chairman. Other members of the Toad council, as it was now called, were Randy Crowell, George Hartje, Bill Ward, Kenne Ketcheside, Estel Jeffery, Barbara Jean Nabholz, Clyde Reese and Jim Williamson.
Plans were now afoot. Sen. Dale Bumpers was asked - and he agreed - to serve as parade marshal. During a festive parade, he rode on a replica of a Toad Suck Ferry built by the American Transportation Corporation. Gov. Bill Clinton was on hand to pose with Toadmaster Jim Stone.
In those early years, the Wards looked at the various stories about how Toad Suck got is name and created "The Legend of Toad Suck" which is still the touchstone of toad lore. John Ward bravely predicted that 6,000 people were expected for the first celebration at Toad Suck Park, across the river in Perry County.
At the end of the day, some 25,000 people showed up for the first year. From day one, the growth of the event was incredible.
The celebration was moved to downtown Conway in later years when rains washed out a Toad Suck event in Perry County.
Toad Suck Daze has generated thousands for scholarships for Faulkner County students, and it has become one of the premier events in the Southeast United States.