The 73rd annual Faulkner County Fair begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday with a whoop and a holler.
There will be lots of whooping and hollering as the annual parade, with the theme "Movie Madness," winds its way through Downtown Conway. (See the accompanying map that shows the route.)
The parade promises to be a long one, with seven bands, a hundred horses, dozens of beauty queens — including Miss Arkansas — and elementary school students from all over the county riding the floats they’ve spent weeks designing and building.
Back in the old days — three years ago — folks would leave the parade and head over to the fairgrounds on Robins Street.
But two years ago, the Fair moved to the brand-new Conway Expo Center and Fairgrounds on Highway 64 east, expansive facilities for exhibit booths where this year a record number of artists, photographers, gardeners, quilters, homemakers and 4-H members will show what they’ve made and grown.
The indoor spaces will be clean and well-lighted for more than 70 commercial exhibits, where businesses and organizations will show their latest products.
A new exhibit this year, Thursday through Friday, will be an aquarium from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, featuring native Arkansas game fish, turtles and who-knows-what other critters, said David Henze, who has chaired the Faulkner County Fair and Livestock Exposition Board for five years.
In addition, Henze said all care has been taken to provide comfortable, shady suites for the livestock and handlers as they await their turns in the show ring.
There is additional parking, and the city and county recently paved the area between the barns and the Expo Center to keep down the dust and make walking back and forth easier.
There’s a new public address system in the livestock barn that will keep the judging running smoothly. Judging begins Monday and continues through Friday.
"This is a lot of work for the kids," Henze said. "You can see the intensity on their faces as they enter the show ring with their animals. They are just as nervous as the kids in athletics who step out onto the court and field. It’s an amazing amount of work that goes on behind the scenes involving mothers, fathers, agri teachers."
The premium sale will be 10 a.m. Saturday and, though not officially part of the Fair, will involve most of the same folks.
"The bidding gets furious, especially in election years," Henze said. "Big prices help compensate for all the kids’ hard work."
Swyear Attractions will again provide the midway as they’ve done for 15 years and more, Henze said. Many of the rides were updated last year.
"We don’t have junky rides," Henze said, adding there will be the usual fair vendors with all the food folks have come to expect.
The outdoor stage will be busy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Mary Margaret Satterfield booked the entertainment, Henze said. (See Roundabout for the schedule of bands.)
Henze gives credit to his 12-member board that meets all year and to agri teachers, 4-H leaders, Conway Parks Department and the staff at the Faulkner County Extension Office.
"It’s a community effort," Henze said.
He issued this invitation:
"Come out and see folks you don’t see all the time. Be amazed at all the different kinds of chickens, the gorgeous hogs, cattle, goats and sheep that our kids raise and care for all year.
"There’s nothing like the County Fair," Henze said.
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at email@example.com and 505-1234.)