Conway’s inaugural EcoFest was a success, according to organizers, drawing a large crowd despite a threat of rain that didn’t materialize.

The "green" theme was prevalent throughout the event, with information and vendor booths catering to what Mayor Tab Townsell described as "a broad range of interest in this event and a broad range of people," which he said indicates to him that "interest in sustainability is flourishing in this community."

Organizer Debbie Plopper, special project coordinator for the Conway Sanitation Department, and other volunteer organizers have been planning the event for months. The result, Townsell told the crowd of attendees in a speech, was "something you would usually only expect to see in a much larger city."

There had been some discussion of changing the event date to today when the forecast called for rain on Saturday, but according to Plopper, today was forecast to be rainier still, and the decision was made late in the week to hold the event as originally planned, rain or shine.

As of about 2 p.m. only a few raindrops had fallen and the turnout had exceeded expectations.

"I’ve got to tell you, I’m impressed," Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin said.

One of EcoFest’s more ambitious events, a race involving vehicles made from cardboard, also exceeded the expectations of its organizers. Six vehicles were entered.

The fastest time was set by a vehicle based on an electric mobility chair with a decorative cardboard-and-wood body attached. It was entered by the Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County and was built with the help of Melton Huff. This vehicle was driven to victory by 11-year-old John Whitehurst. Second fastest was a vehicle with a metal-and-wood frame and cardboard exterior built by the staff of Mathis Heating and Air, which was driven by Josh Loge.

Of the three vehicles that didn’t stray from the rule requiring an all-cardboard chassis, two vehicles created by 20-year-old engineering student Caleb Jennings and International Paper staff completed the course. The third, designed, built and driven by this reporter, ground to a halt on an uphill portion of the course and almost caught fire due to what can fairly be described as a deeply flawed understanding of electricity in general and DC current in particular.

The crowd favorite was the International Paper car designed by maintenance mechanic Eddy Brown and driven by second-shift leader Lori Panky, though the crowd was divided between the International Paper vehicle and Jennings’ unusual pedal-powered, rear-wheel-steering, three-wheeled vehicle.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at Send us your news at