Downtown streets will be lined with thousands of onlookers and hundreds of parade entries to ring in the 78th annual Faulkner County Fair on Tuesday.
Among the flags, banners, bands and floats, two county residents, Lori Case Melton and George Covington Sr., will be honored for their contributions to the community and support of the long-running fair parade, a staple activity for the entire county.
"We agreed both Lori and George would represent our community well," Fair Parade Committee Chairman Rick Sublett said. "We recognized how much each of them has contributed over the years, and honoring them in this way was the least we could do. We are looking forward to parade day in downtown Conway."
Melton grew up in the Mount Vernon community in east Faulkner County. For more than 30 years, she has been an active participant in the growing landscape of the Conway area, contributing time and efforts on nonprofit boards and in the network of growing businesses here.
The 2016 fair parade committee will honor her as the parade’s grand marshal.
"I was totally shocked," she told the Log Cabin on Thursday. "I was told they chose me because of my community service work and wanted to honor that."
But Tuesday’s honor will not mark the first time Melton has participated in the parade, she said, recalling riding horses with her father as a young girl.
"In 1981, I was actually Fair Queen and got to ride in a Corvette, and I loved that," she said. "I remember growing up in Mt. Vernon, parade day was a big day. We all got out of school early, loaded up and came to Conway. I think I’ve seen more parades than a lot of people!"
Melton said her three-decade career in the local banking industry and taking an active role in community service projects here has allowed her the opportunity to build parade floats from time to time.
"I think the fair and parade is really fun. There is nothing else that really lets you find out more about your county — more than anyone could ever realize," she said. "It is a time to celebrate the whole community and is a hoot, too. I am very excited that I get to take my granddaughter (18-months old) this year."
Covington will be the 2016 parade honoree.
Covington, a lifelong developer and multiple business owner in Conway, is also an avid car collector.
"I have never ridden in the parade myself," he said, "but I have certainly driven plenty of people over the years."
Humbly, Covington says he is unsure exactly why the parade committee chose him, but said he expects it is his commitment to revitalizing downtown, which sets a backdrop for the beloved event.
"I was one of the original founders of the Downtown Partnership," he said. "I have always taken a very active role in our downtown."
Covington chairs the Conway Business Improvement District, and his name and reputation is etched in the foundations of landmarks that speak the language of the city.
"I am most proud, I think of the project at the old Log Cabin building on Front Street (now Blackbird Academy)," he said. "That was one of my major projects, and I am pretty happy with that one."
As Covington is honored Tuesday, he will view his revitalization projects, many along the parade route, from a new perspective.
"I think the parade and the fair is when you see a lot of people you haven’t seen in a long time," he said. "You think you would see people more, but then you don’t because the town has changed so much. The parade is good because it brings people from all over the county together."