For the first time in its 39-year history, the annual Toad Suck Daze festival in Conway will not be the first weekend in May.

The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce announced the festival will be delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Event organizers said the date will be determined later.

“While it is disappointing to postpone the festival, we made the call as public safety is always our first priority,” Conway Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brad Lacy said. “Our hope is that we can reschedule the festival in the summer or fall. We are working with our vendors to determine if there is another date that might work.”

He said many festivalgoers may not be aware that several of the festival vendors live in Faulkner County.

“Toad Suck Daze is an important revenue stream for them so the decision to postpone impacts many people,” Lacy said.

The event began in 1982 when then-Log Cabin Democrat Managing Editor John Ward and his brother Bill Ward, advertising specialist, dreamed up the idea of an festival to draw in people and let them experience all the city had to offer while raising money for education initiatives.

After then-Publisher Frank Robbins III approved the idea, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with the newspaper to get the ball rolling.

Dale Bumpers, who at the time was an Arkansas senator, served as the inaugural parade marshal. During the parade, Bumpers rode atop a replica of a Toad Suck Ferry built by the American Transportation Corporation. Bill Clinton, then-Arkansas governor, was on hand to pose with Toadmaster Jim Stone.

The festival was held on the banks of the Arkansas River at Toad Suck Park until it was moved to downtown Conway 25 years ago.

Currently, the award-winning, three-day festival that spans eight city blocks in downtown Conway with designated areas for shopping, hands-on children’s activities, live music, food vendors and more attracts around 100,000 people each year.

To date, the festival has raised $1.9 million for education initiatives including direct scholarships to around 310 students, contributions to a scholarship endowment at each of Conway’s three colleges and to Arkansas Community Foundation of Faulkner County and donations to Arkansas Preschool Plus.

To follow updates on the festival, visit www.toadsuck.org.

The Log Cabin Democrat will provide updates on the new festival dates when they become available. Festival organizers said that regardless of when it is, this year’s festival “will have new meaning.”

“Every interaction, every gathering, every dollar raised for philanthropy, every childhood memory created, and even every corn dog will be a little more precious.”

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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