Texas & The Halloween Tale

There's an old Irish legend that came to Texas with some of its earliest settlers about a certain kind of squash that sells by the ton every fall. We’re talking about pumpkins, of course. Or, to native Texans like myself, punkins.

Before I tell you about that old legend though, there's an interesting puzzle of geographic names to consider. We'll call it "The Punkin Center Phenomenon." If anyone ever informs you they’re from Punkin Center, you'll need to ask them to be more specific. Unique as that name might seem, Texas has four different communities called Punkin Center. There’s Punkin Center in Dawson County, Punkin Center in Eastland County, Punkin Center in Hardeman County and Punkin Center in Parker County. And in Wichita County, the community of Haynesville is locally known as Punkin Center even though Haynesville is the official name.

Across the United States, four other communities call themselves Punkin Center. But unlike Texas,  each of those Punkin Centers is in a different state – Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana and Missouri. Strange as the name Punkin Center may seem, it is the 4,438th most popular town name in the U.S.

Texas singer David Allen Coe likes the name. In 1976, he recorded a song called “The Punkin Center Barn Dance.”

But there’s a weird thing about Punkin Centers in Texas. None of them are in counties known for their bountiful pumpkin crops. Floyd County has an annual Punkin Festival but no community named Punkin Center and it is the top pumpkin-producing county in Texas. Other bountiful producers of pumpkins are Bailey, Hale, Lamb and Lubbock counties. Texas, number 1 in terms of number of Punkin Centers, only ranks in the Top 10 of pumpkin-producing states. The estimated value of Texas’ annual pumpkin harvest is $4.6 million. That's a lot of punkins. And it brings us back to that old Irish folktale. 

Back in the 18th century, an Irishman named Jack had an unfortunate propensity for strong, adult beverage. But he didn't let his drinking get in the way of his hatred of the Devil. One dark night after his usual visitation of the local pub, Jack was staggering his way home when the Devil approached him and tried to trick him into giving away his soul. But old Jack was wise to the tricks of that demon and used his own trick into getting the devil to climb up an apple tree. 

Once Jack had the Devil treed, he quickly drew his knife and carved a cross on the trunk, an action he knew would prevent the Devil from climbing down. The Devil pleaded for his freedom and he and Jack finally struck a deal. If Jack would let him down, the Devil promised to never come after Jack's soul again. That seemed like a good trade so Jack covered the cross and the Devil was free to return to his normal level of devilment.

Unfortunately for Jack, his deal with the Devil did not include immortality. When Jack died, his hard drinking, skirt chasing, lie telling and other issues we won't mention sent his spirit down instead of up.

The Devil proved true to his word and refused to allow Jack into the nether regions. But Jack didn't qualify for Heaven either so his spirit was doomed to wander forever between Heaven and Hell.

It's dark between Heaven and Hell so the Devil graciously threw a glowing coal to Jack so he could find his way around. Jack placed the red hot coal in a hollowed gourd to make himself a lantern. And to this very day, Jack wanders to and fro, neither in Heaven nor Hell, his way lighted by that enduring symbol of Halloween, the Jack-O-Lantern.

This Little Piggy Went To Market

Some of these fruits & vegetables went into 
our bags.
I love going to a good Farmer's Market so last Saturday morning, I made Youngest daughter and the Mamma-woman get out of bed, packed them in BFT (Big Ford Truck) and off we went to the Little Rock Farmer's Market. We were not disappointed. Fresh tomatoes, purple hull peas, potatoes, peppers, squash, beans, apples, oranges, and on and on the list of fruits and vegetables went. The colors, the smells, the free samples! It's the little things that make life good.

We carried home some of these big 
 gleaming tomatoes too!
We distributed a bit of our money to a couple of area farmers and they kindly let us leave with a few pounds of purple hull peas, tomatoes, potatoes, and several jars of home-made salsa. That evening, the Mamma-woman cooked up a big batch of those peas with some little pieces of ham, sliced up some of the tomatoes and a big purple onion for eating on the side and added her oh-so-delicious cornbread. Oh my goodness, it was Southern cooking at its finest! That night, home contained one very contented Daddy-man.

It was a bit late for the pears, but the oranges
 and apples were good.

Jars of homemade jam standing in the sun.

Honey with honeycomb from local bee hives - 
yummy! And yes a couple came home with us.

Elvis Slept Here - Part Deaux

(continued from previous post.)

We expected to see a guard shack or at least an "Entering Ft. Chaffee" sign to indicate we had found our destination, but from the way we came in, the only indication was a large commercial sign touting a haunted house up ahead. To our left we saw a couple of old barracks buildings in an advanced state of decay with peeling paint and broken windows. They were surrounded by a weed-infested fence with rolls of barbed wire topping it. To a couple of military vets like Chip and myself, we knew right away it must be some kind of old military prison complex. Spying more old buildings on down the road, we took a left turn and straight away found what we were looking for, the Barber Shop Museum in Building 803, the place where Elvis had his locks shorn. I'm not sure if my old Elvis-fanatic female friends would have broken down weeping at the thought of a peeled-onion-headed Elvis or if they would have just been beyond themselves to be in the same place he had walked.

Entrance to the Barber Shop Museum
 - building 803
The building was well maintained and a sign was out front, but I noticed there were no cars in the parking lot. It was 3:55pm on a Saturday so we figured it was either closed on weekends or we had missed the hours it was open. Deciding we would get out, look in the windows and walk around taking a few pictures, we walked up to the entrance and saw a small sign saying it was open until 4:00. Without much hope, I turned the knob and was surprised to find it still open.

The barber chair Elvis sat in.
We were greeted by Gina and William, volunteer docents. I asked if I could just take a picture of where Elvis got his haircut before they closed and was told, "Sure, no problem. Take your time and look around. We'll keep it open for you." Very nice folks and very knowledgeable as well. The museum was a bit on the small side, but in addition to the chair where Elvis sat, there were a number of memorabilia and historical pictures of the base. While walking around looking at all of the items and reading the informational plaques that went along with them, our two wonderful hosts told us about some of the interesting history of Ft. Chaffee, a history we were totally unaware of. We came simply to see where Elvis got his haircut and, like most good road trips if you let them, we ended up in a more interesting place than we had set out for.

One of the interesting stories Gina and William told us was about the time back in 2010 when they accompanied the TV show Ghost Adventures' crew one night trying to find ghosts at the old hospital. According to Gina, it was dark, it was eerie, it was a little bit scary, but as the night wore on, it was boring. When the show aired, they played up a couple of "unexplained" sounds and something banged on a wall. Gina didn't say the sounds were faked, but did say the building had been abandoned for a number of years and had many broken windows. Rats or other animals? The wind? Before it was over, they were just ready to get back to their room and get some sleep. Pretty cool to be able to say you've done that though!

The building where Elvis lived for a time.
We could have stayed and listened to Gina and William stories on into the evening, but it was way past closing time so we made our goodbyes and headed out to take some pictures of the old barracks. As I was getting a different camera from the truck, Gina and William walked out, stopped and said, "There was a bowling alley over there" and then pointed over to barracks number 823, just a few feet from where we stood and casually said, "That's where Elvis bunked while he was here." Say what? Elvis slept there? There was no sign proclaiming so, but Gina and William said so and they seemed to have a storehouse of factual information so I had no reason to doubt them. I gave Gina a business card and told them I would write about this. So if you guys are reading this, thanks for a wonderful time, thanks for sharing your stories, and thanks for being so nice. And by the way, I researched it later and you were absolutely correct, Elvis slept there.

Row of barracks - Elvis lived in the 1st on the left.

After walking around the locked barracks and looking in a few windows we headed back to the what we now knew, thanks to Gina & William, were the POW barracks which housed German POWs in WWII. We didn't go in to the buildings as they were surrounded by that barbed-wire-topped fence, but mostly because we would have had to tramp through a good distance of chigger infested weeds. Everyone in the southern United States knows about chiggers, but for other folks who might not, trust me, chiggers are little bitty mean, nasty buggers that you can't see, but will make your life miserable for a few days. They live in grass and especially weeds and wait until you walk along and brush up against them whereupon they get on your clothes, make their way onto your skin and bite you and make you itch until you are ready to scream. And they are not easy to kill. You usually just have to endure for a few days until daily bathing finally washes them off. Us southerners are very familiar with the little beasts, but that doesn't mean any of us want to have an encounter with them. I put on my long camera lens and took pictures from afar.

One of the POW barracks which held
Germans in WWII.
We tried to find the remains of the hospital which had burned just 2 months before, but it's a big base with lots of roads and we never were able to find it. We did find another old, abandoned building, but were unable to determine what it was in the past. Apparently, at one point, it had been used as a nursery as there were a number of planting pots, dead plants, and wooden pallets strewn around, but it appeared to be completely abandoned now.
Except for 3 or 4 guys we saw working next to one of the old barracks, we had the base to ourselves. We didn't see anyone else except a couple at the still open golf course and the Janet Huckabee Nature Center. We were free to roam around, take our time and see what we wanted to see. As the sun was sinking, we headed back on Hwy 22 to Ft. Smith for the steak dinner I had to buy Chip because my beloved Longhorns had lost to those dang Sooners.

Fence & barbed wire around the POW 
barracks - & chiggers in the weeds!

If you happen to visit Ft. Chaffee, as always, bring your curiosity, take time to enjoy; bring your camera and take nothing away but pictures. Do no damage and leave things as they are so the next person can enjoy. And if you are fortunate enough to meet Gina & William, tell them I said hi and have them show you where Elvis slept.

One of the old, abandoned barracks building.


Elvis Slept Here - Part Uno

On January 19, 1953, like all American males were required to do at age 18, Elvis Presley registered for the U.S. Selective Service System. Soon he received Selective Service No. 40-86-35-16. He graduated high school and by 1956, he was a super-star. On January 4, 1957, he went for an Army pre-induction physical in Memphis and was declared 1A on January 8, his 22nd birthday.

On December 20, 1957, Elvis received his draft notice. He was to report for active duty in January, 1958, but he asked for and received an extension so he could complete filming "King Creole" which was already underway. Finally, on March 24, 1958, Elvis, accompanied by his parents, reported to the Memphis draft board at 6:35 AM. He was sworn in and, along with 12 other recruits, bused to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas for further processing.

Fort Chaffee, originally named Camp Chaffee, is located just outside the Ft. Smith, Arkansas city limits. Construction was begun in September, 1941 due to the need for additional training facilities for World War II. The first troops reported for duty there on December 7, the same day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The base has seen numerous uses during its life besides training men for combat - POW internment center (from 1942 to 1946, over 3,000 Germans were held here), a hospital for treating wounded soldiers, a psychiatric unit for treating mentally disturbed soldiers, and a refugee camp. At the end of the Vietnam War, 50,809 Vietnamese were processed through Ft. Chaffee, giving them medical screenings, matching them with sponsors, and arranging for their residence in the United States. On May 6, 1980, it became a Cuban refugee resettlement center after the Cuban government allowed American boats to pick up refugees at the port of Mariel. Three weeks later, a number of refugees rioted at Chaffee and burned two buildings. State troopers and tear gas were used to break up the crowd, and eighty-four Cubans were jailed. In two years, Fort Chaffee processed 25,390 Cuban refugees. It was again used  to house over 10,000 evacuees when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005.
On Sept. 27, 1997, the base was formally closed by the government and it now mostly serves as a 66,000 acre training facility for the Arkansas Air National Guard who uses the fort’s Razorback Range for target practice.

The base has also has been the setting for Hollywood movies and shows. In 1984, the movie A Soldier’s Story, starring Howard E. Rollins Jr. was shot at Fort Chaffee. In 1998, the Neil Simon movie Biloxi Blues, starring Matthew Broderick, was filmed there. The most recent visit from Hollywood was in 1995 for The Tuskegee Airmen with Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr. Due to the high number of deaths suffered by men during training, while being treated for combat wounds, while imprisoned on the base, and some suicides among the mentally ill patients, Fort Chaffee has long been rumored to be one of the most haunted places in America and was featured in episode 10 of the 4th season of Ghost Adventures on Friday, November 19, 2010.

Unfortunately, the base has seen its share of bad luck in the last few years. On January 29, 2008, high winds and a fire started by an electrical fault burned approximately 100 acres and damaged or destroyed 150 abandoned buildings. At 10:00 PM on August 3, 2011 another fire broke out in the 90 acre former medical complex. This was, according to the National Weather Service, the hottest day in FT. Chaffee history at 115 degrees. This fire destroyed the haunted hospital complex and nearly 120 other buildings. An investigation later determined the fire was started by a discarded cigarette in the old, wooden building from a group of Kentucky National Guard troops who were on the base for training. They admitted they had heard about the haunting at the hospital and had snuck over looking for ghosts.

A few of the buildings have been renovated and now house a few construction-type businesses, a chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America and several museums. One building has even been turned into a commercial haunted house. It was one of the museums that I became interested in and was the reason for my visit.

The barbershop in Ft. Chaffee
Building 803 houses the Chaffee Barber Shop Museum. You are probably right about now wondering what the heck I'm rambling on about, why in the world would I be interested in a barber shop museum and does any of this have a point? Yes Virginia, actually, it does. You see, building 803 was the base barber shop and it is where Elvis Presley received "the haircut heard ‘round the world," the G.I. buzz cut which sheared off his famous locks of black hair and, according to John J. Mawn, the Fort Chaffee Information Officer, made Elvis resemble "a peeled onion."

I am not an Elvis fanatic. Actually, there are only 2 or 3 of his songs that I kind of like and I've only seen 3 of his movies. I took a girl I was trying to impress to see him in concert in Dallas a few years before he got fat and passed away. I wasn't all that impressed, but she was so mission accomplished. I went to Las Vegas a number of years ago totally unaware there was a huge Elvis impersonator contest going on. There were Elvis's (Elvi?) everywhere. You couldn't throw a stick without hitting an Elvis or two. I took a potty break in a Caesar's Palace restroom and peed standing next to Elvis. No, I didn't look. Recently, somehow, youngest daughter became an Elvis fan so, living just 3 hours from Memphis, we took a 3-day weekend and ran over to tour Graceland. I found it too was less than impressive. Still, when I found myself in Ft. Smith for a weekend, how could I not visit this place?

In the Varsity Club sports bar 
watching "THE" game.
I graduated from the University of Texas. Chip, my best buddy of over 40 years with whom I shared life and death adventures in the military, graduated from the University of Oklahoma. The schools are arch rivals to say the least. Somehow, our deep friendship continues to survive the annual football warfare and on the weekend of the UT/OU game, we meet at the Downtown Marriott in Ft. Smith, a good-sized town located half-way between our homes. We leave the wives and kids home for this, our annual "guy's weekend." He wears red, I wear burnt orange, we drink a couple of beers, we eat unhealthy food, we talk about manly stuff, we have been known to say a few mild cuss words, we harass each other unmercifully about our respective school's teams and we flirt with the waitresses (which never amounts to anything other than fun because they are in their 20's and want a big tip and we are, well, lets just say we're a bit older).  And on Sunday, we give each other a manly hug with the requisite pats on the back, proclaim how much fun we've had, and a bit wistfully, go back to our respective homes and family and jobs.

There we were in Ft. Smith, the game was over in the early afternoon, it was a beautiful, warm autumn day, Chip was cool to go exploring, so off we went to Ft. Chaffee. At least we tried to. I plugged it into my GPS and it informed me no Fort Chaffee found. I spelled it different. Nope. We had been driving around for a while when we saw an exit sign for Hwy 22. Hey, that leads back downtown by our hotel so we took it. I couldn't believe a 66,000 acre military base would not be on the GPS so I pulled off the road and we got out my Roads of Arkansas map book and looked it up. Ft. Chaffee was just a few miles down Hwy 22 the other way. Giving the map to Chip for navigation purposes, we turned around and down the road we went. We soon came up on a city limit sign indicating we were entering Barling. I entered Ft. Chaffee in the city of Barling in the GPS. It came up immediately. So if you go looking for it, the dang thing is in Barling, a suburb of Ft. Smith, not Ft. Smith itself!
After a few stop-and-go miles down Hwy 22 we saw Ft. Chaffee signs. We entered the grounds and found ourselves in a historical place from another time. We found what we were looking for and so much more.

(Continued in Part Deaux)

Enjoy What You Have

All of us worry that we’re missing out on things. We work longer, we do more, we cram more into our daily lives because we don’t want to miss out. We spend our lives racing from one thing to another because we must be productive; we must feel like we've accomplished something.  And soon, we forget that life itself is about experiencing the journey, not racing to the finish.

The truth is, we're going to miss out no matter what we do. It’s inevitable. Nobody can do or try everything in the world. If our lives were twice as long, we still could not see every town and city and landmark, read every book that sounds interesting or hike every trail. We will always miss out. The fact is, if you always worry about what you are missing, you will miss out on what you already have.

We need to understand and fight this compulsion to be busy, to do as much as possible. We don't really need to do more, we need to enjoy more what we do. Don’t pack your vacation with plans to see every single highlight of the place you’re visiting; take your time, walk around, meet and talk to people, enjoy what you find. 

You don't have to travel far to see interesting things. A good friend of mine lived in Colorado for a number of years. People from all over the country, myself included, take their vacations from work, spend their money and travel to see the beauty of Colorado. When I asked my friend what it's like to live in such beauty, he said he usually doesn't stop to think about it or even notice it. When you contemplate that for a few seconds, that's pretty sad, but we all do it.

Nobody wants to race to the finish of their life. We all have only so long to live and then we cease in this life and go on to the next phase. Before we shuffle off though, let's try to enjoy the life we have right now.

Monks In Arkansas!

One of the reasons I love road trips to places I've never been is because you never know what you will run across. Imagine if you will, cruising down SH-22, a little 2-lane back road in very rural Arkansas when you round a bend and instead of cows grazing in the fields or the rows and rows of crops you've gotten used to viewing, you see this?

I imagine your reaction would be pretty much the same as mine - "What the heck is that?" So of course I had to take the next right turn and drive up to determine just what I had stumbled across. Much to my amazement, I had found an abbey; an abbey with monks and a young men's academy. I've only been in Arkansas for a relatively short period of time ("relative" being the operative word as I've been here almost 7 years, but Arkansans still consider me to be an outsider since my grandparents aren't buried here) and there's a lot about Arkansas I don't know, but monks in Arkansas? Who woulda thunk it?

The monks of Subiaco Abbey are Benedictines and the abbey has been located a few miles down the road from Paris, Arkansas since the 1870's. Over the years, the town of Subiaco has grown up around it. Where did the name "Subiaco" come from? Subiaco, Italy of course, where Saint Benedict lived as a hermit and where he threw himself into a thorny rose bush to dispel his sinful thoughts of the flesh.

The Subiaco Academy began as a school for young men about 1890 and has evolved into the present day college-prep boarding school for young men from the 7th - 12th grades. They have a pretty good tennis team; football, not so much.

The abbey is supported through donations, fund raisers, through various charities and the Catholic church. They also sell "Abbey Brittle" (tins of peanut brittle) and "Monk Sauce" (red or green chili sauce). Unfortunately, I was there on a Saturday and the on-site shop is not open on weekends. I would have bought several of each just for the cool labels!

It was an interesting place for sure. Everything was immaculately clean, the grass mowed, no dead limbs on the ground from the many wonderful shade-giving trees, very peaceful and everyone was very friendly and helpful. The monk-life is not for me, that's for sure, but you know, I can see the appeal.

Frontier Days

Paris, AR, gateway to Mt. Magazine.
If a festival has been held for 32 years, it must be a pretty good one. That's a good corollary to follow when one must choose between multiple festivals occurring on the same day. With the cooler weather of fall upon us, there are literally dozens of festivals and goings-on every weekend for the next 3 months so I had to choose and that's how I found myself in Paris last weekend. No, not THAT Paris, not even Paris, Texas.  Paris, Arkansas, where the 32nd annual Frontier Days Festival was being held. "Where Yesterday Meets Today For A Day."

With a 5K race, parade, antique car show, helicopter rides, horse & buggy rides, turtle race, hay bale toss, log sawing contest, nail driving contest, and the Miss Mt. Magazine Pageant, it sounded likely to be a full day of fun, food, and crafts. There's supposed to even be an 1870s hangin’ - something for everyone! The one thing they didn't have was an agenda with the times of the events listed. I understand that festivals can't stay strictly to schedule for a number of reasons, but if you advertise contests and events, then let visitors know at least the approximate times and locations where these things will take place! Publish them on your website if you have one, list them on a sign at the festival grounds or at the very least, announce them in between the performing bands and local talent. Sadly, I didn't get to see the hay bale toss or the log sawing - I have no idea whether I got there too late or left too early. I did see the nail driving contest, but only because I happened to be walking by the little corner of the grounds where they had it at the time they were having it. There were no announcements or anything and very few on-lookers. I can only assume the 5 or 6 participants knew what time to show up because they were told when they signed up. I also did not see the hangin'. Darn, I was looking forward to seeing a ne'er do well receive his just deserts!

This daddy/daughter duo were really good!
I did get to see the turtle race. Well, I saw part of the turtle race. I came upon it after it had started, watched for a while, and left before it was over. I'm sure the owner of the winning turtle is very proud of their creature. Laying claim to having the fastest turtle in the area will get a kid envious stares from his classmates, I'm sure, and maybe even help with getting that first kiss from a girl. But I'm here to tell you, watching turtles run is right up there with watching grass grow or paint dry in the excitement category. Run, turtle, run! I probably should have stayed for what I'm sure was an exciting, close finish. Speedy beats Lightning by a terrapin nose!

OK, so there were a couple of negatives, but don't let those minor things keep you away because this was actually one of the larger and better festivals. The car show was excellent. A good number of vendors offering everything from fishing rods to pet clothes to jars of comb honey made for interesting browsing. The local Boy Scouts troop was selling cold drinks and home-made chili ( having just had lunch shortly before I found the Boy Scout's tent, I didn't partake, but it sure looked yummy). Located next to the jump houses for the kids were several food vendors selling cotton candy, turkey legs, and other usual festival foods.

Of personal interest and something that made me happy to see was the presence of the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. I passed some time happily conversing with my fellow vets and was happy to make a donation for the memorial they are trying to fund.

Pioneer woman talking on her pioneer iPhone.
The "people watching" was fun with a number of folks dressed as Indians, frontier men and wives in their pioneer finest. For a small donation to the Miner's Memorial Fund, you could take a 10 minute horse & buggy ride around town and for $30 per person, you could take a tour of the area via helicopter. My family and I chose the horse & buggy.

The Momma Woman and Youngest-Daughter climbed in the back seat of the buggy, which left the front seat next to the driver for me. The driver was a nice guy, older, weather-beaten and grizzled looking with a 3-day growth of beard. He had candy for the little kids who sometimes were very interested in, but a bit afraid of the horse. He didn't give a running commentary of how old the courthouse is or who lives in that house or what that building used to house. He talked about the weather, he talked about his horse, and he talked about the festival. I asked, but no, he didn't know when the hanging was going to be either. I felt sympathy for the horse. He was obviously old - swayback, dull, bored eyes and his brown coat full of gray. I'm no horse expert, but it looked to me like he was on his last legs. Pulling a buggy full of people was his retirement, his reward for a life of hard work.

A few minutes into the ride, we pulled up behind a car stopped at a red light. The light turned green, the car drove on, but the horse didn't. The driver encouraged him with a gentle flick of the reins and that poor old nag slowly started walking. Cars were behind us and at this pace we might not even make it across the street before the light turned red again so the driver gave more encouragement with a more insistent flick of the reins. That sweet, obedient animal started walking faster, and whether just naturally or by choice, gave vent to his displeasure at having to move a little quicker. And when I say vent, that's what I mean. He did his part adding to greenhouse gases. Loudly. At first, I chuckled, just barely containing a guffaw at something every person in the world finds funny. But then, the odor wafted back to the front seat. My smile quickly evaporated, much quicker than the smell did. This one was evidently a bit much even for the old cowboy driving us who, no doubt, had been on the receiving end of his share of horse poots, as he managed to keep a straight face, but did give a couple of quick shakes of his head. Shake it off, cowboy, shake it off! The air slowly returned to breathable, but my sympathies for that damn horse were gone for good.

My family and I definitely had a good time. The horse poot in the face incident wasn't something on my bucket list, but hey, it was a first for me so there's another item I can now check off of my "been there, done that" list. And you know what? Actually, I have to admit, the turtle race was pretty fun!

There was an excellent car show!
The trailer for this combo is an old
Coke ice chest.

Great paint job!

Plenty of "Antique" stores to browse through.

Great Arkansas Pig Out

The sign may have fallen a bit, but it still
marks the place!
In 1991, a group of good people living in Morrilton determined their little town had a problem. Many small towns in Arkansas have festivals, but Morrilton didn't. Figuring the town was in need of something that would bring the people together for a time and just be good clean family fun, an idea was born and when the 2nd weekend of August came around, the 1st Great Arkansas Pig Out was held.

The festival, with the effort and enthusiasm of the volunteers and sponsors was a great success. There were all kinds of booths by vendors offering items from arts and crafts to face painting to the main thing people think of when they think of Pig Out - food. There was food enough to feed thousands. There was barbecue, homemade ice cream, gumbo, watermelon, sausage on a stick, hamburgers, lemonade, and shrimp. Almost anything a person wanted could be found along the wall of the old high school gymnasium and in the adjoining city park. There was a hot dog eating contest and watermelon eating contest. The Great Arkansas Pig Out lived up to its name. Additionally, there were games and live entertainment to raise the level of fun even more. And what would a festival with a pig as its mascot be without a muddy, slippery Pig Chase for the kids? With all this fun, food, entertainment and the thousands that came to participate, the Great Arkansas Pig Out had indeed been a huge success and people planned for it to return the next year.

Not all of the entertainers will be stars, but give
them credit for having the guts to get up in front
of an audience and perform.
With such an oinking success on their hands, the next year the Pig Out was extended to a three day festival. The same traditions of food, fun, and family were and still are the main focus of the Pig Out. This same pattern carried on for the next 11 years. As the festival grew, so did the quality of the entertainment. From Jerry Reed, Justin Moore, Aaron Tippin, and the Randy Rogers Band, the Pig Out Festival has continually provided free concerts of up-and-coming stars of the country music world. In 1998, the Great Arkansas Pig Out even went international when the BBC sent a crew over to film the goings-on.

Mechanical Bull riding is always fun to watch!
Along with one of the largest car shows held in Arkansas, the Pig Out has also got sports covered. Events now include a tennis tournament, 5k run, the Pig Dig (a co-ed volleyball tournament), The Tour-de-Oink (a 40 mile long bike race), and a Horseshoe Tournament. However, the most entertaining event is the Pig Chase. What could be more clean fun for adults than watching a herd of kids chase after a pig in a very large pile of mud?

Kids always love bounce houses.
Since August in Arkansas isn't exactly the most comfortable place to be outside for long, the festival has changed dates several times. This year it was held on Sept 30 and Oct 1 and if the weather this time is any indication, I think they've found their timing and should keep it right there. A clear, blue sky with a high temperature of 75 and a slight breeze rustling the leaves of the trees which provided plenty of shade made the day simply perfect on the weather front.  In my book, this wasn't the absolute number 1 fun festival I've ever been to, but I've certainly been to worse and for a small town festival run entirely by volunteers, it was right nice!

Nice food vendor and arts & crafts strip
with wonderful shade!

Great car show.

Yeah, its got a Hemi.

In Arkansas, you make do with what ya have.