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The Malvern Brickfest commemorates the importance of bricks to the history of the city of Malvern (Hot Spring County). Abundant clay in the vicinity makes it a prime location for brick production, and, since 1887, the industry has played a leading role in the area’s economic development. Beginning in 1981, Malvern has recognized and celebrated that fact with a community festival each summer.
In 1980, three brick companies were manufacturing in the city and nearby Perla (Hot Spring County), with Acme Brick Company having just upgraded its operation by opening a new plant in Malvern. At that time, the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce declared the city to be the “Brick Capital of the World,” and, the following year, members decided to sponsor a festival that commemorated the importance of the product to the region. Roy Renfro, director of the chamber at the time, is often considered the guiding force behind the celebration, but throughout its existence, Brickfest has benefitted from the service of the many volunteers.
The festival was initially held early in July, but the chamber rescheduled the event to avoid conflicting with the Fourth of July holiday and in hope of having cooler temperatures. Since then, the Malvern Brickfest has occurred on the last full weekend of June, with activities officially beginning on Thursday evening and running through Saturday night. The event is free and attracts from 8,000 to 10,000 people every summer. The chamber depends on tee-shirt sales, corporate sponsors, and donations to fund the festival.
Brickfest offers a variety of activities, with most events taking place downtown at the county courthouse, while some are held at different venues around the city. Concerts featuring local talent take place daily, with regional acts headlining evening shows. In addition to the music, the festival offers a parade, a beauty pageant, a car and motorcycle show, as well as a three-on-three basketball tournament and a watermelon-eating contest. One of the bigger events is the five-kilometer run, which is sanctioned by the Grand Prix Tour of Arkansas and draws participants from all around the state. A number of food booths are set up, and about 100 other vendors offer art, craftwork, and merchandise.
True to its purpose, the festival honors brick in many ways. Acme, now the only brick company operating in the area, provides a display of its product, and every year it manufactures dated mini-bricks that are distributed as souvenirs. Each day of the week, the Malvern Daily Record sponsors a scavenger hunt for a “gold” brick hidden somewhere in the city, with a prize for the person who finds it. Prizes are also awarded to winners of the Brick Toss and the Best-Dressed-Brick competition. The Brick Car Derby, with bricks shaped like automobiles racing down an inclined track, is another popular event.
For additional information:Malvern Daily Record, Brickfest Edition. June 24, 2009.
Massey, Elizabeth Diffie. A Pictorial History of Malvern and Hot Spring County. Malvern: 1990.
Parnell, Elizabeth. “2009 Malvern Brickfest.” Arkansas Democrat Gazette.Tri-Lake edition, June 21, 2009. Online at http://www2.arkansasonline.com/news/2009/jun/21/2009-malvern-brickfest-20090621/ (accessed June 29, 2009).
Marvin SchultzOuachita Technical College
Last Updated 8/4/2009
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