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Smackover’s Oil Town Festival, which is held the third weekend in June, is one of the state’s oldest festivals and attracts more than 10,000 visitors each year. The first festival was held in 1971 and was sponsored by the Smackover Chamber of Commerce and Lions Club. The year 1971 was the fifty-year anniversary of the Busey No. 1 well, which was being celebrated in neighboring El Dorado, so the town of Smackover (Union County) organized a celebration of the Smackover oil field discovery well, the Richardson No. 1.
Over the years, the festival has grown in size and events and has changed locations to accommodate the growth. Originally held in downtown Smackover, the festival has moved to Tennyson Park, which has an amphitheater, walking path, and creek. The number of events has changed to reflect the changing times, but the festival hosts the Drill Bit Toss, Pipe Tote, and Rod Wrenching—events that recall the skills that were used in the oil fields during the boom.
The Oil Town Festival is a family festival that provides all the children’s activities and contests at no cost. The festival is kicked off Wednesday with a J. T. Stocks Gospel Night concert, named after a prominent local resident, and continues through to Saturday. Free concerts are performed each night. The festival has the Little Yellow Ducky Race down the middle of the park in the creek, watermelon-eating contests, horseshoe tournaments, and much more. The festival also includes a five-kilometer run, which was started in 1978.
For additional information:
Buckalew, A. R., and R. B. Buckalew. “The Discovery of Oil in South Arkansas, 1920–1924.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 33 (Autumn 1974): 195–238.
Smackover Chamber of Commerce
Last Updated 3/20/2017
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