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The Camden Daffodil Festival originated from a move to raise money for the restoration of a historic building in Camden (Ouachita County) and has become a means of promoting tourism in the area. The profits from the festival are donated to the community to promote tourism and help sustain the McCollum-Chidester House, which was built in 1847. It is today a museum maintained by the Ouachita County Historical Society.
The Camden Daffodil Festival was started in 1994 by Dennis and Roxane Daniel as a result of a group of women motivated to help raise enough money to restore the old, dilapidated Missouri Pacific Train Depot and turn it into a historical site that would house the Camden Area Chamber of Commerce. Word went out via flyers, radio, newspaper, and word of mouth, inviting the public to tour the private Daniel Daffodil Gardens. Hundreds of people drove to see this rare sight, paying a dollar admission to drive or walk through the thirteen-acre Japanese garden covered with hundreds of thousands of daffodils. The garden was created and planted by the Daniel family in honor of their son and the men serving on a naval ship during the Gulf War. The train depot for which the funds were raised now houses the Camden Area Chamber of Commerce and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The festival became an annual event, and additional gardens have been added to the tour. The two-day event is held on the second weekend of March and includes garden tours, historic home tours, an antique quilt show, an art show and sale, Civil War re-enactors, a walk through historic Oakland Cemetery, and arts and crafts. The event is concluded with the Annual Championship Steak Cook-off featuring celebrity judges and live entertainment.
Several hundred people are involved each year in putting together the festival. Over 100,000 daffodil bulbs have been planted along roadsides entering Camden. Volunteers include local garden clubs, master gardeners, retired teachers, and private citizens.
Advertising is funded in part by local corporate sponsors and the Camden A&P Commission. The festival draws 14,000 to 15,000 people each year, with a large number of the attendees coming from out of state. The festival was one of three finalists for a Henry Award “Bootstrap Award” at the Governors Conference on Tourism in 2007.
For additional information:Camden Daffodil Festival. http://www.camdendaffodilfestival.com/ (accessed March 1, 2013).
Collins, Donna. “Festival Continues to Grow and Thrive.” Camden News. May 12, 2007.
“Daffodil Festival.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly 27 (Spring 1996): 14–17.
Clara L. FreelandOuachita County Historical Society
Last Updated 3/12/2013
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