A pair of major events this weekend at Pine Bluff’s Regional Park drew hundreds, despite rainy and cold weather on Friday night and cool temperatures on Saturday.
Organizers of the 15th annual Boo on the Bayou and the inaugural DeltaMade Music and Maker Festival both heralded their respective events a success. The two were not connected.
For the past two years, mother and daughter duo Krystal Evans and Kensley Hampton have dressed up to attend Boo on the Bayou. This year, Hampton walked away a winner for her costume.
The annual two-day event was hosted at the Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center Friday and Saturday.
“It just came to me, because I thought that she would be a cute cat,” Evans said Friday night. “Last year, she was a bunny and I was a zebra.”
Boo on the Bayou had various activities and games for children and families to participate in, including a dance and costume contest with gift cards for winners. Hampton won second place in the zero to 6-year-old division.
“No, I didn’t think that she would win,” said Evans, whose 2-year-old daughter dressed up as a black cat, while she was Minnie Mouse.
John Pairsh’s son John Pairsh Jr. placed number one in the 7-to- 12-year-old division. Out of furry felines, ghoulish ghosts and scary creatures, the Parishes won with his sinister jester costume.
“It’s his first time winning anything,” said John Pairsh of his son. “It’s the first time ever he’s really gotten into it.”
Pairsh Jr. says he picked out his costume by himself and even though he was surprised the judges called his name he was happy that he won.
“I think I will come back next year,” he said to compete again.
Halfway through Friday’s chilly event, rain started trickling down. But parents with children in tow could be seen walking to take part in the festivities while others got a ride on the shuttles.
“We try to come every year,” said Pairsh. “The kids enjoy all of the little games and stuff. This is a good environment, fun and the kids have a lot to do for free.”
According to Eric Maynard, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission assistant chief of education, about 3,000 patrons attend the event each night. The event was created 15 years ago in an effort to branch out to the community.
“We do a lot of hunting, fishing and outdoor related stuff,” he said. “We started years ago to do this as both a community service, so that we have a free event for the kids to come out and play games in a safe atmosphere to get candy and that kind of stuff. But, also it’s a way to bring people to the nature center who don’t otherwise come sometimes and it’s the first time they’ve been to the nature center.”
Jefferson Regional Medical Center sponsored the event. Jefferson Regional Medical Center executive director of marketing and philanthropy, Rebecca Pittillo says the partnership allows them to reach out to the community outside of the hospital.
“Pulling all of our employees together to volunteer is great for our teamwork efforts, but it’s also a great way to be a part of the community,” she said. “We hope we continue to have this opportunity for years to come.”
Frog toss, beaver basketball, spill-the milk and triangle toss were just some of the games offered at the event. “All of our games are active,” said Pittillo.
“The kids are doing things and we’re giving them candy, too.”
Both Maynard and Pittillo say the games were nature-and-health-related. In addition to the games, children slid down bounce houses and walked a haunted trail with their parents close behind. Carnival food including corny dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes and frozen lemonade were also made available to attendees.
Bluff City BBQ also served up customers as their food truck sat near the entrance. According to Maynard, Boo on the Bayou is the largest Halloween event in the region.
“We’re bringing people in from out of town that are coming from Star City and Monticello,” he said. “And that’s also bringing a little business to Pine Bluff, so these people are coming here and stopping to get gas and eating in town. So, it’s important for us to be good partners with the city. We’re trying to support Pine Bluff.”
On Saturday at DeltaMade, crowds enjoyed food, entertainment and live music. Organizer Ron Cates, CEO of Cates & Company, said he hopes the festival makes a lasting impression on people. “We are putting it on to highlight local people,” Cates said. “We are pushing Pine Bluff as the gateway to the Delta. We have vendors who make local products. Vendors will display their wares. We are highlighting the Delta region and what there is to do here.”
Rhonda Jones and her two young children made a day out of the festival, which began at 2 p.m. and wrapped up at 9.
“It’s great to have something to do on the weekends,” Jones said. “This is really a nice event, and I hope it can continue.”
And having something to do is just what Cates had in mind when he envisioned the event. “I would stress you hear people say there is nothing to do in Pine Bluff,” Cates said.
“Come to our events. When it is time to support our events, come to our events. What is the purpose of going to all this work if people do not come to our events? This brings money into our towns. These events fill up hotels.”