SEARK District Fair Livestock Show and Rodeo benefits the local economy, officials say

The 77th annual Southeast Arkansas District Fair Livestock Show and Rodeo is not only providing wholesome entertainment but also aiding the economy of Pine Bluff.

The fair is taking place at Hestand Stadium Fairgrounds at 420 N. Blake St. in Pine Bluff. It began Sunday, Sept. 25, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 1. It features animals, games, rides, crafts and foods.

Dale Dixon, president of the Southeast Arkansas District Livestock Association, estimates the fair will attract 30,000 to 35,000 visitors in 2016.

“This is perfect fair weather,” Dixon said. “We hope everyone comes out to see our exhibits. Everything is running as well as we could ask. We invite the whole community.”

The fair used to attract more visitors when Pine Bluff had more people and when there were fewer fairs.

“Carnivals are not as big today as they were 15 or 20 years ago,” Dixon said.

Looking ahead to Friday, the fair alternately receives an influx of visitors or a drop in visitors depending on the schedules of high school football teams. Local high schools who play at home bring people to the fair, whereas those who play away games result in a drop in attendance. This week, all four of Jefferson County’s high school teams will play home games.

Bob Purvis, director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center, welcomed visitors into Pine Bluff. He said the fair is unsung in terms of its economic impact in Jefferson County.

“It is a big economic impact. Look at the number of campers who stay for several days,” Purvis said. “Look at the motels by the fairgrounds: they are full. It brings in people from all over southeastern Arkansas who stay for several days. It is easily bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars. I assume at least half of visitors are from outside of Pine Bluff. They are buying food, gasoline, lodging and incidentals.”

Besides seeing animals and rodeos, visitors to the fair spend money at the fairgrounds and elsewhere.

“We judged 140 rabbits [on Tuesday]. People are interested in seeing animals,” Dixon said. “Kids win money for animals competing in the fair. We check in rabbits, hogs and chickens. Every pen is full. We expect as many people to come to the fair this year as last year.”

Dixon said the association signed a contract in January with PBJ Happee Day Shows to run the carnival. The association invited University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff fraternities to take part in a dance contest.

There was a pageant show Monday night that was organized by Joel Anderson, Kim Norton and Heather Bankhead. The talent show attracted a huge crowd.

“We used to pay $25,000 for a rodeo but no one came to see someone from Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” Dixon said. “This year every contestant is from Arkansas. We pay the $12,000 this year to hook up with the Arkansas Rodeo Association.”

Details of the fair are available at www.sedistrictfair.com.