The promotion, excitement and build-up surrounding the 2018 Forward Fest: Blues, Batter and Brew is less than a week away from infusing the streets of Downtown Pine Bluff.
The festival is scheduled to begin at noon on June 9, with musical performances by Dave Sadler, SYNRG, Platinum Hitz, Tragikly White, On Call Band, Sean Chambers, and Bigg Robb, leading up to the headliner, national recording artist Angie Stone’s performance, and ending with a fireworks show.
“The Forward Fest Steering Committee has worked diligently to prepare for what is expected to be the largest festival in Pine Bluff in over a decade, with the last week being dedicated to completing all preparation and tying any loose ends,” a news release said.
Ryan Watley, CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff, Inc, said the event was born out of the GFPB Quality of Life pillar and is part of the Delta Celebration Series of Events and Festivals. It will be family-oriented and attract the diverse population of Southeast Arkansas, he added.
“A great deal of advertising, promotion, and personal engagement has been put forth to ensure confidence that the event will be well attended, and to ensure that guests experience many of the amenities associated with the festival,” Watley said. “Specifically, we are working with multiple radio stations throughout Central and Southeast Arkansas extending from Russellville to Junction City. This is again an example of Go Forward Pine Bluff’s commitment to what we have campaigned to Pine Bluff citizens.”
Tavante Calhoun, who served as a volunteer on the GFPB planning committee and now serves on the steering committee, elaborated on the different options of the festival.
“Jack and Jill Fun Zone is hosting a kid’s zone consisting of a number of bounce houses, a miniature golf course, music, and other games to entertain the family,” he said.
Calhoun also said that the Arts and Science Center will assist with face painting and other family fun activities. A car show will begin at noon and end at 5 p.m. The show will feature antique models, show cars, and a display of Corvettes. There will be a variety of food trucks lined from Second to Fourth Avenue on Main Street, providing different types of cuisine.
Calhoun advised that everyone “bring a lawn chair to enjoy the show.”
Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant has worked with the GFPB steering committee to ensure adequate security is nearby during the festival to act in the case of an emergency.
Sergeant has established a safe parking zone at the Pine Bluff Convention Center parking lot where the Pine Bluff Transit will shuttle participants to and from the festival. The cost for riding the shuttle is one dollar per person going to and from Main Street. Riders must have exact change for riding the shuttle, which will begin runs at 4 p.m. and continue them throughout the evening.
Sergeant added that “in the event you are not parked at the convention center, there will be officers patrolling the areas in addition to those on Main Street.”
Though there will be officers patrolling, Sergeant recommends that people not leave anything of value in the window view of pedestrians passing by parked cars. The festival will be barricaded from Barraque Street to Fourth Avenue on Main. Access points to Main Street through Pine and State streets will also be enclosed.
Sergeant thanked the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department for teaming with officers to provide assistance through the mobile command center and sky watch. No coolers or backpacks will be allowed.
“The goal is to ensure participants leave with a sense of pride for the event Pine Bluff is offering and that begins and ends with safety,” Sergeant said.
Joseph McCorvey, executive director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center, said he is anxious for the event.
“This is my first festival as director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center that has the capacity to bring thousands to the city,” McCorvey said.
“These are the type of events that I envisioned upon accepting this position and I am excited to see the hard work pay off. This event could not be possible without our major sponsors MK Distributors and Go Forward Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Many citizens of the community have come together to ensure we have an opportunity to be successful.”
McCorvey went on to say that all artists have been secured in the form of deposits and signed contracts.
“We expect to follow a tight timeline on the performance times,” he said. “These national recording artists will be performing on a 26 feet wide stage that holds banners that are 21 feet x 12 feet wide. If all goes according to plan, the acoustics of good music, smell of great food, and cheers of joy will ring through the streets of downtown Pine Bluff. You do not want to miss this event.”