While the idea was to celebrate Jefferson County’s agribusiness and farming, the appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdales stole the show Thursday during the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 62nd annual Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry at Hestand Stadium.

While the idea was to celebrate Jefferson County’s agribusiness and farming, the appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdales stole the show Thursday during the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 62nd annual Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry at Hestand Stadium.


Regardless, organizers were thankful for the boost.


"I’ve been here nine years and this is the biggest one we’ve ever had," said Lou Ann Nisbett, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County. "We sold completely out of tickets before 5 p.m."


She said there were a total of 900 tickets sold for the event.


Nisbett credited the beautiful weather, an opportunity to appreciate the farming business and the Clydesdales for the turnout Thursday.


"It is a big asset having them here," she said.


Two of the big horses were on display inside the arena and were the source of constant attention from people young and old who wanted to pet the horses or have their pictures made with them.


"I came to see the Clydesdales, to socialize and meet friends," Sheriff Gerald Robinson said. "When you get up close, they’re a whole lot bigger than I thought. I had seen them from a distance but that doesn’t measure up to getting close to them. They’re awesome animals."


Robinson, his Chief Deputy Stanley James and Chief Deputy and jail administrator Greg Bolin all took turns with their cell phones taking pictures, but they were not alone, as at times there were as many people waiting to see the horses as there were standing in line to get the fish prepared by King Kat of Carlisle.


Also in attendance were 4th District Congressman and Republican Party U.S. Senate candidate Tom Cotton and former 4th District Congressman and Democratic Party candidate for governor Mike Ross. Representatives of a number of other candidates were there to hand out cards and campaign material.


Jefferson County’s Farm Family of the Year — the Bryan Bonds Family — were the honored guests at the event.


George Makris, chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corp., said the Clydesdales were in Pine Bluff about 10 years ago when he was president of M.K. Distributors.


"We scheduled them for UAPB’s Homecoming and then UAPB changed the date of their homecoming," he said. "We came up with a two-event parade, the UAPB Marching Band and the Clydesdales, and Main Street was packed."


Makris said the Clydesdales were originally requested for White Hall’s Founder’s Day Parade, which is Saturday.


"The schedule worked out and they have actually been here since Tuesday," he said.


Dale Dixon, president of the Southeast Arkansas Livestock Association and manager of Hestand Stadium said it took a lot of help to get ready for the chamber fish fry.


"The Department of Correction has been out here cleaning the stalls and the sheriff’s Clean Team have all been involved for the past few days," Dixon said.


He said ever since the announcement was made that the Clydesdales were going to be in Pine Bluff, the phones at Hestand Stadium "have rang off the wall with people wanting to see the Clydesdales.


"We had one lady from Sherveport, La., who is 82 years old come up here today to see the Clydesdales," Dixon said. "It means a lot for this stadium, for the people of Pine Bluff and White Hall."