Main Street making some changes to staple events

Group provides clarification on upcoming Santa events

Airstreams are seen lined up in downtown El Dorado in this News-Times file photo. Next year's Airstreams on the Square event has been moved to April, Main Street El Dorado officials announced Tuesday.
Airstreams are seen lined up in downtown El Dorado in this News-Times file photo. Next year's Airstreams on the Square event has been moved to April, Main Street El Dorado officials announced Tuesday.

A record 50 campers participated last month in the sixth annual Airstreams on the Square and approximately half of that number plan to return to El Dorado for the 2024 event.

However, this time, the group will visit the city in the spring instead of the fall.

Holly McDonald, executive assistant for Main Street El Dorado, announced Tuesday that Airstreams will be held April 25 - 29.

The annual event is traditionally hosted in the fall by MSE and the Arkansas Razorback Airstream Club as part of a nationwide campaign to stage Main Street/urban camping events to promote the RV lifestyle and help stimulate economic development and vitality in small-town America.

RVers from multiple states set up camp in designated spots around the Union County Courthouse square and spend several days in town, participating in activities, shopping in local businesses and donating to a local charity.

Airstreams 2023 was held Oct. 19 - 22.

During a regular MSE board meeting, McDonald said ARAC members scheduled the 2024 event for April because they plan to attend the 67th annual Airstream Club International Rally, which is set for Oct. 5 - 10, 2024, in Missouri.

McDonald said sign-up period for Airstreams 2024 opened last week and 25 campers had already signed up by Tuesday.

Dawne Kelly, outgoing president of the MSE board of directors, said the group will collect aluminum soda-can tabs to help raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Airstreams, which was launched in 2018, is the only such event to be hosted in Arkansas.

Beth Brumley, executive director of MSE, previously reported that 2023 event drew 50 RVs with a total of 112 campers from Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A check of Placer.ai data showed that at least 6,600 visitors flowed through downtown during the four-day event last month, Brumley has said.

Placer.ai software uses cellular phone data to count the number of people who gather in a designated radius.

In June, the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission approved a funding request of $10,000 from MSE to purchase the software in order to better track attendance at MSE events.

The $10,000 covers a one-year contract with Placer.

Brumley said the data is collected from areas where MSE events are concentrated downtown -- the streets that immediately surround the courthouse and the section of Cleveland Avenue between Main and Elm streets.

The numbers that were counted during Airstreams are skewed, she said, explaining that several other events -- El Dorado High School's homecoming celebration, high school class reunions and the Boomtown Classic -- were going on the same week as Airstreams.

"But that's still 6,000 people who came downtown between Thursday and Sunday," Brumley said.

For the first time, MSE provided an area for "generator-camping" for Airstreams.

Seven campers claimed the spots, which were set up on Cleveland Avenue between Main and Elm streets, while dozens of other campers settled into the slots for electrical hook-ups.

Retooling

MSE is also retooling a couple of other regular events for 2024.

The group already announced that it will shorten the hours for the Back to School Bash With a Splash installment of Summer on the Square.

The bash was a youth-led event that featured student entrepreneurs and entertainers for the day.

Brumley said 2,300 people were counted downtown during the bash, which was held Aug. 26.

Temperatures during the day reached a sizzling 108 degrees, forcing the cancellation of some Bash activities, including a petting zoo and horse-and-carriage rides.

MSE also took note of another trend from the event, which was scheduled from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Brumley said the crowd typically thins out between 2 and 4 p.m. before returning for a performance of Showdown at Sunset, a historical re-enactment of a deadly gunfight that took place in 1902 in the streets of the downtown square.

"The ones who show up for Showdown, it's a different crowd," Brumley previously said.

For next year, MSE plans to reduce the hours for the bash and close out the event earlier in the afternoon, possibly at 2 p.m.

MSE is also planning to shorten the hours for the annual Scare on the Square.

The event is customarily held from noon until 4 p.m.

Brumley reported that 2,500 visitors flowed through downtown during Scare on the Square 2023, which was held Oct. 28.

"We estimate that each adult (that was counted) had three or four kids with them, so, really, the number we're confident about is 7,500," Brumley said.

Roseburg - El Dorado, which manufactures forest products, volunteered to grill free hot dogs for the event and Kelly said all 800 hotdogs were handed out by 1:15 p.m.

"We began passing them out at 12:10 (p.m.)," she said with a laugh,.

Brumley and Kelly said several downtown shops reported that their Halloween trick-or-treating candy supplies were gone by 2 p.m.

Scare was filled with games and other activities, including children and pets' costume contests that served as fundraisers for UCAPA and The Call - Union County.

MSE board members said Scare will end at 3 p.m. next year.

Clarification

MSE is also gearing up for the holiday season with a bevy of events, starting with the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The ceremony will be followed by the Downtown Holiday Open House from 1 until 4 p.m. on Nov. 19.

On Tuesday, McDonald announced that two food trucks will set up for the downtown Pajama Party Pre-Black Friday sale event, which is set for 7 until 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23.

Last year, MSE board members said they heard from shoppers who noted that "there was no place to eat" downtown during the sale event because downtown restaurants typically close on Thanksgiving.

Flossie's and Willie T's food trucks will be parked downtown at 6 p.m.

MSE board members also cleared up details regarding two holiday events that are set for Dec. 9.

Pancakes with Pajamas with Santa will be held from 8 until 9:30 a.m. and Santa on the Square is set from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Pancakes will be held at new downtown restaurant Barefoot Bistro Bakery and Catering, 101 E. Main, and is a ticketed event at a cost of $25 per participant.

Breakfast will include pancakes, bacon, a choice of milk or orange juice and a "personal experience with Santa."

Brumley and McDonald said parents who bring their children are not required to pay for a ticket.

"The parent doesn't have to buy a ticket unless they want to eat. If you bring three kids, then you buy three tickets," Brumley said.

McDonald said participants will not be allowed inside after 9 a.m.

Santa on the Square is free and open to the public.

The event will include free rides on the holiday train and horse and carriage. Participants may also snap their own photos with Santa for free.

Brumley explained that proceeds from Pancakes will help cover costs to host the event and the cost of the train and horse-and-carriage rides that will be offered free to the public.

To register for pancakes, visit pancakes-with-santa-61939.cheddarup.com.

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