Airstreams will roll into town this week

Main Street: MusicFest a success

Airstreams will once again line the streets of downtown El Dorado, starting Thursday with the sixth-annual Airstreams on the Square event. (News-Times file)
Airstreams will once again line the streets of downtown El Dorado, starting Thursday with the sixth-annual Airstreams on the Square event. (News-Times file)

Main Street El Dorado has had a few days to recover and catch its breath since wrapping MusicFest XXXV. Now, the group is preparing to host dozens of guests this week for Airstreams on the Square 2023.

RVs will begin rolling into town at noon Thursday for the sixth annual event and they will remain in downtown El Dorado until Sunday.

Presented by MSE and the Arkansas Razorback Airstream Club, Airstreams on the Square is part of a campaign to stage Main Street/urban camping events across the country in order to promote the RV lifestyle and help stimulate economic development and vitality in small-town America.

El Dorado is the first and only city in Arkansas to host such an event.

Beth Brumley, executive director of MSE, said 53 RVs are expected to participate in Airstreams 2023 and if all attend, they will break a record for the most attendees ever.

In 2022, 61 campers signed up for Airstreams and 36, the most ever, participated.

Airstreams has drawn campers from several states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida and Ohio.

For the first time, MSE will provide an area for "generator-camping." Seven campers have claimed the spots, which will be set up on Cleveland Avenue between Main and Elm streets, Brumley said.

Dozens of other campers have registered for electrical hookups.

A "Who Dunnit?" murder-mystery motif will set the mood for Airstreams 2023 and organizers have planned a slew of auxiliary activities to keep campers entertained while they are in town.

The public is invited to greet and visit with campers. Some auxiliary activities that are scheduled throughout the four-day period are free and open to the public.

A dance party is set for 8 until 10 p.m. Friday in downtown El Dorado.

The event will feature live music from Remnants of Rock, a cover band who performs rock music from the 1960s and 70s.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Who Dunnit? Chili Challenge, a cooking competition that is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Competitors must be members of ICS. The competition will include four categories -- traditional red chili, homestyle, chili verde and salsa.

Entry fees are $35 for traditional red, $30 for homestyle, $25 for chili verde and $20 for salsa.

Cash prizes will be awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category. Competitors who take home the first-place prizes will also receive a trophy.

Certificates will be awarded to all other winners.

A public chili tasting will be held from 1 until 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for "all you can eat" and may be purchased the day of the event.

Self-guided downtown walking tours and tours of the Newton House Museum, 510 N. Jackson, will be available from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. The tours are free.

Baggo boards will also be set up on the downtown square for free plays.

The 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer's - South Arkansas is expected to flow through downtown Saturday morning with a route along Jefferson Avenue.

Registration will begin at 9 a.m. at the El Dorado Conference Center, 311 S. West Ave.

For more information about Airstreams or the chili cookoff, visit mainstreeteldorado.org. To learn more about the Walk to End Alzheimer's, go to act.alz.org.

MusicFest

Brumley said MSE is still tallying numbers for the 35th anniversary of MusicFest, which was held Oct. 6 and 7 in downtown El Dorado.

Headliners and featured performers, including local and regional acts, throughout the weekend were Tonic, The Cadillac Three, Lorrie Morgan and Jesse Keith Whatley, Mad Hatters Dueling Pianos, Payback: James Brown Tribute, Nia Renèe, the TaylorMade Band, Crutchfield, Payton Smith, Calvin Kemble, JT Lee, Brooklyn Fogle, Chris Loggins, Los De La Haacienda, Jay Tune, Black-Strap, Jimmy Lewis and 8 Second Ride, the Side Street Steppers, Blaine Howard and Brody McKinney.

A preliminary count that was taken from Placer.ai software, which relies on cellular phone data to count the number of people in a designated radius, showed that at least 10,800 people flowed in and out of downtown El Dorado during MusicFest weekend, Brumley reported,

She noted that the number aligns with the attendance count from MusicFest 2022, which marked the year that all MusicFest activities returned to the streets of downtown El Dorado.

MSE launched MusicFest in the late 1980s and in 2017, the group entered into a partnership with the Murphy Arts District to celebrate the grand opening of MAD.

For the next few years, with the exception of 2020 when MusicFest was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, MAD booked the headliners in its entertainment venues and MSE handled the festival portion of the event with attractions, vendors, side stages and more two blocks north on the Union County Courthouse Square.

In early 2022, MAD announced that it was redirecting its focus and getting out of the "festival business" to concentrate on keeping its venues booked with entertainment throughout the year.

MAD handed the reins of the "music" portion of Musicfest back over to MSE.

MSE themed MusicFest 2022 as "Back to the Streets," acknowledging that the event would enter a rebuilding phase that may last several years.

On Monday, Brumley said MSE is awaiting an accounting report for MusicFest XXXV.

"We know what we deposited but we don't know a lot of numbers yet, so I don't have a lot to report right now," she said.

Brumley noted that on-site ticket sales for the Oct. 7 (Saturday) leg of the festival were likely lower than corresponding sales in 2022 but advance ticket sales for 2023 were markedly higher than last year's.

"So, we figure that's going to be a wash," she said.

Participation was up in several MusicFest activities, including the South Arkansas Regional Hospital MusicFest 5K/10K Run & Walk, the Miss MusicFest Pageant, sponsored by Cole's Jewelers, and the MusicFest Rib Cookoff, sponsored by Red River Credit Union.

Brumley said the 5K drew more than 80 participants and 52 contestants entered the pageant -- the most ever for either event.

A new activity, the GlowFest foam party for children ages 8 - 15, was a hit, she said.

The event was held on Oct. 6 (Friday), included a DJ and adult chaperones and was free with the price of admission into the festival.

Brumley said MSE plans to bring the activity back in 2024.

"The kids had a blast and Roseburg enjoyed sponsoring it," she said.

Feedback was mixed about the musical talent for Musicfest 2023, but overall, Brumley said the live music seemed to mostly go over well with audiences.

A highlight, she said, was watching headliners, including The Cadillac Three, check out performances on side stages and invite some of the local and regional talent backstage and onstage to perform with them.

"The Cadillac Three invited (McKinney) on stage to sing with them. It's kind of cool to see that they recognized local talent. If (the naysayers in) the community weren't so grumpy and would enjoy the local talent ... because there's some really good talent on those stages," Brumley said.

Scare on the Square

Next up after Airstreams is Scare on the Square, which is slated for noon - 4 p.m. on Oct. 28 in downtown El Dorado.

The event will include trick-or-treating at downtown businesses, free hot dogs, games, vendors and more.

The Mutt Strut Costume Contest will begin at 1 p.m. and the Kids Costume Contest will begin at 2 p.m. Entry fees are $5 and $10, respectively.

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

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