Rockabilly music phenomenon and local piano legend Jason D. Williams will return home to headline the SouthArk Outdoor Expo, an effort of the South Arkansas Community College Foundation, on Sept. 14 at the El Dorado Conference Center.
The Expo is aimed at outdoor sporting enthusiasts, with attractions like a rib cook-off, archery demonstrations, model aviation, an outdoor photography contest, a 5K run and a duck-calling contest. But the Expo, in its 15th installment, has developed into an event with broader appeal, with vendors and exhibitors from many different walks of life. It has grown into one of the biggest festivals on the area's calendar.
"We started this event in the late '90s on the back parking lot of the college with a few exhibits and a handful of cooking teams," SouthArk president Dr. Barbara Jones said. "Last year we hosted more than 65 vendors and exhibitors, 40 cooking teams and more than 350 volunteers from the college and community."
Williams, who takes the stage at 2 p.m., is just one of a long list of musical performers that also includes southern rock performer Shari Bales, country artist Meredith Nelson, bluegrass band the Goat Pilots and the University of Monticello Jazz Band.
The Phil Herring Rib Cook-Off carries a top prize of $1,000 and other cash prizes. The entry fee is $100 per team; deadline is Aug. 30.
Additionally, there will be a drawing for an official Phil Robertson recliner by Best Home Furnishings, presented by Herring Furniture. Robertson is one of the stars of the hit TV series "Duck Dynasty."
The Outdoor Expo Photograph Contest carries a $200 best-of-show prize plus cash prizes in four categories (people in the outdoors, wildlife, flora, scenes). The entry fee is $5 per photograph; deadline is Sept. 12.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Duck-Calling Contest has a $200 top prize for teams, $100 for adults and $50 for youth, with cash prizes to third place in each division. The entry fee is $40 per team, $25 per adult and $5 per child; deadline is 11 a.m. on Sept. 14.
Registration for the Maj. Ronald Wayne Culver Hero 5K Run-Walk is $20 by Sept. 9 and $25 thereafter, up to the day of the event. It begins at 7:30 a.m. on the northeast corner of the conference center property.
Expo organizers still are accepting vendor registrations; the deadline is Aug. 15.
"The SouthArk Outdoor Expo is a great community and college event. It is the mission of the Foundation board of directors that we make this event informative, fun and educational for outdoor enthusiasts and the whole community," event chair Greg Withrow said. "We are proud and honored that Tom Loftin Construction, for the second year, is sponsoring the Outdoor Expo. They are dedicated to education and providing support to our community."
Admission to the Expo is one canned or packaged food item, which will be donated to a local food pantry.
"We are thankful to local individuals, businesses and industries for their generous sponsorships which allow us to make this event so successful," Withrow said.
Proceeds from the day's activities benefit SouthArk students through scholarships and other efforts of the SouthArk Foundation.
"It's a wonderful event that raises much-needed funds for the benefit of our students," SouthArk president Dr. Barbara Jones said.