Riding high off the success of last year’s reboot, organizers of the second annual Strong Fall Festival are hoping to double the number of attendees for the 2017 event.
The festival is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 7 in Downtown Strong.
The family-friendly event will include a variety of children’s activities, food and merchandise vendors, a DJ and music.
Capping off the day will be a concert at 7 p.m., featuring blues and southern soul artists Omar Cunningham, Summer Wolfe and Ghetto Cowboy,
Admission into the festival will be free until 6 p.m. For the concert, tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of the event.
Strong’s flagship festival was relaunched in 2016, following a 12-year hiatus, and drew a crowd of 230 to concerts that were held at night.
“That’s half the population of Strong,” said Benito Glosson, an organizer and host of the event.
For years, the Strong Fall Festival was one of the most highly anticipated annual events in Union County, with a bevy of family-friendly activities, including lawn mower and tractor races, a pageant and cake/pie auction — a charitable fundraiser that was backed by Herring Furniture.
Proceeds were poured back into city coffers to help maintain public parks.
The event fizzled out in 2004, and efforts to get it going again didn’t came together until 2016 when city treasurer/recorder Allison Howell introduced the idea of reviving the festival.
City officials felt the time was right, not only to bring the community together and promote Strong, but also to join the growing list other festivals and events throughout Union County that bring visitors to the area.
Glosson was tapped to help organize and promote the 2016 festival, and he said the community — individuals, businesses and other Union County cities, including El Dorado — eagerly pitched in to help make the event a success.
Glosson, whose background is in entertainment and event promotion (he is the founder and organizer the annual Juneteenth Festival in El Dorado), was brought back to do the same this year.
“Last year, we had a great turnout … It was a beautiful situation. The mayor (Daryl Howell) and the city council seemed happy with the way I put it together,” Glosson said.
He said organizers looked at what worked and what didn’t work in 2016 and agreed on some changes for this year’s event.
One of the changes is the date.
The Strong Fall Festival was traditionally held on the last weekend in October, close to Halloween.
Glosson said attendance was down during the day in 2016 because many Strong residents headed across the Louisiana border to attend Grambling State University’s homecoming activities on the same day.
However, Glosson said he noticed an influx of people for the concert that night, noting that many people had returned from Grambling by then.
“So, this year, we moved it closer to the beginning of the month so there would be no conflict,” he said.
Radio, TV and print promotions have also been expanded this year to reach more people within a 70-mile radius.
The ads will be coupled with ongoing promotions on social media, Glosson said.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people from Little Rock and other areas who are from Strong, and they heard that the festival is going again, so they’re coming back home for the festival,” he said.
“We want to make it bigger and better with a lot more people coming this time. I expect to have at least 1,000, twice the size of Strong’s population,” he said.
Glosson said 10 food and merchandise vendors set up for 2016, and so far this year, 18 have signed up.
The day will include giant inflatables and games, a DJ and musical performances, including a calypso entertainer with steel drums.
Organizers are also working to incorporate a fraternity/sorority step show into festival activities this year, but plans for the show have not been finalized.
Keeping with the same format from 2016, the streets will be cleared at 6 p.m. to set up for the concert.
Cunningham, Wolfe and Ghetto Cowboy are some of the most popular artists in the blues/southern soul circuit.
Each has appeared in shows in the area, including the Soul Fest and Southern Soul Showdown that are presented by Mr. Mike’s Productions each year at the Union County Fairgrounds.
For the future, Glosson said organizers are looking at expanding the Strong Fall Festival to more than one day and bringing in diverse musical acts.
Vendors who are interested in purchasing booth space or any dancers or singers, including gospel choirs and solo acts, who would like to perform on stage during the day may call Glosson at 870-866-7763 or Allison Howell at 870-310-2566.
To purchase tickets, call Glosson or Howell. Tickets are also available at Strong City Hall and Mr. Mike’s Music and Artwork in El Dorado.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.