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Main Street El Dorado has had a busy year and the group is showing no signs of slowing down as 2019 draws to a close.

There may not have been a quorum during MSE’s regular meeting Tuesday but the board of directors still had plenty to discuss with multiple events planned over the next several weeks.

Having wrapped MusicFest XXXII Sept. 27 and 28, Main Street — which started the festival in the late 1980s, handles the festival portion of the event and partners with the Murphy Arts District, who books the musical headliners — is now setting its sights on a new festival that it is introducing this fall.

Smoke on the Square is set for Oct. 26 in the Union Square District.

The festival will feature family-oriented activities and attractions, some of which are specific to the season — such as Pie Wars, a pumpkin pie-eating and -baking competitions.

“We were looking for a new event and the opportunity to have another big fundraiser to bring in income to fund our program,” said Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado. “We have been looking at fall to do something for families and children that would give them that fall feel — something that would bring people to town and keep local people from having to go out of town to find fall activities, like a pumpkin patch.”

A paid wristband will allow all-day access to the Kids Fun Zone, which will include inflatables, a rock-climbing wall, petting zoo, small Ferris wheel, pony carousel and hay rides.

Children will also be able to flex their creative muscles in a T-shirt pageant. Contestants in different age categories may decorate their T-shirts however they wish for judging. T-shirts will be included in the entry fee for the pageant.

Taking to the stage will be the White Mustang Band, Anna Benson of the Moonshine Mafia and tribute bands Escape (Journey) and The Breeze (Lynryd Skynyrd).

There will also be a Budweiser Build-A-Bar with bar seats and TV screens.

At the center of the festival is the Smoke on the Square grilling competition, a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS)-sanctioned event in which cookers near and far are invited to whip up their most succulent BBQ recipes and vie for cash prizes with a guaranteed pot starting at $20,000.

By entering the competition, grillers may chase points that could lead to a major bid on the championship circuit.

“Smoke on the Square is an Arkansas State Championship and the winner will be invited to the Jack Daniel’s (World Championship Invitational Barbecue) in Lynchburg, Tennessee,” said Ron Cates, host of the Smoke on the Square grilling competition and president and chief executive officer of Smoke on the Water Productions, a KCBS representative.

Brumley said organizers were looking to sign up about 25 teams for the competition.

“We’ve got lots of locals doing it, as well as out-of-towners,” she said Tuesday.

Holly McDonald, Main Street administrative assistant, said those who are interested in entering in the competition may sign up as late as Oct. 23.

The festival will kick off at 8 a.m. with check-in and late registration for the T-shirt pageant and activities will be ongoing throughout the day until the VIP area closes at 11 p.m.

For more information about Smoke on the Square, call the Main Street office at 870-862-4747 or visit the Main Street Facebook page. Also, visit www.smokeonthewaterbbq.com for more details about the grilling competition.

Brumley said El Dorado High School’s homecoming is Oct. 25 and because setup for the festival will begin the same day, there will be a slight change to the traditional homecoming parade route.

Brumley said the parade will head east on Oak Street from North West Avenue instead of the customary turn on Main Street from the avenue.

Holiday events

Following Smoke on the Square will be Scare on the Square, a downtown trick-or-treat event from 4 until 7 p.m. on Halloween.

The event is being presented by Main Street and the Downtown Business Association. Main Street will serve free hot dogs.

First Thursday is set for Nov. 7 with a theme of Shop and Sip.

Also presented by MSE and the DBA, First Thursday is a monthly event that is designed to increase foot traffic downtown.

Retail shops remain open until 7 p.m. and merchants offer a variety of activities to encourage families to visit downtown, shop and eat.

McDonald noted that rain hampered First Thursday last week, prompting the cancellation of some performances by local cheerleading squads.

Tailgating was the theme and a modest crowd braved a thunderstorm to participate.

From Halloween, Main Street will move on to Christmas in preparation of several holiday events, including the annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony, which is set for 5:45 p.m. Nov. 21.

State representative and Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) will be the special guest.

Shepherd will “flip the switch” to illuminate the downtown holiday lighting display, which will include the Christmas Tree tower on West Main for the first time in four years.

A local committee raised $30,000 and asked for matching funds from the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission to relight the “big Christmas tree” this year.

Brumley said Main Street and the DBA are still working to finalize the details of a holiday advertising campaign, themed Experience El Dorado for the Holidays.

She said First Thursday in December will include an appearance by Santa Claus.

The Downtown Holiday Open House will be held from 1 until 4 p.m. Nov. 21; Shop Small Saturday — in which residents are encouraged to visit small businesses for their Christmas-shopping needs — is set for Nov. 30 and the El Dorado Christmas Parade will roll Dec. 12.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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