Pretty As A Peach

Festival celebrates sweet perfection

 created on Tuesday 7/18/2017 at 12:59:02 pm by Becca Martin Cutline 1editforpeaches_BW.jpg|peaches_CMYK.jpg|peaches_ORIG.jpg File Photo Peaches are still at the heart of the Johnson County Peach Festival, now in its 76th year.

File Photo
Peaches are still at the heart of the Johnson County Peach Festival, now in its 76th year.


It all began in Clarksville in 1938, or so the story of the Johnson County Peach Festival goes. And according to Milisa Woodard, president of this year’s edition, at 76, the festival is the oldest outdoor event of its kind in the state.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture explains that the festival was born out of the area’s successful peach industry, which dates back to the 1890s.

“In 1893, James R. Tolbert and Johnson J. Taylor decided to purchase and grow Elberta peaches in Johnson County. Their success spread throughout the region into other states. In 1897, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company became interested in this rising industry and, after negotiations, created a partnership including the peach farmers, the county and the railroad. Despite financial and environmental setbacks over the years, the industry thrived and became an integral part of the county.”

The first festival was held at Ludwig, about 4 miles from Clarksville, on June 26, 1938, the Encyclopedia states. “It was sponsored by the Johnson County Fruit Growers Association and was attended by several thousand visitors, including Governor Carl Bailey,” who autographed peaches. Other events included orchard tours, a potluck-style picnic and musical events.

This weekend’s Peach Festival will include music — bands On the Verge and Typsy Gypsy play for a street dance starting at 6 p.m. Friday — crafts booths, a kids’ zone, the 30th annual Great Celebrated Johnson County Frog Jump at 10 a.m. Saturday, a car and truck show, bed races, peach spitting and eating contests and a new event: So You Think You Can Text. Yes, says Woodard, it is a texting competition. Entry fee is $2 for a six-person heat every 30 minutes starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“We’re trying to rejuvenate some money back into the festival,” Woodard says. “We are nonprofit, we’re the oldest festival, and we want to keep it going.”


Johnson County

Peach Festival

WHEN — Today-Sunday

WHERE — Clarksville

COST — Admission is free; activities may charge a fee


Categories: Family Friendly