Dozens of carnival rides and games, an intense bull-riding competition, live music, horticulture exhibits, livestock events and fair food soon will have people talking and smiling in Fort Smith.
The 2018 Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair will take place Sept. 21-29 at Kay Rodgers Park, 4400 Midland Blvd., and the family friendly event will feature the Xtreme Bulls competition, multi-genre concerts, the Mighty Thomas Carnival, the Youth Talent Competition and shows that delve deep into comedy and stunts, said Kelly Clark, fair chairman.
"This is the first time we've had this at the fair," he said of the Xtreme Bulls event, which will begin at 8 p.m. Sept. 27 and feature more than 40 competing bull riders. "These competitors will try to stay on their bulls for eight seconds, and it's a PRC-sanctioned event.
"This could be a very cool night for people as they could see some really big names at Xtreme Bulls — big names that usually aren't seen in this area of the country," Clark added.
"Big names" will be seen playing instruments and singing into microphones at this year's fair, he said. Los Nortenos de Ojinaga will begin playing their uptempo set at 9 p.m. Sept. 21, followed by country singer-musician Chase Bryant at 8 p.m. Sept. 22. Jackyl will launch into a show that will merge Southern rock, hard rock and more beginning at 8 p.m. Sept. 28.
"We're excited about the music," Clark said.
The fair's concerts are free with paid gate admission; fair admission is $8 per adults, $4 for children ages 3-11 and free for children 2 and younger. Advance ride tickets, armbands and gate admission can be purchased at ArkansasOklahomaFair.com.
"It's my understanding that the carnival will be bringing some new rides this year, as well," Clark said. "Absolutely, it's an exciting time."
Various horticulture and floriculture exhibits also will make this year's Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair memorable for attendees, said Jayson McGaugh, county extension agent — agriculture for the Sebastian County Cooperative Extension Service.
"The fair is fantastic," he said. "We have opportunities for youth to compete in different kinds of events, and there are the creative arts exhibits and many other activities and events that happen at the fair.
"With the livestock shows and the animal shows, young people have an opportunity to compete with other 4-H members and FFA members," McGaugh added.
At each fair, people of all ages are surprised by how many educational opportunities can be found within the gates of Kay Rodgers Park, he said.
"And of course, we can't forget about the rides and fair food," McGaugh said. "The food is different than food found anywhere else, and kids and adults can see what all is out there in their community."
The annual Youth Talent Competition will begin at 3 p.m. Sept. 22, while the Feeding Hope Day event will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 26. The former features young area performers who specialize in singing, dancing, instrumental abilities and more, while the latter will ask fair-goers to donate one canned food or non-perishable food item in exchange for fair admission; the food collected will benefit the River Valley Regional Food Bank, a United Way community partner that collects and distributes food to agencies that help area individuals and families.
"The Midway Acts at the fair will be really cool this year," he said. "The Nervous Nocks is a stunt-based thrill show that happens three times a day, and one of the highlights there is what we call the Wheel of Death.
"The Nervous Nocks will be breathtaking, and the Allez-Oops! group is fun," Clark added.
The livestock shows and competitions each year comprise "the core value" of the fair, he said.
"We want the fair to be fun and entertaining, but we also want people to be walking up and down those aisles and looking at the fair's livestock," Clark said. "There's much effort on the kids' part, getting ready for the fair each time, and we sure don't want to lose sight of that ever at the Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair."