With the popular Third Thursday outing and up-and-coming businesses going strong, historic downtown Benton is hopping. It’s a place for citizens and business owners alike to take pride in all year long. From long-standing events like the lighting of the courthouse to the Saline County Fair parade and Spook City, downtown Benton is a place that musters up memories for the older generations and creates new ones for the younger. It’s these time-honored traditions that have paved the way for newer events like Third Thursday.
One such trailblazing event is Old Fashioned Day. “The excitement of Third Thursdays will hopefully carry over to this event,” says organizer Cheryl Farmer. “It will be similar to Third Thursday but will be all day and evening.”
Old Fashioned Day has been around for decades—45 years to be exact. It’s the oldest festival in Benton. And with the old comes some new. To shake things up a bit, the zombie parade and coffin races will return like last year during the evening portion of the event. People may get their makeup done to look like zombies, and participate in the parade. A street dance will follow.
The festivities kick off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12, and take place around the courthouse square. Vendors don’t have to shut down when the sun sets and have the option of keeping their booths open into the evening if they choose, Cheryl says.
“This year, we are trying to bring back more arts and crafts booths, like it was in years gone by,” Cheryl says. “This festival is such a sweet time for families and friends to shop, visit and enjoy the launching of the fall season.”
Included in the festivities are food trucks and a beer garden; live entertainment, such as music and local dance studio performances; and a children’s area with bouncy houses and other activities on the courthouse lawn. The Saline County Quilt Guild will be raffling its annual quilt to benefit the quilt guild. Even a knifemaker will be on hand to demonstrate how to make knives. In addition, the historic Shoppach House on Main Street will be open for visitors.
Proceeds from the festival benefit the Benton Senior Wellness Center. They use the proceeds to help feed those in need, and to provide programs to entertain and foster the independence and well-being of the local older population. “It allows for more opportunities of social interaction and basic support and needs services,” Cheryl says.
This event provides much-needed funds for the senior center, Cheryl adds. “People are living longer than ever, and this center provides socialization that they otherwise may not have. It enhances their lives. But it takes funds to keep the center going, and they rely on this event to help continue their services.”
In an effort to make the event bigger than last year’s festivities and establish a base for future growth, participation will be more affordable to attract more vendors. Booth space is now available for $50, and volunteers will help unload and park vendors’ cars. “We are working to be a hospitable atmosphere to attract more crafts, and people trying to sell their wares. It’s a good opportunity for people to come and shop and get ready for the season,” Cheryl says. “Hopefully, after this year, the event will get better and better.”
Time slots for entertainers are also available. The stage will be set up between Cleo’s Furniture and the federal building on Main Street. Old Fashioned Day provides a good opportunity for entertainers to be heard, from the budding artist to the more well-known, Cheryl says. Participation is free.
Other activities are taking place in connection to Old Fashioned Day. That morning, a pancake breakfast hosted by the American Legion will take place at the Republican building on Market Street and a 5K hosted by the Royal Players begins at the River Center to benefit the Royal Theatre. Retail stores and businesses that are normally open on Saturdays will be open that day as well.
After being a small part of the event last year, Cheryl, whose husband Tom Farmer was elected mayor of Benton last year, says she wanted to get more involved to see it grow and get back the same greatness it once had.
“Third Thursdays have been a big hit, but they stop in September,” Cheryl says. “They won’t return until May, so Old Fashioned Day gives us an opportunity to stretch the popular Third Thursday vibe into October.”
Cheryl encourages more vendors and entertainers to contact her to be part of the long-standing Benton tradition that Old Fashioned Day is. She may be contacted at email@example.com or 501-590-6192, if you need to reserve a space or want to find out more information.