Since its inception in 2011, the Arkansas Cornbread Festival has exploded in popularity, far exceeding the modest expectations of founder and South Main Street advocate Anita Davis, who hoped to “bring people in our community together for good food, music and conversation.”
Originally hoping for “800 to 1,000 people, we were absolutely thrilled that thousands of people from all over the city and state came to see what makes South Main Street thrive,” Davis says.
Some might ask, “Why cornbread, and why South Main?”
Davis has easy explanations.
“Cornbread is an integral part of our southern heritage, and we live in a community steeped in history and tradition. It just seems to be a good fit for a festival in Little Rock.”
As for the South Main (SoMa) location, “one of the reasons the festival is important is to bring people to our area who have not seen the changes in our part of the city.”
Once people see what’s happening, they want to come back – the changes are happening almost daily at this point. Instead of the somewhat blighted, definitely ignored area of a few years back, SoMa is now hopping, something many people in the city didn’t realize until attending the inaugural Cornbread Festival, which drew 1,600 paying customers (and many more who slipped in unpaid).
The 2012 festival grew to 3,300 paying attendees, but had many more people in the crowd. The 2013 incarnation had an even larger turnout, along with bigger prizes for competitors, better promotion and better crowd control. The little festival that could required wristbands for entry, which kept people from wandering in.
The 2014 festival is co-chaired by SoMa residents, Lee Fleming and Karen Ford, who, as lovers of the area have quite the vested interests in keeping it alive and hopping.
This year’s festival will be back to the down-the-middle of Main Street formation with improvements – and full wheelchair accessibility. We can’t wait.