COTTER: If your favorite childhood memories include fishing, the 8th Annual Great Cotter Trout Festival is the place to be April 17 – 18 in Cotter, Ark., Trout Capital USA. Festivities begin at Noon Friday in Cotter’s Big Spring Park on the banks of the famous White River, where enthusiasts from around the world fish for trophy brown, brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout. Whether you’re indulging old memories or making new ones with your children or grandchildren, this is a celebration for the whole family.
One of the festival’s annual highlights is the Kid’s Fishing Hole, open 9 a.m. – 2 p. m. Saturday for children 15 and younger. It’ll be stocked with 500 keepers by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. Experts will be on hand to teach and help. Kids will also enjoy inflatables, games, face painting, and the Lowe’s Tic Tack Toe and Seed Grow Planter building project (10 a.m. – Noon Saturday).
Casting and fly tying demonstrations and instruction by members of area fishing organizations and clubs are annual hits for all ages. Talk fish with a host of major fishing and conservation groups, including the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Mid South Fly Fishers, North Arkansas Fly Fishers, Damsel Fly Fishers, Mountain Home Rod and Reel Fishing Club, Arkansas Outfitters & Guide Association, White & North Fork Rivers Outfitters, Trout Unlimited, Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, and the Federation of Fly Fishers.
New this year is the Artist’s Paint Out and Quick Draw. Artists are invited to set up around the park to paint the activities and landscape, and may sell their work. Registration for the Paint Out and Quick Draw is in the Artist’s Tent at the festival. The Quick Draw starts at 9 a.m. Saturday with a registration fee of $5 for one piece of art. Artwork is due at 1 p.m. and awards will be presented at 5:30. Contact Sandy Barksdale at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Friday evening’s BBQ and Blues Night starts at 4 p.m. with live music from the award-winning blues band Big Red and the Soul Benders. Cost for dinner is $6. The beer garden returns this year both Friday and Saturday nights, 4 – 8 p.m.
An old-fashioned parade down Harding, Second, and McLean Streets kicks off festivities at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Prizes will be awarded for Best Rainbow Float, Coolest Bicycle, and Funniest Dog. ‘Over the Rainbow’ is the theme. Organizations and individuals, especially kids, are invited to participate. Contact Beth Harmon at email@example.com or Deb Peterson at 870-656-7071 for more information.
Also new this year is a pageant at 2 p.m. Saturday, sponsored by the North Arkansas Youth Center. The fee is $20 and applications are due April 10. There are five divisions for girls (ages 3 – 19) and two for boys (ages 3 – 8). Call Andrea or Anita at the youth center at 435-2850 for details. Applications are available 37 p.m. at the center at 412 Powell in Cotter.
Other festival attractions include a KTLO Treasure Chest, music by the Ovation Academy and Rio, and over 75 arts and crafts booths, open Noon – 5 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday. To reserve booth space, contact Larry Barker at 870-425-9261.
The festival ends Saturday evening with an Arkansas Game & Fish Employee Appreciation Catfish dinner at 4 p.m. ($6) and the bluegrass sounds of Crooked Creek.
The Great Cotter Trout Festival, sponsored by the Cotter Area Chamber of Commerce, is held on the grounds of the Anglin-Tinnon Railroad Workers Memorial in Big Spring Park. Visitors will enjoy special exhibits of Cotter’s colorful history as a railroad boom town more than 100 years ago. For more information, contact festival chairman, Gary Flippin, at 870-435-6144. Lodging and other information about the Cotter area can be found at www.cotterarkansas.com or www.troutcapitalusa.net.