Fort Smith and our region benefit tremendously from conventions and events brought to our area. Attracting and retaining these happenings relies on the efforts of everyone in the hospitality industry.
From left: Kermit Walsh and Jackie Hoffarth
Our newest Hometown Hospitality Heroes are Jackie Hoffarth, President of the Fort Smith Western Heritage Month and Kermit Walsh, Vice President of the Fort Smith Western Heritage Month. Fort Smith Western Heritage Month was conceptually designed to broaden the base of people who would be interested in attending the Old Fort Days Rodeo, an institution in the Fort Smith community and to bring downtown together to embrace and promote our rich western heritage. Rodeo chairperson, Ron Scamardo, tells us that, “all their efforts were successful with a huge group of committee members and individuals coming together to create a very memorable month of May and an incredible number of events. All of these had a positive impact on tourism in Fort Smith. Jackie had this vision and proceeded to recruit a committee of dedicated people who wanted to see Western Heritage Month come to be. Jackie worked extensively with all the rodeo people to build the event and the rodeo related activities.
Kermit tells us in reflective summary statement of the month, “Our first year of Fort Smith Western Heritage Month kicked off with the signing of the “Proclamation”, December 2, 2013 by Mayor Sanders on the gallows of the Fort Smith Historical Site.
Jackie and I had presentations with civic organizations from last July right up to May of this year.
It started with First Thursday, May 1, 2014 and a “Ready to Rodeo” reception at the Fort Smith Museum of History , featuring Denny Flynn, Executive Director of Kay Rodgers Park speaking of his years as a Professional Bull Rider.
May 3rd La Huerta’s Grill featured Country and Latin Music to Kick off Cinco de Mayo. May 2-4 was the Hanging Judge Cutting horse Competition competing for over $100,000 in prizes and money. The US Marshals Museum hosted the 2014 Safe Kids Fair with area law enforcement agencies and businesses fingerprinting, photographing and teaching ways to protect children. May 16 – 17th the Western Heritage Art Show held a reception to meet and greet the artists Friday evening and hold a show for the sale of western art Saturday. It was the first event held at the Old Frisco Station recently taken over by the Park Service and renovated by them. May 17th was a chilly and wet “Judge Parker’s Rope War”, a competitive tug of war between 10 local businesses with 10 members to a team. Rham Cunningham, owner of ThingsToDoInFortSmith.com hosted and MC’d this fun event enjoyed by all. Saturday evening, May 17th “Movies on the Green” played “The Cowboys” starring John Wayne at UAFS. May 17 thru 24 was The Old Fort Days Futurity and Derby, billed as the World’s Richest Barrel Race, with over 400 contestants from all over North America competing for several hundred thousand dollars in prize money.
Safe Kids Fair
Judge Parker’s Rope War
May 24 two Cowboy Mounted Shooting demonstrations were held north of Harry Kelly Park where the Marshals Museum will be. Billed as the fastest growing equine sport in America, Nationals Champion Kim Redo and her husband Bob put on a lively show with about 10 shooters. May 25th, Heath Wright & the Hangmen put on a free Old Fort Days Kick-Off Concert at Kay Rodgers Park. May 26th Immaculate Conception church started Memorial Day with a Pancake Breakfast from 6AM till 10 AM at which time the Old Fort Days Colordash down Garrison Avenue kicked off the 81st OFD Rodeo Parade with thousands of spectators lining the parade route and ending with the runners having a COLOR EXPLOSION at the finish line of the Fort Smith Convention Center. That evening began the six nights of the OFD PCRA Rodeo. Following the parade the Optimist Club put on a kids carnival in the parking lot next to the Old Town Club. The Lawbreakers and Peacemakers performed weekly at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum and opened the rope wars, the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Demos and did a reenactment at the start of the rodeo parade. Floyd and Sue Robinson made numerous appearances as Judge and Mrs. Isaac C. Parker.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting Demonstrators
The ColorDash – Color Explosion at the Fort Smith Convention Center
Annual Old Fort Days Rodeo Parade
Right after the parade, the Fort Smith Museum of History hosted a Cowboy gathering with western music and cowboy poets. May 28th the Museum hosted the Rodeo Queens and Dandies formal tea featuring current and former Rodeo Queens from Arkansas and Oklahoma and Dandies with programs from the rodeo dating back many years for the to reminisce about.
These month long activities show an outstanding community effort of many organizations and business coordinating under the leadership of the Fort Smith Western Heritage Month. Other officers of the organization include: Treasurer, Joan McCoy and Secretary Jennifer Miller, Media Specialists: Rham Cunningham and Thad Crawford. Marcie Jabor served as the Downtown Liaison for 2014, Jayne Hughes and Jim Spears were Masters of Ceremonies for the parade and both Claude Legris and Judge Jim Spears served as Directors at large.”
The direct economic impact of all of these events is difficult to calculate exactly. However, after giving it some thought, staff contacted Ron Scamardo, Old Fort Days Rodeo chair and obtained some relevant numbers. In 2013 the Old Fort Days Rodeo total attendance was just under 23,000. In 2014, the Rodeo attendance was increased to 39,500. This is an increase of 71%. Economic principals tell us that each event adds to the whole…so this multiple sequence of both old and new activities accomplished what was set out to do: broaden the demographic base to build attendance at the Old Fort Days Rodeo! For those of you who are numbers fans here are just a few. For the events that were held in 2013 in May leading up to the rodeo the total direct impact was $3,223,038. The indirect impact was $2,401,238. The total economic impact of the rodeo and lead up events was $5,624,276. These figures come from our nationally recognized economic software. If you take the final 5 million figure and increase that by 71%- this year’s lead up events and rodeo had a total economic impact of $9,617,512.
We thank Jackie Hoffarth, Kermit Walsh, and all the people who helped to make the first Fort Smith Western Heritage Month such a success. We appreciate their hard work in initiating and supporting the local efforts to bring the together a roster of events –which both individually and collectively made a significant contribution in the growth of our tourism revenues. Thanks Jackie and Kermit, for leading the parade and building the demographic and bringing the highest numbers in spectators and participants to be involved with our great Fort Smith tradition, the Old Fort Days Rodeo!!!
Old Fort Days Rodeo