Toad Suck Daze Celebrates 40th Anniversary with “Deconstructed” Festival [North Metro Business Journal]

North Metro Business Journal May 2021

“Is Toad Suck Daze happening?”

It is the question on many people’s minds asvaccinations ramp-up and COVID-19 casesfall, bringing a sense of normalcy to Arkansasand the U.S.

The answer? “Yes, it’s happening. It just won’t look the same.”

Mary Margaret Satterfield, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s director of Toad Suck Daze and events, spoke with the North Metro Business Journal about plans for the largest, free-admission family festival in Arkansas, which is celebrating its 40th year in 2021. This year also marks a milestone anniversary for Satterfield; it is her 20th Toad Suck Daze.

“That’s counting the festivals I’ve helped plan. It doesn’t count the ones I attended as a kid,” said the Conway native. Since Satterfield’s involvement as the festival organizer, Toad Suck Daze has taken place on the streets of downtown Conway during the first weekend of May. (Its original location was on the banks of the Arkansas River in the Toad Suck community.)

Before the pandemic, more than 100,000 people would attend the three-day festival. In the age of social distancing, Toad Suck Daze organizers made the decision to hold the 40th festival at a smaller scale to keep the crowd size at a minimum.

“We believe it’s the responsible thing to do from a public health perspective,” Satterfield said. “We have developed a ‘deconstructed’ festival that brings back some of the popular, socially distanced activities we introduced in 2020 combined with some traditional favorites.

“Everything will be in the spirit of ToadSuck Daze.”

Between the end of April and the middle of June – close to 40 days to commemorate the 40th anniversary – Toad Suck Daze will host several live events in partnership with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the Museum of Discovery, the City of Conway, and a host of corporate sponsors. First Arkansas Bank & Trust is the presenting sponsor of the festival for the third year in a row.

All events will take place outdoors, and facemasks are encouraged. Here’s what to expect.

Centennial Bank Airplane Parade Friday, April 30 | 4-7 p.m.

Toad Suck Daze is partnering with the City of Conway and the Lollie Bottoms Pilot Association to bring back the popular Centennial Bank Airplane Parade introduced in 2020. The second annual event will expand to include viewing areas at the Conway Regional Airport at Cantrell Field and two designated locations throughout the city. The pilots – including the Bulldog Flight Formation Team – will fly all over Conway, so many people will have the ability to view the planes from their homes. A map of the routes and designated viewing locations is available at toadsuck.org.

At the airport, spectators will be able to watch the planes take off and land and can view vintage aircraft on the ground. A food truck and sponsor booths also will be set upon the airport grounds. Planes will take off shortly before 6 p.m., and the air show will last 45 minutes. The Conway Regional Airport is located 10.3 miles west of Interstate 40,along U.S. Highway 60 (Dave Ward Drive) to Lollie Road.

Taste of Toad Suck Every Friday in May | 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Food vendors will be stationed in downtown Conway at Rogers Plaza on May 7, May 14,May 21, and May 28, serving up some Toad Suck Daze favorites – corn dogs, chicken-on-a-stick, funnel cakes, turkey legs, walking tacos, barbecue, and more. Every Friday, two food vendors will be set up, so the menu will change weekly. Visit toadsuck.org for a list of participating concessionaires and what they plan to serve and when.

Located near the arch, Rogers Plaza is thearea in front of the Conway Area Chamber ofCommerce at 900 Oak Street.

Toad Suck Tinkerfest Saturday, May 8 | 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Established in 2018 in partnership with Acxiom, the Museum of Discovery, and the Conductor, Toad Suck Tinkerfest provides hands-on, educational activities that incorporate the elements of the STEAM educational curriculum: science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Admission is free, but advance registration is recommended, as the number of attendees will be limited to ensure adequate social distancing.

Toad Races Thursday, May 13 | 4-6:30 p.m.

The parking lot at the corner of Parkway and Main Streets in downtown Conway will become the site of the 2021 toad races. The Toad Master will kick off the festivities with the V.I.T. (Very Important Toad)

Race followed by races that are open to the public. The open toad races will culminate with the World Championship. Advance registration is encouraged for the open races, but walk-ups are welcome.

In addition, the Jump for Education Race, which brings together the winners of toad races held at area elementary schools, will take place on May 13. Every elementary school student in Faulkner County will receive a Toad Toter from their school.

Racers can bring their own toad (frogs are not allowed), or they can race a toad that is provided. During the week of May 10, toads will be accepted at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. Chamber staff will release the toads to their natural environment following the races.

Nature and Science Exhibit Wednesday, May 19 | 3-7 p.m.

The Nature and Science Exhibit will take place at the Meadows Office and Technology Park, located at 355 Ledgelawn Drive in Conway. Organized in partnership with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and the Museum of Discovery, the Nature & Science Exhibit was introduced in 2020 as a drive-thru event. This year, attendees will be able to park and walk through the exhibits, allowing more time for interaction. Admission is free.

Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland Concert Friday, June 11 | 7 p.m.

Jimmie Allen, the Academy of Country Music’s 2021 New Male Artist of the Year, will headline an in-person, ticketed concert at the University of Central Arkansas Farris Center on Friday, June 11.

Signed to BBR Music Group’s Stoney Creek Records, Allen has already made history as the first Black artist to launch a career with two consecutive No. 1 hits on country radio – the first being his debut single “Best Shot” – which claimed the No. 1 spot for three weeks – and second being his latest single “Make Me Want To” off his debut album Mercury Lane, released fall 2018. Learn more about Allen on his website, jimmieallenmusic.com.

More details about the Jimmie Allen concert, including time and ticket prices, will be available at toadsuck.org. Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland is the title sponsor of this year’s entertainment. The concert is presented by the Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau and Conway Regional Health System.

Toad Suck Daze T-shirts will be available for purchase at every Toad Suck Daze event or at toadsuck.org. Mascots Croaker and Dazey will also be available for photo opportunities. For the latest information about Toad Suck Daze 2021, visit toadsuck.org or follow Toad Suck Daze on Facebook at facebook.com/toadsuckdaze


This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of the North Metro Business Journal.