The 6th Annual RailFest has been retooled and is coming back to Texarkana’s Front Street Festival Plaza. This year the event is a two-day music fest featuring country, blues and oldies performances on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7.
Ross Cowling, Texarkana, Ark., parks and recreation director, has spent months planning the event, which is funded every year by the City’s Advertising and Promotion Commission. He is excited having the support of the commission to extend RailFest into a two days.
“We think this is the best bang for the consumer’s buck, and is a way to generate tourism in Texarkana.”
Entry to the festival is free, including the concerts.
The live music lineup for Friday features local teen talent Caroline Joyce performing at 5:30 p.m. Dallas-based cover band Blue Hat takes the stage at 6:45 p.m., offering a variety of oldies, dance and classic rock tunes.
At 8:30 p.m., headlining blues artist Marc Broussard will bring his bayou soul to Front Street’s main stage.
Saturday the gates will open at 10 a.m. Country music will dominate the stage with Texas artist Bri Bagwell performing at 5:30 p.m., radio newcomer William Michael Morgan following at 6:45 p.m., and Jason Boland & the Stragglers starting at 8:30 p.m.
Gates close at 11 p.m., both nights.
The Texarkana Auto Museum’s spring car show is held annually in conjunction with RailFest, and this year the show is expanding to include an extreme truck competition. More than a hundred custom trucks will be featured, with entry fees from the show benefitting Texarkana, Ark., Police Department’s Shop with a Cop program.
The kids’ play area will offer many of its standard attractions including the children’s train, always a favorite at RailFest. On Friday evening the NFL Players Association and local ESPN Texarkana will do a live broadcast from Front Street Festival Plaza, bringing in several retired NFL players and launching the association’s Punt, Pass & Kick initiative. The partnership draws attention to the NFL Hometown Weekend, coming up June 25.
This year the City has partnered with the Four States Fair and Ag Learning Center to bring a petting zoo to RailFest on Saturday. Families will get the chance to interact with pigs, calves, goats and other various farm animals.
Also on Saturday the Texarkana, Ark., Fire Department will provide a junior firefighter training course. This gives kids the chance to practice many firefighting operations including a hose drag and spray, attic crawl, mannequin drag and more. Kids will be outfitted in firefighter gear and get to meet and visit with real Texarkana firefighters.
Engineer Michael Haynes said the course was designed by TAFD firefighters, after his own kids participated in a similar challenge at a Texas Rangers game.
“It’s a fun way to get out in the community and let them experience what we do,” Haynes said.
The course will be open Saturday from 11 a.m., to 5 p.m. Participants in the challenge will receive a souvenir bracelet.
RailFest’s barbeque contest returns again this year, offering at-home chefs a chance to prove their prowess in preparing chicken, brisket and pork spare ribs. Payouts are based on entries, with 90 percent payback to the winners.
Like last year, this competition is sanctioned by the International Bar-B-Que Cookers Association and is also on the Arkansas Diamond Cup circuit.
Check-in begins at 5 p.m., Friday, with the cooks’ meeting at 7 p.m. Contestants may cook overnight, and winners will be announced around 3:30 p.m., on Saturday.
The vending area will offer local craft goods as well as festival favorites pulled pork, fried green tomatoes, frozen yogurt, peanut patties, kettle corn, cupcakes, corn dogs, funnel cakes, curly fries and much more. Scottie’s Grill is also throwing a crawfish boil in the vendor area both days, with the Cajun favorite selling for $6 a pound.
Perimeter fencing will be set up early in the week before RailFest, and vendor setup begins on Thursday. The streets leading into Front Street Festival Plaza will be closed at 6 p.m. Thursday.
For more information on any RailFest event find RailFest on Facebook or call 870-779-4971.