Preparations have been made for some time now and today it all comes to fruition with the official opening of the Saline County Fair.
The first event is the annual parade in Downtown Benton at 6 p.m. The theme is "Blue Jeans and Country Dreams." Winners will be announced for the top float entries and in some of the other divisions.
Activities will continue throughout the week, culminating with the final rodeo performance Saturday night in Thomas Arena at the fairgrounds.
Saline County Fair Association members encourage attendance at the fair. "Admission to the fairgrounds is free throughout the week," spokesperson Mollie Wright said.
Following today's parade, the midway at the fairgrounds will be open with the first of several armband nights, Wright said. "The armband promotions entitles a person to ride as many rides as he or she wants for as many times for one overall price," she said.
Individuals entering the various competitions at the fairgrounds began doing so at 9 a.m. today, Wright said. "Entries will be accepted until 6 p.m., " she said.
All entries will be in place today with the exception of baked goods, candy and certain horticultural exhibits, and these will be received from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday.
All entries will be judged except the rabbit and poultry entries with the large animal judging taking place at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the show arena. At this time the sheep/goat/swine barn and cattle barn will be closed to visitors.
"This will also be the second night of the carnival which opens at 6 p.m. as well," Wright said.
Thursday is Senior Citizens Day at the fair with lunch served to seniors at 11 a.m.Â "At 1 p.m. the poultry and rabbit barn will be closed, and all poultry will be judged," she said.
Immediately following the poultry judging, junior exhibitors interested in poultry showmanship will be allowed to compete, Wright said.Â "At approximately the same time, junior rabbit exhibitors will be allowed to participate in rabbit showmanship and will be getting ready for the rabbit show. Poultry and Rabbit showmanship winners will be announced at approximately 5:30 p.m. in the show arena.Â
"The rabbit show will start at 6 p.m. at the same time that the second armband night opens for the carnival," Wright noted.
"On Thursday night, H & H Rodeo Co. will host a bull riding and mutton-bustinâ€™ demonstration at Thomas Arena," Wright said. The mutton-bustin event begins at 7:30 p.m. and the bull riding follows at 8.
A $5 fee will be charged for the bull-riding show, Wright said.
She added that Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., is designated as School Day and Special Needs Day.
At 6 p.m. Thursday the carnival will open and at 6:30 p.m. the annual 4-H Pee Wee Livestock show will be held in the show arena.
"This is where 4-Hers bring their animals into the arena for the youngsters to show them with assistance," Wright said.
This event is open to children 8 and younger who would like to lead a sheep or goat to win a big rosette ribbon.Â At 7:30, H & H Rodeo Company will host the annual muttinâ€™ bustinâ€™ in the arena, then open the annual rodeo at 8 p.m.Â
"Admission to the rodeo is $10 for adults; $5 for children 7 to 10; and free to children 6 and younger," Wright said.
Activities will be continuous on Saturday, Wright said.
"We will kick off the day with the annual poultry chain auction at 9 a.m. in the show arena," Wright said.
"Then the annual Jr. Livestock Exhibitors Premium Sale and Auction will take place at 10 a.m. in the show arena. The carnival will start at 1 p.m. with armband day until 4 p.m., then reopen at 6 o'clock that evening.
"H & H Rodeo Co. will host the second night of the annual mutton bustinâ€™ in the arena and the second night of the rodeo will get under way at 8 p.m.," she said.
"Evans United out of Missouri is providing our carnival," Wright said. "The midway will open at 6 each evening and at 1 p.m. on Saturday."
Wright pointed out that the Saline County 4-H Clubs are hosting a petting zoo that will be open from 6 to 9 each evening. "Bring your children to show them how to hold an animal or pet an animal during this time," she said.
"For the last several years, the rodeo has been hosted by H & H Rodeo Co. of Vilonia and this company will be hosting it again this year," Wright said. "They will start us out with the bull riding on Thursday night, and then there will be a rodeo both Friday and Saturday nights at 8 o'clock."
She pointed out that H & H was named 2013 Arkansas Rodeo Association Producer of the Year.Â
"We are excited to have them back, and we are looking forward to the bull riding and rodeo performances," she said.