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Annual Community Events PDF Print E-mail

BPW Barn Sale - It’s a Barn Raising Good Time - Held the last Saturday in September.

Each year approximately 14,000 people attend one of south Arkansas’ major tourist attractions, the Camden BPW Barn Sale.  Since 1968 the Camden Business and Professional Women’s Organization has sponsored this annual event. From it’s beginnings as a flea market, it has grown into South Arkansas’ largest Arts and Crafts Show.

The massive old oak trees provide plenty of shade as you stroll beside the historic old barn while listening to an old-fashioned gristmill grind cornmeal throughout the day. Watch a potter or woodcarving artist at work or purchase a newly made treasure from one of the 160 crafters. All crafts are original and handmade. Expect to find hand crafted wooden pieces, ceramics, paintings, floral arrangements, handmade clothing, jewelry, stained glass, and much more.

Free entertainment takes place throughout the day as each year entertainers volunteer and share their talent to delight the audience at the Barn Sale. Many of these entertainers are local favorites and over the years have become regular performers on the Barn Sale stage.  Other activities are the Antique Car Show, Beauty Pageant, Children’s Activities, and great food vendors. Click here.

Camden Daffodil Festival -  The Most Beautiful Garden Show in Arkansas.  Held annually on the second week-end in March, the festival will celebrate its 17th year on March 12-13, 2010. Annual attendance is approximately 14,000 people from all over the United States. Click here.

The festival was founded in 1994 as the result of a group of women to help raise enough money to restore the old dilapidated Missouri Pacific Train Depot and turn it into a historical site that would house the Camden Area Chamber of Commerce.  The word went out via flyers, radio, newspaper, and word of mouth inviting the public to tour the private Daniel Daffodil Gardens. Hundreds of people drove out to see this rare sight and paid $1.00 admission to a “lady volunteer sitting in the back of a pick-up truck”. They were allowed to drive or walk through the thirteen acre Japanese Garden covered with hundreds of thousands of daffodils. The garden was created and planted by the Daniels family in honor of their son and the men serving on a Navel ship during the Gulf War. The sight was spectacular and the public clamored for more; thus the Camden Daffodil Festival was born.

Over the years additional gardens have been added to the festival.  The two day festival is held on the second week-end of each March. We offer garden tours, historic home tours, an antique quilt show, art show & sale, Civil War Re-enactors, Historic Oakland Cemetery Walk and arts and crafts. The event is concluded with our Annual Championship Steak Cook-off with celebrity judges and live entertainment.

The purpose of the Camden Daffodil Festival is to promote tourism in Camden and Ouachita County. This is done by showcasing our assets, such as our private daffodil gardens, our many beautiful historic homes and Civil War history, and our recently developed River Walk. The profits made from the festival are donated back into the community to further promote tourism and help sustain the McCollum-Chidester House Museum built in 1847.

The festival is made possible by the hard work of many local volunteers dedicated to helping our community promote its history and promote tourism in Ouachita County. There are several hundred people involved each year. There have been over 100,000 daffodil bulbs planted along our roadsides entering Camden.  Our volunteers include our local garden clubs, master gardeners, retired teachers, and private citizens. These people bought the bulbs, and planted them.

Annual SAKC Dog Show - Held in February each year, the South Arkansas Kennel Club was formed in 1989 to promote the sport of purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership in South Arkansas.  The kennel club held local non-sanctioned dog shows up until the year 2000 when the club was granted licensed status to hold sanctioned all-breed dog shows and obedience trials.  The American Kennel Club estimates the annual dog shows brings in $75,000 per day to our community.  Shows have an estimated attendance of 5,000-7,000 visitors annually and have had exhibitors representing as many as 31 states each year. The February 2010 Show expects to have a minimum of 900 dogs participating in the event.

All Hallows Eve Cemetery Walk - Held annually the 3rd week in October, this event is held at night in the historic Oakland Cemetery which was established in 1833. Costumed reenactors portray the characters of people buried in the cemetery during the 1800’s.  Oakland was one of the first cemeteries in Camden, and it contains the graves of many members of pioneer families in this area.  Many of the early monuments erected there were imported, and they are unique and irreplaceable. Approximately 350 people participate in the Walk during Halloween.

The Cemetery Walk is also held during the Daffodil Festival and is one of the main attractions of the festival.

Bargin' On The Ouachita  - An annual river barge tour sponsored by the City of Camden, the Camden Area Chamber of Commerce and the Corp of Engineers.  The tour is designed to promote a better understanding of the Ouachita-Black Navigation System among local citizenry -- and to have simply have a great time on a beautiful river.  Each year during the Vicksburg District Corps' annual inspection of the Ouachita River, several river cities coordinate barge rides on Vickburg District Inspection Barge. Tours are open to the public and Camden's Bargin' on the Ouachita includes dinner, entertainment, and a brief discussion by the Corps about improvements, maintenance and future plans for the river.  Teachers are encouraged to arrange for class tours of the barge during the day. This event has approximately 350 participants each year.

Juneteenth Celebration - An annual event celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the South.  Event features many activities in the community and is participated in by approximately 400 people.

Unity Fest - A new event started in 2007 to celebrate Martin Luther King Day and designed to bring the community together.  Event features many community activities, such as a parade, talent show, multicultural workshops, and comedy show. Approximately 500 people participate in this event annually.

Fourth of July Star Spangled Spectacular - Large fireworks display held each year at the Camden Airport and features music, activities, concessions and a large fireworks show.  Approximately 1,200 people attend each year.

Summer Jam -A celebration for the Camden area which includes special events such as AAU basketball tournament, dog costume show, a Blues Concert, Rock concert, Gospel concert and a fishing derby. Approximately 500 people participate in this event.

RE Max Long Drive Golf Tournament - A long drive tournament that is part of a national event and is held at the Camden Country Club. Attracts golfers from all over Arkansas and out of state vying for this title.  Activities include the RE Max hot air balloon rides.   This event is attended by approximately 300 people.

Ouachita County Fair - Annual county fair attracting several thousand people enjoying the large carnival, the livestock shows and a show and contest for the county fares such as “best jellies”  and best flower arrangements.  The Ouachita County Extension Service holds a great agriculture show featruing the best produce grown in the county and contest and displays of best “everything” in the county.  The fair runs for one week in September each year. Approximately 3,000 people attend this event annually.

 
Attractions PDF Print E-mail
McCollum-Chidester House

McCollum-Chidester House Museum - One of the oldest houses in Camden today documents much of the unique history of Camden, Ouachita County, the State of Arkansas, and even the South. This house was constructed by slave labor in 1847; after a land grant was signed by President James K. Polk legal ownership of the property was transferred to Peter McCollum. McCollum had moved into Camden six years earlier to manage a mercantile business that was owned by his brother. Once the construction was completed, he lived in the house for almost sixteen years before it was sold to John T. Chidester in 1862 for the sum of $10,000 which was paid in gold.

Chidester and his wife, the former Leah Minerva Crocker, had furniture for their new home shipped to Camden from New Orleans. They also added two large rooms to the east and west wings of the home to accommodate their needs.
John Chidester subcontracted a part of the Memphis to Fort Smith stage route from John Butterfield in 1858. During that same year he began to operate the Chidester, Reeside, and Company as a four-horse stage line. The following year he established the Chidester, Rapley, and Company to operate stage lines in North Louisiana and South Arkansas. This company offered four-horse coaches capable of carrying nine passengers with connections to Gaines Landing, Washington, and Hot Springs, Arkansas and Trenton and Homer, Louisiana by way of Magnolia, Lewisville, Pine Bluff, Arkadelphia, and Antoine.
During the Civil War the house was used by Confederate General Sterling Price while Camden was the site of a large Southern military presence. Then, during the eleven-day occupation of Camden, Major General Frederick Steele used the house as an outpost during the Battle of Poison Springs.
The Chidester family owned the house until 1963, and during that time, three generations of children were born there. The Ouachita County Historical Society purchased the house in 1963 from Dan and Tom Lawrence Chidester.
Today, the Society operates the house as an historical museum with guided tours, and the house still contains many of the furniture items John Chidester purchased when he moved into it. Also, the McCollum-Chidester House serves the Society in its effort to preserve yesterday for tomorrow.
Approximately 2,500 people visit the McCollum-Chidester House annually.

 
Where History Lives PDF Print E-mail
Thanks to caring citizens, much of Camden’s history has been preserved and many of the antebellum homes restored. Visitors don’t want to miss the Historic Downtown District, the restored Missouri Pacific Depot, the many Civil War landmarks, and the more than 20 historic houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of these homes is open as a bed-and-breakfast lodging while the McCollum-Chidester House serves as a museum with history dating back as far as 1847.

Camden actually began in 1824 as a steamboat landing where cotton was loaded and shipped to New Orleans. The Bluff, as it was known, was one of the leading cotton-shipping terminals and became the site of a cotton gin in 1841, launching Camden’s industrial history.
The McCollum-Chidester House was a place where stage drivers and traveling grandparents found rest, refreshment, and gracious hospitality in the days before the Civil War. The house is practically unchanged, as visitors can view original furnishings, mementos and bullet holes in the upstairs walls.

The town has seen a fair share of famous individuals passing through its history. Nineteenth century writer Edgar Allen Poe worked as a printer for the local newspaper, The Herald, in 1845. More recently, parts of John Jakes “The North and the South” made-for-television mini-series, were filmed at the McCollum-Chidester House. Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze were two favorites of the locals. Camdenites were extras in the scenes filmed here. Martin Scorcese directed his first movie, Box Car Bertha, featuring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine in Camden as well.

 
Places To Stay PDF Print E-mail

 

Comfort Inn - 1 Ridgecrest Drive, Camden, AR 71701; 870.836.9000 - Comfort Inn Exterior

The Comfort Inn® hotel, located off of US 278, is conveniently located close to the Ouachita River, White Oak Lake State Park and historic Civil War attractions like the McCollum-Chidester House, Fort Southerland and Oakland Cemetery. Southern Arkansas University Tech is only nine miles from this Camden, AR hotel.  Be sure to visit the beautiful gardens in the area. The Camden Daffodil Festival is held annually every March. Historic places to visit in the area include the Powell-Dietrich Home, Richie-Crawford-Eppinette Home and the Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot. of this Camden, AR hotel are invited to enjoy many amenities like a free deluxe continental breakfast, featuring coffee, juice, a variety of muffins and cereals. The hotel also has free local calls, free weekday newspaper and free 24-hour coffee. 

 

Holiday Inn Express - 1450 US Hwy 278 West, Camden, AR 71701; 870.836.8100 - The HolidayHoliday Inn Express Exterior Inn Express Hotel Camden features rooms with all standard amenities, pillow-top mattresses, and spacious bathrooms. Our suites are larger and have microwaves and refridgerators. We feature 2 double whirpool suites as well, with king beds and a spacious room.  Our complimentary Express Start breakfast bar is available from 6 am - 9:30 am. Free wireless high speed Internet access is available throughout the hotel. Our business center provides guests with a computer with Internet access and copy machine. We offer a guest laundry, and have dry cleaning service available Monday-Friday. Outdoor pool is seasonal. Pet friendly, please inform us when making reservation. Sorry, no large truck parking.

 

Super 8 - 942 Adams, Ave., Camden, AR 71701; 870.836.2535 - The Super 8 Camden isSuper 8 Exterior newly renovated and features HBO, freel local calls, free long distance access, and AM/FM clock radio in all rooms. Refridgerators are located in some rooms. The complimentary Super Start Breakfast is available along with free high speed internet access.  Pets are allowed and truck/bus parking is also available.