Posted on August 20, 2012
Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on August 21, 2012.
By: Allison Gatlin
With the inclusion of a 5K run/walk to honor those killed on 9-11 and nearly $90,000 in corporate sponsorships thus far, it?ll be a year of firsts for the SouthArk Outdoor Expo, set for Sept. 8, representatives of the various sectors involved told the El Dorado Rotary Club on Monday.
Duck-calling, rib-cooking, rock-climbing, wood-carving, target-shooting, bait-casting, photography-judging and much more are on the slate for the Expo, which in its 11th year of existence is now free to the public at South Arkansas Community College?s main campus.
Alongside the theme of patriotism is the theme of volunteerism, which will be celebrated with canned food donations collected at the entrance to the Expo. These will be in turn be donated to the Salvation Army, said SouthArk Foundation Director Cynthia Reyna.
She also noted the title sponsor for the Expo is Tom Loftin Construction Co.
Laura Rogers, of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, was first up to the plate and joked with the audience that she?s not only been involved with the Expo since its inception, she?s been a slave to the Expo for the past 11 years.
But it?s all for a good cause, she said. In addition to the scholarships raised for SouthArk students, attendees get a chance to become more closely acquainted with the college.
Representatives of the game and fish commission will set up inside the El Dorado Conference Center where every hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ? with the exception of 1 p.m. ? they will host mini-seminars, Rogers said. At 1 p.m., the duck-calling begins.
Though no actual ducks are involved in the practice, divisions of children, teens and adults will each take a turn at making the audience think the semi-aquatic birds are in residence for a chance at cash prizes, she said.
"Bring your kids, let them hear it, they?ll get hooked on duck hunting, it?s the best thing you could ever do, right?? she said.
Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in each division with a top award of $200, according to a flier for the event. Entry deadline is at 11 a.m. on Sept. 8 with a registration cost of $5 for youth, $25 for adults and $40 for teams.
The whole goal of the event is to get people outdoors, whether that?s hunting, fishing, hiking or grilling, Rogers said, noting that the latter activity will also be on the slate of contests within the Expo.
Sponsored by Herring Furniture, Amerigas and Holland Grills, the Phil Herring Rib Cook-off will yield huge cash prizes to its winners. The deadline is today, but Greg Withrow, of El Dorado Chemical ? which is also sponsoring the Expo ? said the deadline is generally extended to allow for late entrants. The cost is $40 per team with prizes of $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place and $500 for third place.
Free samples will be offered at each booth, SouthArk President Dr. Barbara Jones said.
Anyone stands a chance of taking home the top prize, Rogers said.
"It doesn?t matter if you have one of those great big grills, or if you have a $20 charcoal grill from Walmart,? she said. "It doesn?t matter.?
Entrants can call Reyna at 864-7130.
Another flier notes the inclusion of a photography contest with a $5 entry fee and a Sept. 5 deadline.
New this year is the Hero 5K Run-Walk, which Sterling Claypoole of SouthArk said will be hosted in part by HealthWorks Fitness Center and honor the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Each runner and walker will be outfitted with the name of a victim, including the four from Arkansas, and partake in the 5K in honor of that person whose life was cut short, he said.
"They will have that name and know who they?re going to run or walk for,? he said. "We actually have four Arkansans that were killed during 9-11 ? their names are listed on the memorial ? so with that, four designated individuals will represent those four individuals.?
Early registration is $20 with same-day registration from 6 to 7:15 a.m. on Sept. 8 at the El Dorado Conference Center for $25, according to a flier for the event. Interested participants can find more information at www.southark.edu/expo or at HealthWorks, Claypoole said.
Keeping within the theme of heroes, the event will be kicked off by keynote speaker Deena Burnett Bailey, the widow of one of the Arkansas victims of 9-11, he added.
Proceeds from the entire Expo will benefit SouthArk college students who last year received more than $40,000 in scholarships, Withrow said.
What originally started out as the college?s Friend-Raiser has since grown to include more of the community who, Withrow noted, is beginning to recognize the necessity of the local educational climate.
"Last year when we began looking at this year?s event, it was to tie the college to downtown El Dorado,? he said. "We began to get the recognition that the college is a cornerstone of El Dorado?s future.?
He added, "Education is critical and it?s a cornerstone for our county and our surrounding areas to get a good education so that they can be trained for the businesses? and industries? future that are needed here to help us keep growing as a community.?"