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After a year of online or postponed events, Conway is kicking off its annual festival, Toad Suck Daze, this weekend. If you’ve been missing live events, a fun atmosphere and friendly faces, plan on checking out all the events scheduled for the celebration to catch all the fun and perhaps a toad as well.
Toad Suck Daze dates back to 1982 when the first festival was held in the township of Toad Suck on the banks of the Arkansas River. If you’re scratching your head at the name, you’re not the only one. The origin of this unusual name is up for debate. Some say it’s a mistranslation of a French term involving the word “sucre,” which is French for sugar, which could have referenced the water of the river itself as “l’eau de sucre” or sugar water. If you say this term fast enough, it does indeed sound similar to toad suck.
Another explanation refers to the tavern that sat up the hill from this spot in the river. Toad Suck sits at a very low point in the water where steamboats could often become stuck. An enterprising Arkansan set up a tavern at this point so stranded sailors could indulge in a drink (or many) while waiting for the water to rise. Locals often said sailors “sucked on a bottle until they were swollen up like toads.” At least this name mentions toads.
The last suggestion is perhaps the clearest. Suck is an old term used for a protected eddy where the water recedes enough to leave muddy ground visible. This spot was favored by toads and other wildlife. Riverboat captains would certainly want to stay away from this shallow spot and might have directed crews away from the “toad suck.”
However the town got its name, what’s important to know is that toads are the star of Toad Suck Daze. This is the home of the World Championship Toad Races. This important event determines which toad will hold the championship title and bragging rights to all the toads in the Arkansas River. This year, as we return to live events, the festival will scale to allow for an extended celebration and still keep festival-goers safe from the pandemic. This weekend kicks off six weeks of events to celebrate Toad Suck Daze.
Friday, April 30, 2021, the 40th annual Toad Suck Daze returns with the Airplane Parade, which was first introduced last year as part of the event’s online and socially distanced activities. The airplane parade begins at the Conway Regional Airport at Cantrell Field. Planes will take off just before 6 p.m. and criss-cross the city of Conway for 45 minutes. You can view them from the airfield, from the parking lot at T.G.I. Friday’s or perhaps from your home as they fly over much of the city. If you opt to catch the parade from the airport, you can also view vintage planes and enjoy food trucks and sponsor booths.
This breakfast will be held at the Brick Room on Sunday, May 2 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Proceeds go to Milestones Services, a Conway area non-profit organization that assists children with developmental delays or those at risk for delays. Enjoy a great breakfast, meet the Toad Suck Daze Toad Master and support a great cause.
Every Friday in May, food vendors will set up in Rogers Plaza in downtown Conway. From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., visit the plaza to experience your favorite Toad Suck Daze festival foods. Grab some jumbo corn dogs, funnel cakes, cheese sticks and more on May 7th. May 14th features turkey legs, hamburgers, deep-fried Oreos and much more. May 21st is BBQ night, fish and loaded fries, while May 28th brings Philly steak sandwiches, Indian fry bread, smoothies and many more festival favorites. Visit the full menu at https://www.toadsuck.org/special-events or the Toad Suck Daze Facebook page to find the menu for each Friday.
Toad Suck Daze is famous for its entertainment for children and families. On Saturday, May 8th, at Conway Corporation, Tinkerfest will offer hands-on educational opportunities for kids to explore STEAM activities. Science, technology, art and math activities will be led by the Museum of Discovery and the Conductor for free from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration is encouraged as space will be limited for adequate social distancing. Register here to participate in a two-hour time block.
What is Toad Suck Daze without toad races? This year, toad races will be held on Thursday, May 13, from 4 p.m to 6 p.m. Toad races will be held at the parking lot on the corner of Parkway and Main Streets in downtown Conway. The racing kicks off with the V.I.T.(Very Important Toad) Race and open races will follow. Participants are encouraged to register ahead of time. Each race will allow only eight racers at a time. Winners of each race will compete in the championship at 6 p.m. You may enter your own toad into a race but frogs are not allowed. Please identify your amphibian correctly before racing. Toads can also be dropped off at the Conway Chamber of Commerce the week of May 10 to allow for a racing pool of toads. After the races, all toads will be released back into their natural habitat. Register to race a toad here. A limited number of walk-up participants will also be allowed.
On Wednesday, May 19, toads have to make way for other species when the Little Rock Zoo, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and the Museum of Discovery partner together to bring a walk-thru exhibit of wildlife and science-themed activities. This event will be held at the Meadows Office and Technology Park, located at 355 Ledgelawn Drive in Conways. The exhibit runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is free.
The fun continues for children and families with a special event sponsored by PBS on Saturday, June 5th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Clifford the Big Red Dog and Croaker and Dazey, the Toad Suck Daze mascots, will all make appearances. Kids will have plenty of opportunities for hands-on activities, including an opportunity to color the 12×30 foot Toad Suck Daze mural. Boom Art will be held at the PBS Plaza on campus at the University of Central Arkansas. It is free with registration encouraged.
Live music returns for 2021 with this concert held on campus at the University of Central Arkansas. Watch the Toad Suck Daze Facebook page for the concert headliner announcement. Tickets can be purchased through the UCA Box Office beginning May 1.
This year, cyclists can participate in the Tour de Toad at their own pace and time of their choosing. Toad Suck Daze is offering three options for those who want to participate in the Tour de Toad. Beginning May 1, riders can register for the event and choose one of three historical routes. The family ride is an easier 10-mile stretch. The intermediate ride is a 20-mile route, or riders can choose the 40-mile route. Riders participate on the day and time of their choice. Rides should be completed by the end of June. Anyone in the world can also register and ride their bikes in their own locale or you can register as a virtual participant only. All proceeds from the Tour de Toad support Literacy Action of Central Arkansas. Find out more information on the Tour de Toad Facebook page.
This year the 5k and 10k road races are canceled. Find out all the information on the six-week Toad Suck Daze festival at toadsuck.org.
With so many options in which to participate, Toad Suck Daze 40th annual festival is the perfect way to ease back into live events in a safe way in 2021. Stay up to date with every event on the Toad Suck Daze Facebook page and enjoy all the fun!
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