Benton - The idea was to come up with a way to bring the community together.
The result is a celebration that has become a tradition for many families.
Over the past three decades residents in Benton and the surrounding communities have cleared their calendars to make room for Benton Neighbor Day. It's a time to get reacquainted and have some family fun.
This year the festivities begin at 5 p.m. Friday with the opening of the midway and registration for attendance prizes at the Chamber of Commerce stand.
"There are a lot of festivals around the area but I think this one is special because it is the oldest and it has so much more to offer the public than just your queen contests and your parade," said Christy Mothershead, vice president of the Benton Chamber of Commerce which sponsors the event.
"What makes it different is it's got a huge exhibit area, it's almost like a mini county fair. It is a festival for people to get out to see their neighbors and a lot of people even come back to town just for this weekend because they know they'll get to see everybody they grew up with. A lot of class reunions are based around Neighbor Day."
Parachutists will land on the grounds at 6 p.m. The Little Mister and Miss Neighbor Day contest will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Junior Miss Neighbor Day and the queen contests. Musical entertainment will be provided by "Night Shift" beginning at 9 p.m.
Activities on Saturday will begin at 10 a.m. with the reopening of the midway. A parade begins at 10:30 a.m. and is open to floats and other entries. However, no four-wheelers, go-carts or motorcycles will be allowed this year. An antique car show will follow the parade. An antique tractor pull begins at noon behind the old school building.
"I think it's probably grown over the years with more and more people from other towns coming," Mothershead said. "I've been going to Neighbor Day since I was less than 10 years old and I'm over 40 now and I can remember people from all over coming. It just draws from all over the area. I think it's just the neighbor spirit and wanting to see somebody you went to school with that's the big draw."
Organizers haven't forgotten anyone. There will be all kinds of races, including those on foot, wheelbarrow and sack.
There will be pie eating, bubble blowing, seed spitting and nail driving contests, as well as tug-of-war, egg throw, water balloon toss and others. A kiddie tractor pull for girls and boys will be at 4 p.m. Entry fee is $1.
Children will have an opportunity to climb a greased pole at 6 p.m. and then chase greased pigs at 10 p.m.
A talent show for the young and young at heart will begin at 6:30 p.m., at the same time parachutists will land on the grounds. "Classy Chassy" will perform from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Exhibits will be located in the old school building Friday and Saturday. Ribbons will be awarded with prizes given for Best of Class and Best of Show. A special division will be for children ages 12 and under and there will be adult entries.
Entries are being accepted for arts and crafts, ceramics, needlework, models, home grown, prepared and canned foods, photography, floriculture and other categories.
Each exhibitor will be limited to three items per class. Registration of exhibits will be from 5-7 p.m. Friday and 8-9 a.m. on Saturday. The local 4-H Clubs will be exhibiting crafts in the school building and will present live entertainment on the outdoor stage immediately following the parade.
It all comes to an end at midnight Saturday.
Proceeds from Benton Neighbor Day are used to finance a scholarship and to contribute to various community improvement projects.
For more information contact Mothershead at 472-4949 or 545-3111.