(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
"There's a lot going on (at Neighbor Days), and it's
different than other area events. There's more than food, beer and a queen contest," noted Christy Mothershead, Benton Chamber member.
The midway opens at 5 p.m. Friday with amusement rides available. Registration for attendance prizes at the Chamber of Commerce stand also begins at 5 p.m., where hundreds of dollars in prizes are given away on Friday and Saturday.
According to Benton Chamber of Commerce secretary Loretta Welter, some things have changed at the Benton Neighbor Days since its origin years ago, Welter said.
"I was looking at some old photographs and saw they used to have old mule divers here in the 1970s," Welter marveled.
And while the Benton Chamber has sponsored the two-day event for the past 35 years, longtime Benton residents say the event has been around since at least 1935. It's also said that former President Harry Truman spoke at the Neighbor Days during the 1930s.
One tradition that hasn't changed during Neighbor Days is the effort to promote friendliness, noted Joe Stuckey, lifelong Benton resident and Benton Chamber of Commerce member. If someone says, "Howdy, neighbor" to the randomly picked Mr. or Ms. Neighbor Days during the two-day event, they'll receive $5 on the spot, he explained.
Parachuters will land on the grounds at 6 p.m. Friday. The Little Mr. and Miss Neighbor Day contest will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by the Junior Miss Neighbor Day contest.
Musical entertainment will begin at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, activities 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. An antique car show follows the parade, and an antique tractor show will begin at noon behind the old school building.
A horseshoe tournament will begin at 1 p.m. as well as other activities for children including foot, wheelbarrow and sack races; and other contests such as pie eating, bubble blowing, seed spitting, nail driving, tug-of-war, egg throwing, water balloon toss and many others. A kiddie tractor pull for both boys and girls will start at 1 p.m. with a $1 entry fee.
While Benton is growing in its population, Welter said safety shouldn't be a concern during the two-day event.
"You don't have to worry about your children," Welter assured. "So many people know each other. It's always a safe place for families. Nothing really bad has ever happened here."
Kids can also try their luck climbing the "greased pole" at 6 p.m. Saturday and then chase the "greased pigs" at 10 p.m.
"The greased pig chase is popular. A lot of people like to watch that contest," Mothershead noted.
A talent show for both children and adults kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the same time that parachuters will hit the grounds. Live musical entertainment will be from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Exhibits will be located in the old school building Friday and Saturday. Ribbons will be awarded for the Best of Class and Best of Show. There is a special division for children 12 and under in addition to adult entries. Entries are accepted for arts and crafts; ceramics; needlework; models; home grown, prepared foods; photography; floriculture; and many other categories. Each exhibitor will be limited to three items per class.
Registration of exhibits will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday. Local 4-H clubs will exhibit crafts in the school building and will present demonstrations on the outdoor stage immediately following the parade.
The annual Labor Day weekend event also provides a time for current and former area residents to catch up with old school mates, Mothershead pointed out.
"My two kids are coming home for Neighbor Day," Stuckey said. "Many of the local classes as well as those who graduated years ago come home for it. It's like a meeting spot."
Neighbor Days is sponsored by the Benton Chamber of Commerce and is a communitywide endeavor with churches, clubs, schools and individuals working together.
"We let local organizations come in and generate as a fund-raiser," Stuckey said. "For example, high school students have booths to raise money for groups like FFA or project graduation."
Proceeds are used to finance a scholarship and to contribute to many community improvement projects.
"It's a huge community effort," Mothershead said about the event. "It's a really neat way to help other community organizations out."