story and photos by Brittany Ransom
Saturday (April 12) was all about the King and Spring, as Chaffee Crossing held its annual Spring Festival and celebrated the 56th anniversary of the famous Elvis Presley military haircut.
Hundreds gathered throughout the afternoon to the Chaffee Historical District to enjoy old-fashioned fun, food, and games. Guests made their way around the former base grounds to take part in the carnival-style activities and to browse the numerous vendors on-hand at the event.
At the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, guests came to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the Elvis military haircut. On March 25, 1958 a young Elvis Presley arrived at Fort Chaffee where he received his standard G.I. buzz cut. News crews documented the historic event, and young girls cried in protest, some having written letters begging the President to exempt Elvis from having to cut his hair.
In 2008, the Chaffee Barbershop Museum opened to the public, after being restored to look as it did in 1958. Photos from the famous cut line the walls, as does memorabilia celebrating Fort Chaffee's more than 70 year history. Many festival goers toured the museum taking time to browse the exhibits and take a peek at the barbershop where free "Elvis haircuts" were offered. Young and old alike took their turn in the barber's chair to have their hair buzzed as the King did more than 50 years before them.
An Elvis-lookalike contest was also held in honor of the legendary performer. Several guests also took part in poodle skirt and hula hoop contests, two items made famous during the 1950s.
Live music was played throughout the festival and included a range of local artists, including an Elvis impersonator, barbershop singers, country acts, and others. Lawn chairs filled the grass in front of the Chaffee Crossing stage as visitors took a break from the festivities to enjoy the music and visit with one another.
New to this year's festival were the BBQ and chili cook-off events. Guests could load up on delicious samplings from members of The Belch Chili Pod and the Fort Smith Barbeque Society, as well other individual entries. A beer garden was also open for festival-goers to quench their thirst.
Dozens also lined up for the chance to ride in a helicopter over the Chaffee grounds. For $25, individuals could go up in the air and make their over the festival and surrounding area. Other entertainment included mechanical bull rides, yard games, face painting, and a classic car show.
Admission to the festival was free, with proceeds from food and drinks sales benefitting the Chaffee Crossing Historical Society.