L.C. Hartsfield spent most of his career working indoors. As a production supervisor for several different companies through the years, he rarely had time to volunteer in his community. After he retired in 2010, the 63-year-old decided that’s all he would do. Since then he’s been the primary organizer of Mayfest, the annual Blytheville festival slated for Saturday (May 13).
“I really couldn’t put a dollar amount on what kind of economic impact the festival has on Blytheville … we do know there is a significant impact, however,” he said.
As is the case in many towns in the Mississippi Delta, the city embraces any and all economic sector development drivers it can muster. Blytheville had an April unemployment rate of 5.9%, a 1.6% drop from the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of unemployed is 365, a nearly 10% drop since the beginning of the year. The employment figures still lag behind state and national averages despite these recent, positive gains.
When Hartsfield started his volunteer work, the festival attracted about 2,500 visitors. A little more than seven years later, that number is expected to balloon to up to 5,000, he said. This year, the headline act is “The Flying Wallendas,” a world-famous tightrope walking family based in Sarasota, Florida.
The family has numerous family members involved in daredevil stunts that are hallmarks of edgy tightrope stunts and tricks. Several have been hurt or killed. One of the most famous stunts in recent memory was Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon in 2013. The 1,400 foot tightrope was stretched 1,500 feet above the ground. It took him 23 minutes to cross.
“Butts on Broadway,” a barbecue competition will be held during the festival. Gospel singers will begin at 10 a.m., clowns and jugglers, crafters and artisans will have booths, as will an array of food vendors. The Blytheville Humane Society Dog Show will also be held. Other entertainment will also be available.
Hartsfield moved back to Blytheville in 2003. He worked for several more years before his retirement. He is the volunteer go-to person for most events in Blytheville, including the festival. He’s also serving his second term on the city council.
Why does he spend so much time volunteering?
“I’m not in the business of making money anymore … I’m in the business of making memories,” he said.