Fort Smith is celebrating its bicentennial this year with a series of events, including art exhibits, performances, re-enactments and several world record attempts.
Each quarter of 2018 will follow a specific theme. The first quarter will focus on arts and culture, while festivities in the second quarter will be along the theme of Western heritage. July through September will be themed “homecoming” and tourism, and the fourth quarter is dedicated to the future of Fort Smith.
The arts and culture celebration begins with an exhibition of original paintings by Fort Smith artist John Bell, Jan. 5 – April 22 at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM). Smith died in 2013. His work spanned 50 years.
A concert and documentary viewing featuring Alphonso Trent, an early-20th-century band leader, is set for Jan. 25, 6-p.m.-9 p.m. at the Blue Lion at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith downtown.
A “Clayton Conversations” talk titled “Belle Grove Historic District: The 19th Century Makers, Movers and Shakers” is planned for Feb. 25, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at the Clayton House, an historic property that is home to the Fort Smith Heritage Foundation.
The Bicentennial Celebration Concert, featuring Fort Smith Symphony, is set for April 21, 5 p.m.-8 p.m. at Arcbest Performing Arts Center.
Western heritage events will be put on by the nonprofit Fort Smith Western Heritage Month and include the Hanging Judge Cutting Horse show, May 4-5; the Art on the Border show, May 11-12; Judge Parker’s Rope Wars tug-of-war tournament on May 19 at Harry E. Kelly Park; and a National Train Day celebration on May 19 at Frisco Station.
On May 28, there will be an officially recognized attempt to set the Guinness World Record for amount of participants in a “lip dub” in downtown Fort Smith.
The nonprofit Lip Dub Fort Smith is tasked with raising about $30,000 and arranging the assembly of 5,001 participants for a choreographed lip sync music video intended to promote the city of Fort Smith. It will take place during the 85th Old Fort Days Rodeo Parade, according to the Fort Smith 200 website.
Another planned world record attempt surrounds the construction of a glass ball mosaic Sept. 2 at the corner of North A and North Fourth streets. The attempted design will be a six-point U.S. Marshal Star, according to the website.
Marshals encampment re-enactment is set for June 1 at Fort Smith National Historic Site on Parker Avenue. Re-enactors will demonstrate how 19th-century U.S. Marshals, deputies and posse members lived while traveling the Native American territory in search of criminals.
Quapaw Indian Day is set for June 9 at Fort Smith National Historic Site. Members of the Quapaw Nation will display their artwork and speak of their culture and history, according to the Fort Smith 200 website. There will be a stick-ball demonstration as well.
Kidz Court, a mock trial featuring fairytale characters and acted by children attending the event, is set for June 9 at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, and Wild West Wednesday at Fort Smith Public Library is set for June 13.
The “homecoming” and tourism portion of the celebration will include a Lincoln High School alumni panel discussion July 7 at Kay Rodgers Park Expo Center and held in conjunction with a high school reunion July 6-8.
A fort building contest for ages 5-12 is set for July 14 at Chaffee Crossing, and an ice cream social and kids concert is set for Aug. 4 at Fort Smith Museum of History.
The Northside High School reunion is set for Sept. 29.
Bicentennial activities also will be included in the Mayor’s Annual Fourth of July Celebration at Harry E. Kelly Park and the annual Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 10 in the Chaffee Crossing Historic District, the theme of which will be “200 Years of Fort Smith’s Military History.”
The bicentennial celebration kicked off Christmas Day with a re-enactment of the U.S. Army landing at Belle Point.
Fort Smith was founded on Dec. 25, 1817, as a military post and named for Gen. Thomas Adams Smith, who commanded the U.S. Army Rifle Regiment. Smith, headquartered near St. Louis at that time, ordered Army topographical engineer Stephen H. Long to find a site along the Arkansas River for a fort. He never visited the area that bears his name.