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Esperanza Bonanza Celebrates 10 Years With A Festival May 2-4 The Esperanza Bonanza marks its 10th anniversary as the premier spring festival in Eastern Arkansas this year with the addition of something new - fast and furious rodeo action. The festival is set for the Marion Recreation Complex May 2-4. Marion is located just west of West Memphis on I-55. Saturday afternoon, on the north side of the festival grounds, Rockin' Bar S Rodeo Productions will present the "Bad Boys of Bull Riding and Free-Style Bull Fighting" events. Competition will begin at 4 p.m. for some of the most exciting action available in a rodeo arena. It will be the first time for a rodeo event at the festival, and competitors will be coming from all over the Mid-South to compete for cash prizes and points on the rodeo circuit. Following the rodeo and the announcement of barbecue and other contest winners from the main stage, the father-and-son duo of Michael and Tre Twitty will headline an evening of country music from the festival stage with their tribute to their father and grandfather, country great Conway Twitty. They will perform many of Conway's top hits, including his signature "Hello, Darlin'", as well as other country favorites. Opening the show will be Crittendon County's own Wilford Ray and the Bayou Country Band. Ray, who's had recording contracts with MGM, Starday and other major record labels, has recorded several of his own songs, including Black Bayou, Stolen Moments and Bartender's Blues, along with country hits. He has performed with Grand Ol' Opry stars Charlie Louvin, Del Reeves, Johnny Paycheck and others. The country-themed Saturday afternoon and evening is just a segment of what will be going on at the Marion Recreation Complex on Esperanza weekend. Festival-goers can sample award-winning barbecue and Cajun-style boiled crawfish, and listen to a line-up of bands that span the spectrum from oldies to country to contemporary to rock, all the while surrounded by a whirlwind of games, contests, carnival rides and activities. For stamp collectors, there's even a special "Esperanza Bonanza Station" cancellation. Activities open on Thursday evening with $2 admission, wristband night at the carnival, and live music by Gerry Finney entertaining on the acoustic guitar at the hospitality tent, where Fidelity National Bank will host a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours reception. Main stage acts begin at 4:30 with a line-up of three local bands, followed by Memphis favorites Carson & Poole headlining from 8:30 until 10. It will also be wristband night at the carnival, with unlimited rides for one price. On Friday, cooking gets underway in the backyard and sanctioned barbecue contests. On the main stage, those who aren't cooking can play golf in the Fourth Annual Esperanza Bonanza Golf Tournament, which tees off at the Marion Golf and Athletic Club at noon, Friday night. The Dempseys open the music line-up at the main stage at 6, followed by a repeat performance from Dr. Zar and the Amazing Funk Monsters with a 9 p.m. set. Music, dancing and the carnival rides go on until midnight. Saturday, activities get underway early, with kids 12 and under turning out for the Esperanza Bonanza Fun Run at the Marion High School Football field at 9 a.m. and competition beginning at the same time in the wiffle ball and horseshoe tournaments. Tournament play will go on into the afternoon, and the Fun Run is just the first in a series of kids' games and events that will include the Kiddie Tractor Pull, free arts, crafts and games, and firefighter games for kids. Awards presentation for the barbecue contest and other events at 5:30 will lead into Saturday night's music line-up. Festival volunteers will cook and serve 3,000 pounds of steaming, Cajun-style crawfish and hundreds of pounds of barbecue, and there will be plenty of other concessions from traditional midway fare of corn dogs and funnel cakes to old-fashioned fried pies. A carnival midway offers not just entertainment but plenty of candy apples and cotton candy as well. Admission to the festival is $5 for adults, with children under 12 admitted free. There is a $2 admission charge on Thursday night, and the PBJ Happee Days carnival will also feature wristband night, with unlimited rides for a single price, on Wednesday and Thursday. To reach the festival site, travel south on the interstate 55 East Service Road from the Marion exit to the Marion school campus for parking. A free shuttle takes visitors to the festival grounds, a half-mile to the south. There is no parking other than by permit at the grounds themselves. For more information, contact Kay Brockwell at 870-739-5414 or email

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