Fort Smith organizations prepare for Fall Festival downtown on Saturday

Rogers Avenue, downtown Fort Smith Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FORT SMITH -- The Fort Smith National Historical Site is preparing for a few thousand people to attend the annual Fort Smith Fall Festival this Saturday.

Cody Faber, the event's coordinator and one of the Historical Site's park rangers, said this is the city's biggest historical-themed event of the year. He said the local organizations based it on the heritage festivals held downtown years ago.

"I remember when I was a kid coming to the downtown heritage festivals," Faber said. "That was a big thing for me, that got me into history and really enjoying a lot of what I do now.

"I think we've done a pretty good job of that so far, getting people interested, kind of remind people how important our history is for Fort Smith and the region."

Local organizations including the Historical Site, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, the Fort Smith Museum of History, the U.S. Marshals Museum, Fort Smith Farmers Market, Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, Miss Laura's Visitor Center, the Clayton House and Judgment Town plan to participate with events and activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Historical Site's programs will include more than 60 reenactors highlighting living history of Fort Smith, garden tours, deputy marshal encampments, a trial reenactment, and infantry, cavalry and artillery demonstrations, according to a press release.

The city is offering wheeled trolley rides between each of the major venues, according to the release.

A new participant in the festival this year is the U.S. Marshals Museum, which opened to the public this summer.

Leslie Higgins, chief programs officer with the Marshals Museum, said she's seen the festival in the past and is excited for the museum to be a part of it this year.

Higgins said the museum and children's playroom will be open for the event, and it will have activities including celebrating the marshals' birthday and an investigation station for kids.

"I believe we're going to do our fingerprint activity, where they can put their fingerprint on a balloon and then we blow up the balloon, so it expands the fingerprints for them to look at the different parts, whirls and ridges of the fingerprints," Higgins said. "And then also our Morse code activity, where they can learn more about the communication technology in the 1800s and how the marshals used Morse code.

'The museum as a whole will be open, so our galleries will be open, as well, for people to wander through those. So we hope people will come out and visit."