UACES Facebook Goats the main attraction at Perry County festival
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Goats the main attraction at Perry County festival

Oct. 10, 2023

By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Arkansas Goat Festival attracts 8,000+ people
  • Festival started by Extension LeadAR graduate
  • Extension personnel add education component to festival

(983 words)
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PERRYVILLE, Ark. — There’s something about a costumed goat that gets a crowd excited. And there was plenty of excitement at the annual Arkansas Goat Festival where goats of many breeds made their way to Perry County on Oct. 9 — Nigerian Dwarfs, Pygmies, Boers, Nubians, even a Mini Silky Fainting goat who didn’t feel like fainting. They came accompanied by their humans, but there was no doubt who the stars were.

Woman holding a goat.
GOAT TOTE — Tosha Smith of Austin holds Jimmy Buffet, who won the costume contest Oct. 7, 2023, at the Arkansas Goat Festival in Perryville, Arkansas. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

This year’s event — featuring “au naturel” and costume contests, live music, food trucks and more than 100 vendors — attracted an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 goat lovers to the Perryville City Park for the annual festival held on the first Saturday of October each year.

“There’s no way to get an exact count, but we had about the same as last year,” organizer Dave Lowe said. “The difference is we expanded the area this year so it felt less congested.”

New this year was a kids’ zone with inflatables, dunk tank, and obstacle course.

All About Goats
Dan Quadros, extension small ruminant specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and Perry County Extension Agent Blake Erbach kicked off the day’s festivities with an overview of the goat and sheep industry in Arkansas.

Goats’ small size and high prolificity make them a good choice for small farm owners and homesteaders to quickly build a herd and create income from meat and milk, Quadros said,

“The goat meat market is not well explored,” Quadros said. “One-third of goat meat consumed in the U.S. is imported from other countries. For those who raise goats, it means there’s room to grow.”

Quadros hopes to expand the small ruminant industry in Arkansas and is surveying goat and sheep producers about challenges they experience. He is also conducting a series of webinars this month for producers. He will also be a presenter at the Northwest Arkansas Small Ruminants Field Day on Oct. 28 in Fayetteville.

“We want ideas from producers about challenges they find on-farm and off-farm,” he said. We want to expand the entire chain.”

All dressed up
Goats came dressed as Hollywood divas, garden gnomes, bees, pumpkins, scarecrows, princesses, an Oreo, an orange-clad inmate, sheriffs from the Wild West, and a “Baaa-rbie.” There was an even a goat masquerading as a lamb.

The crowd favorite — determined by loudness of audience applause — was Jimmy Buffet, a Pygmy goat wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and his goat mother, who was dressed as a saltshaker. The goats’ humans — Mark and Tosha Smith of Austin and their family — made up the entourage of Parrotheads.

“This is our second time to compete, and we love it,” Tosha Smith said.

Michael and Lisa Goodrich Bartholmey of Benton cheered on the goats as they paraded by and took the stage.

“This is our first year to attend,” Lisa Bartholmey said. “We just wanted to get out and do something different. And goats are cute and precious.”

Dayna Morgan from New Blaine led Ricky Bobby, a Nubian Boer, onstage as his human pit crew — all clad in Wonder Bread racing shirts — cheered from the sidelines.

Asked about the inspiration for the contest, Morgan said, “Well, you know, if you’re not first, you’re last!”

Contest Emcee Valerie Sanders offered a quick comeback: “Like Ricky Bobby, sometimes I don’t know what to do with my hands,” a reference from the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

After the costume contest, the four-legged competitors got ready for their next event — the Nannies at Night lingerie contest.

Extension roots
Success of the Arkansas Goat Festival is rooted in the work of two women, both of whom are graduates of the Cooperative Extension Service’s LeadAR program, a leadership program that prepares Arkansans to effect change in their communities. As part of the program, participants develop a community leadership project that can improve the quality of life in their community.

The program, founded in 1984, now has more than 500 alumni serving as leaders in businesses and communities throughout Arkansas, especially in rural and agricultural areas.

Tamara Walkingstick, a member of LeadAR Class 9 and a retired extension forestry specialist, saw a basic need in Perry County. The city park in Perryville didn’t have a restroom, so she applied for funding and got one built.

A few years later, Sarah French, a member of LeadAR Class 17, had the idea for the Arkansas Goat Festival. The Perryville park was the perfect site place because it had public restrooms, thanks to Walkingstick.

“The first person I talked to was my neighbor who had goats, and I asked her if she would participate,” French recalled. “She said yes, she’d love it. The second person I asked was my husband who said, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.’ And that’s how it was. People either loved it or hated it.”

The first goat festival in 2016 had 10 vendors and attracted 1,200 visitors. In less than a decade, the festival has grown exponentially. On Saturday, 140 vendors were selling their wares; of those, 30 percent were local to Perry County. Several youth groups also benefitted, including the Perryville High School volleyball team and band boosters who parked cars and sold concessions to raise money for their school activities.

“My goal was always to bring prosperity to Perry County,” French said. “This is a town of 1,200 people. We’re expanding the population of this town 10 times on festival day.”

French coordinated the festival until 2019 and then sold it to the city. On Saturday, French was all smiles as she grand-marshalled the goat parade.

“Every year I put it on, I felt like I missed a lot,” she said. “I didn’t get to see the parade or visit the vendors. Now I show up and enjoy it. This festival was my baby. I raised it, sent it off to college, and now the less it needs me the better.”

For more information about raising goats in Arkansas, follow the Arkansas Small Ruminant Blog at For information about the LeadAR program, visit To learn about other extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Tracy Courage
(501) 671-2126