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Benton prepares for weekend's annual Neighbor Days festival
BENTON, Mo. -- The tradition of being neighborly continues this weekend during the annual Benton Neighbor Days as a parade and activities for all ages are planned.
"It's a good, fun-filled weekend, and it's family-oriented," said Barry Urhahn, chairman of the weekend's event, which is sponsored by the Benton Chamber of Commerce. "Walk around and say ‘Howdy, neighbor,' and if you pick the right person to say it to, you get $5."
Several activities are planned for the two-day festival, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday. Amusement rides and carnival games are offered both nights.
Neighbor Day royalty will be crowned Friday. There are four pageants -- Tiny Mr. and Miss, Little Mr. and Miss, Junior Miss and Queen -- which begin at 6:30 p.m. on the stage. Urhahn said the queen contest will begin immediately after the Junior Miss, which should be around 8:30 p.m.
On Friday the band Nite Shift will play at 9 p.m.
A 5K run at 7:30 a.m. will kick off Saturday's events. Registration will begin at 6:30 a.m. behind the Benton post office. Registration forms are also available at caperoadrunners.org, Urhahn said.
A parade that winds through Benton begins at 10:30 a.m.
For those who want to line up along the streets where the parade begins, Urhahn recommended arriving 30 minutes before it starts. However, there will be plenty of spots along the entire parade route, he said.
"The first stretch from the ballpark to 61 has the biggest crowd because it's close to the grounds, but it doesn't matter what part of the route you sit in, you'll see the whole parade regardless," Urhahn said.
Friday night's queen contestants will ride in the parade while other groups such as the local Boy and Girl Scouts plan to enter floats in the parade, Urhahn said. This year a group of family and friends of Benton preschooler Levi Collom, who died suddenly in March, is walking in the parade to support Levi's Adventure Trail, an exhibit being developed in his honor at The Discovery Playhouse in Cape Girardeau.
"There are also several people running for political office who will have floats," Urhahn said.
"It seems like it gets bigger every year," Urhahn said of the parade.
Something else attendees look forward to each year is viewing the Home Extension and Agriculture exhibits, including 4-H Youth Division exhibits, said Christy LeGrand, member of Benton Chamber of Commerce and exhibits chairwoman.
The public is allowed to view the exhibits, which are often craft- and agriculture-related, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the old Benton High School building.
Entrants can preregister items by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by this evening. Doing so will allow tags for their entries to be prepared in advance so all they will have to do Saturday morning is drop off their items, LeGrand said. They can also register from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, she said.
Many other activities are offered Saturday.
The midway opens at 11 a.m.
Registration for a family scavenger hunt is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce booth.
"We had the scavenger hunt two years ago. Since we had people requesting it, we did decide to do it this year," said LeGrand, who is helping organize the hunt.
There will be room for up to 12 teams of two to four family members or friends. However, each group must have at least one adult with them, LeGrand said.
An antique car show starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the old high school building.
"The car owners will drive their cars through the parade and park in front of the old school," Urhahn said.
Games such as water balloon toss, egg toss, tug of war and nail driving begin at 1 p.m., and the adults enjoy them as much as the kids, Urhahn said.
Horseshoe and volleyball tournaments also begin at 1 p.m. on the lower ball field and upper ball field. A mud race near the old Benton High School building will begin at 2 p.m. Registration for the mud race and volleyball and horseshoe tournaments starts at noon.
That night, the greased pole climbing contest is at 6 p.m. on the fairgrounds. There will also be a talent show at 6:30 p.m.
Lawn mower races in four classes were will begin about 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the lower ball field.
Anna Catherine DeHart and Dirt Road Express will perform at 9 p.m.
Urhahn said a variety of food also draws people to the event.
The Catholic church stand is known for its barbecue sandwiches, while the fish sandwiches are at the Methodist Church stand. The American Legion Auxiliary sells funnel cakes and candy bars dipped and fried in the funnel cake batter. The Kelly FFA Chapter will sell curly fried potatoes, Urhahn said.
"We have good weather ordered, and I don't know if it'll come in in time," LeGrand said. "We're hoping for the best. This should be one of the best Neighbor Days ever."
For more information, contact Benton City Hall at 573-545-3558.