From 1904 to 1912, the Forest Park Fair proved to be an excellent attraction causing a huge influx in tourism to Pine Bluff.
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The Forest Park fair and amusement park operated in Pine Bluff, Arkansas from 1904 to 1912. Exclusively owned and operated by Citizen’s Light and Transit Company, the Forest Park fair was immensely popular during the summer months as it attracted more than 400,000 patrons. This was quite a remarkable feat since during that time only 30,000 people lived in Pine Bluff, and there were only an additional 12,000 people in the surrounding territories.
Many people came from far and wide to enjoy the Penny Arcades, the Shooting Galleries, Hale’s Touring Car, and the Palace of Illusions, along with many other mechanical rides and park attractions. To make the rides more attractive, the park was separated into two sides. One side of the fairgrounds housed the mechanical rides, while the other housed the concession stand and other stationary buildings.
The Forest Park fair was ideally located at the end of the Cherry Street line on a plot of land dotted with inviting shade trees. Several new attractions, including a theater, were added to the fair during the 1908 summer season. This theater had a large stage and seated 1,000 patrons at its nightly musical comedies, vaudeville, and repertoire company shows. The fair even housed a dance hall where private and public dances were held throughout the summer. Even so, the fair proved to be more than just an adult attraction. The park had a zoo that catered to the children of its patrons. Unlike the rest of the park, this zoo was open throughout the year.
During 1907 and 1908, the owners of the Forest Park fair found creative ways to advertise. They created an extremely successful ad campaign that helped bring more customers to the park. They covered a car with a printed ad for the park and drove it across the entire city as the park’s full brass band sat in the car playing song after song. That night after they had finished advertising for the fair, the band continued to play at the park.
The Forest Park fair was also ahead of its time in luxury as many of the buildings, including the theater, dance hall, dressing rooms, and cafe, were furnished with electric fans. The park was lit by flaming arcs and a vast number of incandescent lamps that made it much more enjoyable at night. An electric fountain was even installed in 1908. In addition to all of this, the park even had its own baseball diamond with a grandstand and bleachers where Pine Bluff played visiting teams, including one from Detroit. During its time, the Forest Park fair was quite a sight, both to behold and experience.
The Street Railway Journal. (1908). Forest Park at Pine Bluff, Ark. The Street Railway Journal. 31(22). 617-618. https://archive.org/details/streetrailwayjo311908newy/page/n3/mode/2up
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Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard