The 68th Decatur Barbecue features games, music and lots of food
DECATUR — In its darkest hours of 1952, a small town in northwest Arkansas found a ray of hope in the form of a native businessman who had the foresight to keep the residents of city motivated to stay rather than move with the job market. A year later, this pioneer, with the help of several local businessmen, organized a festival for the townspeople to thank them for their support in bringing this small town together.
Lloyd Peterson was born and raised in Decatur and started his own poultry operation in 1948. Like many ranchers in the area, Peterson relied on the local processing plant later owned by Simmons to get his product to the audience. But when Simmons shut down the Decatur operation and moved elsewhere, many of the townspeople also packed up and moved in with them.
Peterson stepped in and, with the help of a few of his old buddies, convinced the townspeople that a new deal was on the horizon that would bring the jobs back to Decatur. Peterson purchased this processing plant and started Peterson Industries. And, as promised, Decatur is reborn.
And, to thank the community for weathering the tough times, Peterson held the Decatur Homecoming Barbecue in 1953 to thank the community. This event led to the Decatur Development Committee, now the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, taking over the operation of the barbecue event and the second annual Decatur Barbecue was born.
The Decatur BBQ, with Peterson’s help, has grown into a community-organized festival for residents of not only Decatur but also surrounding northwest Arkansas.
The barbecue included a parade, contests, chicken dinners and entertainment from some of Nashville’s top country music stars. But, like all good things, interest in the barbecue began to wane, especially after Peterson died in October 2007 at the age of 94.
In 2019, the Decatur BBQ was in serious danger of being canceled permanently due, in large part, to declining interest in the event and a lack of volunteers to run it. But when the 67th Decatur Barbecue reappeared following the pandemic shutdown in 2021, the barbecue was given new life.
When the Decatur Chamber of Commerce met in February, several members were trying to come up with the theme for this year’s event. Eventually, they said they had found the perfect theme and the one that best portrayed Decatur, “Decatur, the best little town in Arkansas… Y’all.”
In 1954, the small town of Decatur received a major honor from the National Municipal League at its convention in Kansas City, Mo. David Compton, who was then president of the chamber, delivered a speech on the town of Decatur at the this agreement. , then the league voted Decatur the best small town under 1,000, the smallest community to win an award at the convention. Decatur was featured in the February 1955 issue of LOOK magazine. Sixty-nine years later, Decatur is still considered by many to be the best small community in northwest Arkansas.
This year’s event features some of the original elements of the first barbecue, such as the parade, Miss Decatur Barbecue and Tiny Tots contests, as well as some of the more recent additions such as the cornhole tournament.
The 68th Decatur BBQ begins Saturday at 7am and will continue throughout the day, ending with the concert and a fantastic fireworks display afterwards. And, of course, don’t forget to discover the star of the barbecue, the chicken. Service for chicken dinners begins at 10:30 a.m. and lasts until every last quarter is sold.
For more information, contact Kim or Debbie at 479-752-3912, option 4.
Mike Eckels can be contacted at [email protected]