Water Carnival coming to Main Street Batesville

It’s been three years since the last White River Water Carnival, and organizers are more than ready to bring the fun back to Batesville – and this year’s event will have a twist. 

The 2022 White River Water Carnival will kick off with a parade down Main Street at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6.

But while every water carnival in years past has included a parade, what makes this year’s carnival different is that it will also combine activities from Big Fun on the Bayou. 

The inaugural Big Fun was held in 2021, although there has not been a Water Carnival held since 2019, before Covid. 

“The focus of Big Fun on the Bayou was centered around Poke Bayou in downtown Batesville, and the Water Carnival celebrates the White River, so when it appeared there would not be a carnival this year, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to blend the two events,” said Karen Beller, chairman of the revived White River Water Carnival.

Following the parade, there will be a meet-and-greet and story time with current local title holders at the Independence County Library, 267 E Main St., along with a program at 12:30 about the history of the water carnival.

The Miss Historic Batesville and Miss White River pageants will take place at 2 p.m. at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville’s Independence Hall. All other activities as well as vendors will be in downtown Batesville.

The first White River Water Carnival was held in 1938, as an estimated crowd of “12,000 to 15,000 lined both sides of the parade route down Main Street,” according to an article at the time from the Batesville Guard.

Over the years, the free, family event has added other entertainment, food vendors, craft and commercial vendors, and kids’ activities.

“Our goal is to bring kids and families back to the White River Water Carnival,” Beller said. “We want to reconnect the Miss Historic Batesville pageant so she can act as hostess of the carnival, along with the King White River, who in the past has served as the parade grand marshal. 

“The parade theme this year is ‘A Return to Main: Throwback to Water Carnivals of the Past’ and what better way to do that than to bring some of our longest standing traditions such as King White River leading our parade participants down Main Street?” Beller continued. “Let’s throw back to Water Carnivals past: Fun in the Sun, Bathing Beauties, and Rock and Roll are just a few. Let history be your guide!”

Entertainment by local performers will take place during the afternoon and early evening.  Capping off the event will be a concert at 7:00 p.m. with UnRaveled headlining. Admission to the concert is free. Attendees are welcome to bring blankets and lawn chairs.

Once the sun goes down, a glow run will be held starting at with participants encouraged to wear white or neon clothes, as well as glow sticks, glow lights and other fun accessories. The starting point is the Pocket Park where glowing runners of all ages, shapes, sizes, speeds will take off on the course, which winds through College and Main Streets and ends back at the starting point. 

“We can’t wait to see everyone ‘light up the night’ during the water carnival!”

The Big Fun at the Water Carnival schedule is as follows:

Friday, Aug. 5, 2022

6:30 p.m. – Open mike concert in Maxfield Park

8:00 – Danny Dozier and special guests the Natural Disasters concert

Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

8:30 a.m. – Line up begins for Parade

9:30 – Main Street Merchants open for Tax Free Shopping 

10:00 – Grand Parade introducing King White River

11:00 – Miss Historic Batesville and Miss White River meet and greet at the Library; Registration for boat races and animal contests at Lemonade Stand; Children’s activities in Maxfield Park, Bounce houses on Main

12:30 p.m. – History of The White River Water Carnival at Library

2:00 – Miss Historic Batesville, Miss Historic Batesville Outstanding Teen, Miss White River, and Miss White River Outstanding Teen contests at Independence Hall (UACCB campus) 

6:00 – Local entertainment and contest winners introduced

8:00 – Summer Concert Series featuring UnRaveled

9:30 – Glow Run starts at Pocket Park immediately following concert.

Parking in downtown Batesville and carnival admission are completely free. For more information about the parade or other water carnival activities, please call 501-503-1530. For questions about the downtown activities call 870-569-1572.

The parade is sponsored by First Community Bank. Parade line-up begins at 8:30 at the Town Plaza Shopping Center and will follow the traditional route down Main Street. Commercial and noncommercial entries will be accepted, but entries that are strictly for commercial advertising purposes may be charged a fee; this does not include pageant title holders, nonprofit organizations, and school teams, bands, clubs and other groups. To enter, send an email to whiteriverwatercarnival@gmail.com or see White River Water Carnival on Facebook.

“We want to thank our sponsor and all of the volunteers for helping us revive the 77th Annual White River Water Carnival,” Beller said. “Our community is fortunate to have businesses and individuals who support our community. We hope everyone will come out on Aug. 6 and have Big Fun at the Water Carnival!”