HARVESTFEST11 a.m., Kavanaugh between Spruce and Walnut. Free.
This weekend kicks off perhaps the biggest five-day run of concerts Central Arkansas has ever seen (get the lowdown from the To-Do List on the following page), but for cheap, low-key good times, HarvestFest in Hillcrest, returning for the 15th year on Saturday, is tough to beat.
For one, it's family friendly. Strollers are almost de rigueur. Dogs, too. Kids sit affably at the foot of the entertainment stage when they're not streaking through the crowds on skateboards and those shoes with wheels in heel. This year, in addition to all sorts of Kids Zone activities — a bounce room, pumpkin painting, pet rock-making (!), bean bag tossing — they'll get a chance to pimp their trikes or bikes and compete in the “Hot Wheels in Hillcrest” contest along with actual classic cars and street rods.
There's lots of food, too. Local restaurants typically set up grills or outdoor kiosks. Beer's reasonable and tax deductible (this year, alcohol proceeds benefit the Center for Youth and Families and Francis A. Allen School for Exceptional Children). And, for the second year in a row, there's a chili cook-off featuring a handful of professional teams and some 30 amateur teams. For a nominal fee, you can make a meal out of a taste test (check out a video on the Times player from last year to get an idea).
Music, as in past years, remains a highlight. Burt Taggart, owner of Max Recordings, Hillcrest's flagship record label, took control of booking this year and assembled a bang-up local line-up: Chris Denny and band have newly christened themselves Chris Denny and the Natives (1 p.m.). This follows a recent three-week recording session in upstate New York for their Partisan Records debut. Their relationship with the national indie bodes well for the band's future. Partisan is the home of Deer Tick, a band with a similar sound that gained a national audience almost overnight. Denny and the Natives, after their New York sojourn, sound like a band on a mission. If there's cosmic justice, the See (3 p.m.) should be headed for national success. The young trio plays a brand of blistering, anthemic indie rock that's made them Little Rock's favorite new band. Local vet Kevin Kerby (5 p.m.) remains as sharp a songwriter as ever. He kicks out country-tinged rock 'n' roll with his band Battery. Despite national success in the indie world, the American Princes (8 p.m.) always make it a point to book a hometown show every so often, and they're always rewarded with a fervent crowd.
The highlight, however — at least judging by the number of people it attracts — will undoubtedly be the Box Turtle Fashion Show. In six years, the Hillcrest boutique has grown its fashion shows from low-key affairs in Ciao Baci to this large stage, long runway show that last year led hundreds to pack Kavanaugh from sidewalk to sidewalk. Korto Momolu's long association with the boutique might have a little something to do with the bump in interest. Even amidst her success on “Project Runway,” she returned last year for the show, and she comes back again this year with an all-new fall collection. Her collection will share the runway with those of seven other designers — Maddie Burgess, Angel Court, Summer Daniel, Missy Lipps, Morgan Peterson, Linda Thomas, Trisha Timmerman — more than half of whom haven't participated in years past. All in all, look for 60 to 80 models, many of whom you'll probably recognize, slinking down the runway.
Box Turtle's Leslie Nelson wouldn't give away many preview tidbits, but did reveal that teen-age designer Maddie Burgess specializes in tutus and may be enlisting dogs as models.
Sounds about right.