Roots Festival Kicks Off Season of the Unique in Northwest Arkansas

Northwest Arkansas over the course of the next 100 days or so will put on an impressive music/food-focused festival, an established motorcycle rally with a new twist, a bicycle championship on a quirky track, Arkansas' best Christmas lights display and the world's most important squirrel-cooking shindig.

Anyone who doubts whether Northwest Arkansas has something for everyone isn't paying attention.

The five-day Fayetteville Roots Festival, which starts Wednesday, opens up what should be a remarkably unique back half of 2018 with so much variety on the calendar.

The festival includes folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass and country acts, and a YouTube video proves it's tough to decide if the festival is more about the food or more about the music. Its organizers describe it as "an intimate, urban music and food festival" that brings national acts and regional talent to 10 music stages. The Fayetteville Flyer earlier this month shared a nice summary of what’s on the Roots Festival schedule with performances by Mavis Staples, Josh Ritter, Gillian Welch, Turnpike Troubadours and dozens of other acts.

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Yet, it would be tough for the Roots lovers to top the uniqueness of the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off put on Sept. 8 at the Benton County Quail Barn in Bentonville. Established seven years ago, founder Joe Wilson expects 35 to 40 teams from 20 states to be on hand. They'll cook up more than 1,200 squirrels over the course of the day for the 6,000 to 7,000 people expected to show up. The cook off caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal in 2013, and CBS Sunday Morning showed up two years later.

While the Bikes, Blues & BBQ motorcycle rally has been around for years, there's a distinctive addition tucked inside it this year that's noteworthy. Fayetteville at the same time as the rally will put on Ink & Art in the Ozarks, a first-time, tattoo-focused event planned at the Fayetteville Town Center.

Despite the rising popularity of tattoos, the main attraction should remain the motorcycles. Thousands of riders will roll into Northwest Arkansas for what's evolved into one of the nation's larger rallies. Organizers say Bikes and Blues, as it's often called, brings more than 300,000 people to Fayetteville. A study by the University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research showed the economic impact of the 2013 rally was between $69 million and $81 million.

While it won't draw anywhere close to as many attendees as the motorcycle rally, Springdale for the first time will host the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship on Oct. 13 at the Jones Center. This video shows the expertise required to complete a ride through a bumpy pump track course.

Brightening things up at the end of the year will be Lights of the Ozarks, which is a Christmas light display. The city kicks on the lights in November and won't shut them off until Jan. 1, 2019.

Photo at the top: The Fayetteville Roots Festival draws thousands of visitors each year to Fayetteville. The photo was provided by Experience Fayetteville and taken by Meredith Mashburn.