The Arkansas Festivals & Events Association’s 34th Annual Conference & Trade Show was held at the El Dorado Conference Center and the Griffin Restaurant & Music Hall on February 7 & 8, 2018. The two facilities located in the historic downtown El Dorado were the backdrop for informational sessions, keynote speakers, meals, and entertainer showcase during the 2 day event. Below is a recap of what the event held. To see a video recap:

Speaker/Session Descriptions

Terry Stewart, Chairman and CEO, El Dorado Festivals & Events
Austin Barrow, President and COO, El Dorado Festivals & Events
With a background holding high profile positions such as CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and president & chief operating officer of Marvel Entertainment Group, Terry Stewart came to El Dorado tasked with turning the small Arkansas town into one of the South’s top tourism destinations. Hear how he and President & CEO Austin Barrow are highlighting and enhancing the culture of a town with a population of less than 20,000 with a focus on entertainment and great food to draw in visitors from across the state and nation.

Event Emergency Management
Mike Garrity, Head of Security, Little Rock Marathon
Mike Garrity, head of security for the Little Rock Marathon will be presenting on Emergency Management plans for events to help ensure that event directors and coordinators are considering all aspects of E.M. as they prepare for their events. Some topics covered will be: budgeting for emergency management, pertinent emergency personnel, weather, crowd control, and conceal and carry.

Understanding Event Insurance: Different Coverages and Determining Your Needs
Rod Mills, United Insurance Agency
Do you have questions about what sort of coverage you should be carrying for your event? Rod Mills, certified insurance counselor and Vice President & COO of United Insurance will help you determine what sort of coverage is needed and available for events based on specific needs and circumstances.

Proving Your Worth: Economic Impact Analysis
Sharon Younger, President & CEO, Younger & Associates
Sharon is the president and founder of Younger & Associates, an economic research and strategic planning firm with offices in Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee. Dr. Younger has twenty-five years of experience in her field and is a frequent speaker at national conferences for professional organizations. She is an instructor for the Economic Development Institute, University of Oklahoma, Auburn University, University of Tennessee and CETYS University in Mexico. She knows first-hand that having tangible numbers for the purpose of gauging the local economic impact of an event can go a long way when winning over sponsors or drumming up community support for events. She shares how those numbers can be derived and how having those numbers can be used to the benefit of your festival or event.

Personalized Sponsorships & Investing In Your Community
Melanie Bacon, Mudbug Madness Festival, Shreveport, Louisiana
Terri Mathews, Festival Chairman & Owner, Gumbeaux Event Productions.
Mudbug Madness is a long-standing, established festival in Shreveport, Louisiana that has a history of successfully acquiring sponsorships and using their profits to invest in their local community. They join us in El Dorado to present on acquiring and retaining sponsors for an event as well as sponsor benefits, follow-up, negotiations, and using an event as a tool for driving business in a downtown area.

Effectively Telling Your Event’s Story: A Lesson in Branding, Marketing, & Advertising
Clay Mosley, Rock City Digital
Clay Mosley is the founder and “chief geek” at Rock City Digital, a digital marketing and advertising firm based in Little Rock. This session is designed to help events and businesses, big and small, zone in on and capitalize what sets them apart from other festivals, events, or businesses. In such a visual and digital age, branding or rebranding an event’s identity is essential for maximizing the success of an event or business. Hear from an expert on how to find your niche!

Event Sales Tax: Rules, Regulations, & Collection
Department of Finance & Administration
Dawn Staggs, Mackie Lowery and Melissa Ward
The Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration presents on sales tax rules and regulations pertaining to events. This will be an opportunity to ask questions directly to the professionals who handle these accounts on a daily basis and ensure that you are doing your part in keeping on the up & up!

Affinity Group: Obtaining & Paying Talent
A round table discussion led by Dan Smith, Vice President & General Manager of the Murphy Arts District. Dan addresses the topic of obtaining sought after talent and provides guidelines for properly compensating talent for their services. Take this opportunity to hear and learn from a professional who has booked some of the country’s biggest names in entertainment. Also, share your experiences and ideas with your peers from across the state.

Facebook Event Pages 101
Mary Osteen, Public Information Technician, Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism
Mary Osteen, Public Information Technician at the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism gives a tutorial for events handling their own social media accounts. Step-by-step instructions on creating pages, Facebook Events, and boosting posts helps you master these sometimes intimidating task.

Panel Discussion: Have You Dealt With…..?
Pick the minds of seasoned industry professionals about every day event production issues or the largest obstacles that you face as a coordinator or maintainer of a venue. This is a moderated, open floor setting designed to make attendees comfortable with addressing problems they face within the industry. The discussion panel is made up of Susie Cowan with the Argenta Downtown Council, Will Hornburg with the Arkansas State Fair, and Mary Margaret Satterfield with Toad Suck Daze in Conway. Moderated by Jenna Friday.

Mike Garrity

Security and Operations Coordinator

Little Rock Marathon

Phone:  501-371-4770


Susie Cowan

Director of Marketing

Argenta Arts Council

Phone: 870-540-9867


Rod Mills

United Insurance Agency

Phone: 870-863-4123


Melanie Bacon, Executive Director

Mudbug Madness

Phone: 318-226-5641


Clay Mosley, Chief Geek

Rock City Digital

Phone:   501-420-3577


Terry Stewart, Chairman & CEO

El Dorado Festivals & Events

Phone: 870-866-3546


Austin Barrow, President & COO
El Dorado Festivals & EventsPhone: 870-863-4547


Mary Osteen, Public Information Tech

Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism

Phone: 501-682-7602


Sharon Younger, CEO

Younger Associates

Phone: 731-267-2782


Conference Registration




Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration


Mike Garrity, Little Rock Marathon
Mike is charged with designing and ensuring security each year at the state’s largest marathon where thousands converge to run and cheer on runners alike.


Mudbug Madness Festival, Shreveport, LA
Melanie Bacon, Executive Director and members of her team will be visiting and presenting from one of the largest events in the city of Shreveport.


Terry Stewart, El Dorado Festivals & Events, Murphy Arts District
With a background holding high profile positions such as CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and president & chief operating officer of Marvel Entertainment Group, Stewart came to El Dorado tasked with turning the small Arkansas town into one of the South’s top tourism destinations.