Ding Dong Days history
In 1980, Charlotte Schexnayder, as the first woman on Dumas Chamber of Commerce board, was named chairman of cultural committee and given the charge, “Start a Festival.” The need for a festival had been cited for several years and was evident after the public response to the city’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1979.
The obvious place for it was the grove of trees at Memorial Park, but this area was badly overgrown. For the first festival, we had time to clear only one-third of the property, but the festival had a successful start, and ultimately, an additional two years were required to get the property into decent shape. Fritz Hudson served co-chairman in 1980. Among those who worked diligently on the park for years were Pat Clark, M. E. McDonald, Paul Wilson, and volunteers from R. A. Pickens & Son Co.
For the second through fourth years, Mary Martin and Michael Jones were cochairmen with Schexnayder.
The festival is named from the song, which is sung at the beginning of each festival by a costumed Ding Dong Daddy. Skippy Leek sang the song until 2009 when Chris Hays took over the role. The song, written by Phil Baxter in the late 1920’s, was very popular and was played by bands appearing in this area. Dumas, Ark., and Dumas, Texas, have a friendly rivalry over which Dumas was the inspiration.
The festival, scheduled for the last full weekend in July to coin the founding date of Dumas' 1904 incorporation, usually opens with the Laying of a Wreath at W. B. Dumas Gravesite located at the Dumas Junior High School. One of the highlights of the festival is the Dumas Chamber of Commerce Barbecue Dinner where the Ding Dong Daddy and Mama are announced.
In 2013, Ding Dong Days underwent a change in format and schedule. The event was moved from July (one of the hottest times here in the Delta) to September to coincide with homecoming festivities at Dumas High School. The 2013 event was well recieved. In 2014, we followed suit with another success. It looks like we have a winner!
Festival events have changed with the years but always include:
- Fun Day
- Methodist Men's Pancake Breakfast
- Daughters of Charity of AR 5K Run
- M&F Bank of Dumas sponsored Parade
- Antique Car Show
- Food and Crafts Booths
- Baggo Tournament sponsored by Ainsworth Pet Nutrition
- Ding Dong Eating Contest
- Dumas VFD Water Activities
- Desha County Open House
- Ding Dong Days Beauty Pageant
- Production from the Dumas Area Arts Council
- Ding Dong Days Street Dance
- BBQ Cook-off
- Musical Entertainment
Fun Day made a successful move to Court Street, located just east of downtown, in 2007 following the destruction of the Memorial Park grove by tornadoes in February of that year.
Reigning over the festival are the Ding Dong Daddy and Mama, chosen by a committee from volunteers who have worked on the festival.
Volunteers staff Ding Dong Days, and funds for it are contributed by businesses and individuals, including the City A&P Commission and Delta Byways.