Because the upcoming Pine Bluff 175th Anniversary weekend is a celebration of the city’s history, it seems only fitting that many of the planned activities will allow visitors to immerse themselves in various aspects of that history.
“It is not just a history that is tied up in the many historic buildings in Pine Bluff but also one that is made up of the intangibles that include the booms and the busts, the tragedies and the triumphs experienced by the people of this place that we call Pine Bluff,” said Lori Walker, local historian and assistant director of the Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development Department.
April Layher, director of the Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Department, has assembled a range of activities and demonstrations for Saturday May 3 in Regional Park.
“We have a frontier re-enactor who will be doing a program on the life of the early frontier settlers in this area,” Layher said. “He will discuss the fur trading that the settlers were involved in. This would be around the time frame of when Arkansas Post was settled.”
Walker said the Civil War was in fact a transformative event in the history of Pine Bluff.
“The Battle of Pine Bluff brought a Union victory which then saw the arrival of teachers from the American Missionary Association and the beginnings of what became Arkansas Mechanical and Normal College, which of course became the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.”
Layher said several re-enactors in period dress will give demonstrations of life during the Civil War.
“We will have Civil War re-enactors who will have a couple of cannons that they will fire,” Layher said. “They will also have muskets that they will fire in demonstrations. People don’t need to worry. No actual ammunition will be used.”
Walker said she will speak at the Saturday night Gala at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
“I will talk about the contributions of African-Americans to the Union forces during the Battle of Pine Bluff,” Walker said. “They helped to secure the Union victory here. There were many African-Americans who fled to Pine Bluff because they heard that Union troops were there.”
Walker said she will also discuss the contributions of several hundred black men who volunteered to fight alongside the Union troops to repel a Confederate advance upon Pine Bluff.
“Union Captain James Talbot praised the actions of these men,” Walker said.
Walker said the black population of Pine Bluff grew 600 percent between 1870 and 1900.
“This speaks to something special that was happening in Pine Bluff at that time and why the city was admired for the economic strength of its African-American residents,” Walker said.
Layher said the Regional Park Waterfront building will be the location for many of the demonstrations.
“We will have a woman who will discuss the different herbs used as medicine during the 19th century,” Layher said. “There will be a demonstration of a telegraph and the history of the railroad in Pine Bluff will also be discussed.”
“This city has a really rich and exciting history and it is wonderful that people are starting to celebrate it,” Layher said.
May 2 at 7 p.m. Music on Main between Courthouse and 2nd Avenue. Will feature fraternity/sorority steppers of all ages; and music from On Call Band, Tragikly White, and Nicky Parrish;
May 3 at 10 a.m. Parade on Main Street from Harding Avenue to the Courthouse;
May 3 at 1 p.m. Historic re-enactments and demonstrations of life in different periods of Pine Bluff history at Regional Park.
May 3 at 6 p.m. Black-Tie Optional Gala at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, tickets $25 per student and $50 per adult.