The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 60th annual Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry drew hundreds of people to Hestand Stadium Thursday night.
“I’m so excited,” said Chamber director Ann Williams as she watched a parade of people enter the venue. “We presold over 800 tickets, which is awesome.”
Williams said the event’s goal is to “let our farmers and agribusiness people know that we appreciate them.”
In addition to celebrating and recognizing all local farmers, the event honored the Jefferson County 2012 Farm Family of the Year, the David Edwards family. The family includes David and his wife, Sue, and children Valerie, Andrea and David Jr.
Edwards, who lives near White Hall, has operated a cattle ranch for 32 years and began farming five years ago. He produces soybeans, wheat, rice, hay and corn in Pastoria. Farming is a family tradition as his father farmed the land the younger Edwards now cultivates.
The honorees smiled Thursday as they greeted well-wishers between taking bites of crispy fried catfish with all the trimmings.
“It feels real good,” David Edwards said of being named Farm Family of the Year. “It took a lot of hard work.”
Sue Edwards said she felt blessed and humbled.
“It makes you feel good when people think that much of you. It says so much about the people of Jefferson County. I just give God all the glory.”
“I’m proud of my Dad,” Andrea Edwards said. “I’m blessed to have a hard working father. He works hard every day.”
David Edwards Jr. said he appreciates the honor and he appreciates his work.
“I like driving that tractor,” he said. “People have to eat, so there will always be a job in farming.”
Jimmie Lee Edwards said she is “very, very proud” of her brother-in-law.
“He truly deserves it,” she said. “He’s a dynamic farmer who keeps up with the latest information. He’s a hard worker from the old school where they were taught to do it right the first time.”
As music filled the arena, attendees stood in groups talking and drinking beverages. Many called the fish fry a must-attend event.
“I think it’s great,” said H. Pipkin, a farmer who grows soybeans, wheat corn and rice in Pastoria. “I got off my combine to come here. I just never miss it.”
“I come every year just to socialize with people and see people I haven’t seen in a while,” said Norman Davidson of White Hall. “I think it’s great to honor the farmers. They work hard.”
In addition to recognizing those in the agriculture industry, the fish fry provided an opportunity for local businesses to showcase their wares including cars, trucks, tractors and four-wheelers. Several candidates for public office were also present and tables lined with campaign literature dotted the arena. Signs and banners that noted the event sponsors were also on display.
Tara Promotional owner Scarlett McPherson said the gathering is good for businesses and farmers.
“It’s good because it shows we care about our county farmers,” she said. “We need to support and recognize them because we need our farmers. It’s also a good time to fellowship.”