This year's RailFest will be bigger and better than any previous year. On Saturday, May 16, be at Front Street Festival Plaza at 11 a.m. when the gates open with your "let's have fun" shoes on because it is going to be a blast! Admission is free and fun awaits -- from a barbeque cook-off, to kids' games, to fabulous food vendors to a terrific magic show. The day will wrap up perfectly with a concert by country music superstar Chase Rice!

Meander and shop the vendor booths and snack on your choice of tasty treats from the many awesome food vendors. Watch a hotdog eating contest at Hot Diggity Dogs' booth at 3 p.m. Check out the barbeque cooking contest, too. If you have kiddos tagging along be sure to run them through all of the "wear them out" fun children's activities.

At 5 p.m. the daytime activities come to a close and the gates will reopen at 6 p.m. for the Chase Rice concert. Tickets at Cavender's are sold out and are now available only online or at the gate. Bring lawn chairs and be prepared to kick back to some great tunes.The Dusty Rose Band will open for Chase Rice.

But before that happens, the annual barbeque and chicken cook-off will take place with $1,000 in prize money available to the winner. The barbeque contest will be judged by the International Barbeque Cookers Association so this is a pretty big deal. Team setup and check-in begins at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday on Front Street between Olive and Wood streets. (Setup is also allowed the night before.) The cooks’ meeting is at 8 a.m. Then, the cooking begins and the great smells will waft through the festival!

Chicken entries need to be turned in at 2 p.m. and ribs turned in at 3 p.m. Winners will be announced at about 4 p.m. No gas or propane is allowed because we all know the best barbeque happens on wood and charcoal grills.

Many food vendors will be set up to help feed that starving tummy that is bound to be rumbling from smelling the barbeque cook-off. Here are the food vendors:

  • Crawfish
  • Burgers
  • Hotdogs
  • Turkey legs
  • Frito chili pies
  • Hotlinks
  • Catfish
  • Funnel Cakes
  • Kettle Corn
  • Homemade ice cream, shaved ice and frozen yogurt
  • Corn dogs
  • Fresh squeezed lemonade
  • Locally made peanut patties
  • Nachos
  • Authentic Mexican tacos
  • Fruit smoothies

The good old Dozier boys will man the crawfish hut at Saturday's festival. They get their crawfish from Louisiana and cook it up right. They have operated the local fish market for the past several years but it all started in their Kountry Krawfish mobile kitchen many, many years ago. I have spent so many hours chatting it up with Kevin and Herbert Dozier and if you get a chance, stop by their booth and strike up a conversation. They are highly entertaining and give it to you straight. Their crawfish is super yummy, too.

"Come on down and we'll serve you up the best crawfish possible, seasoned good but not too hot, with all of the veggies and even some cabbage. We are cooking no matter what the weather is," Herbert said.

Lots of local craft booths will also be at the festival with home decorations, bath items, children’s and women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories, original art prints, canned goods, and knives.

The ladies from Three Chicks Feed and Seed will have a booth filled with locally canned goods like blueberry jelly, local honey and Bennies Fire & Ice Pickles. They will be handing out free dog food, too. Co-owner Dee Dee Rogers said, "As a locally owned new business we are always looking for opportunities to get out in the community and meet potentially new customers because we have a lot to offer. Many of our items are fabulous and unique. We are like a present-day, old-time general store. We have so many different things in our store that it is hard to describe everything in a short period of time but we would love to show you a sampling of what we offer to Texarkana so stop by the booth and visit with us."

Every time I stop by the store not only do I get whatever it is that I went for, it is very entertaining, too, and the ladies always have great advice anytime I need it so be sure to take a minute to visit.

Kids can have fun at the festival with activities like face-painting, children’s books, basketball toss, rock climbing wall, the trackless train, ring-the-bell game, bounce houses, pirate ship amusement ride, magic shows (first show at noon), balloon art and pet adoptions.

The Animal Care and Adoption Center of Texarkana will be at the event as well and they're scheduled to bring the center's mascot, which is a 7-month-old pot-bellied pig named Porkchop. He is friendly and knows tricks! Shelter director Charles Lokey said he "hopes folks will come by the booth to see some of the great animals we have available for adoption." Adoptions have been up recently due to grants and donations that have covered the adoption fees and vetting expenses.

The 10th annual Four States Auto Museum Car Show will also be happening in downtown Texarkana Saturday.

Better Block Texarkana will return for the second year to RailFest to breathe life back into the Broad Street area in conjunction with the grand opening of the Farmers’ Market and a car show at the Four States Auto Museum. The mission of Better Block Texarkana is to provide an experiential hands-on look at what Texarkana’s downtown could become. For one day enjoy a “pop-up” block transforming the street into a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly area, complete with landscaping touches and vendor-occupied storefronts for the public to browse. Visit Better Block Texarkana's website or on Facebook.

The beginning of this video displays how Better Block Texarkana transforms Broad Street into a bike/pedestrian paradise with plenty of fun shopping.

And of course, don't miss out on the Chase Rice concert Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.

Videos to give you a taste of what is in store for this year's RailFest:

For more information follow RailFest on Facebook or visit the City of Texarkana, Arkansas' website.