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Controversy in Conway: Stores battle over business during Toad Suck Daze

One of Arkansas’ largest festivals has brought concerns to downtown Conway's businesses.

CONWAY, Ark. — One of Arkansas’ largest festivals has brought concerns to downtown Conway.

Thursday night at 7 on the dot, most of downtown Conway will be closed off by barriers as the city prepares for Toad Suck Daze.

The event is all fun and games for the community, but for business owners it brings frustration.

“One of the concerns is the loss of parking,” said Cindy Webb, owner of Francis M. Fine Jewelry in Conway.

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The entire heart of Conway will be transformed Thursday night, when people wake up the area will be in full festival-mode.

"Our employees don’t have a place to park,” said Mike Coats, part owner of Mike’s Place restaurant. “We are open Friday and Sunday, but we won’t have near the business we usually have. But this brings many good things to the city. The hotels are full. The kids enjoy the event. It’s just one weekend.”

The loss of customers has had many downtown businesses shut their doors for the weekend because they lose business.

Webb is optimistic. "Change has never hurt anybody, in fact, change is good,” she said. "I think alternatives are always something to consider."

She thinks some of the businesses’ concerns could be fixed by finding a new location for the festival.

It’s after Toad Suck Daze moved to downtown Conway 20 years ago from the site along the Arkansas River.

But the Chamber of Commerce believes overall, the event held in Downtown Conway gives businesses the upper hand.

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"It's an opportunity to do business during the festival but also an opportunity to introduce people to your business for the rest of the year,” said Jamie Gates with Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.

While concerns linger this Toad Suck year, Webb and others have chosen to pick their battles.

"We just try to look at it in a positive manner,” she said.

She’s closing up her jewelry shop indoors and taking it out to the festival offering grab bags and fun games.

"It's great for people to see our faces, and for us to see their faces," said Gates. “A big part of the Toad Suck proceeds go towards downtown.” 

The majority of the streets in the heart of Conway will be closed through Sunday evening, including Main, Parkway, Front and Oak Streets.

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