MY FIRST VISIT to Stuttgart was all about ducks, ducks, ducks. In fact, it was none other than the chief operating officer of Mack’s Prairie Wings—a superstore in town that specializes in waterfowl hunting products—who showed me the ropes of the Duck and Rice Capital of the World. And while I must admit there was quite a bit of rice involved on that day back in 2015 (the Stuttgart campus of Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas boasts the $12.4 million Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, and the public-school mascot is the Ricebird), it’s the ducks that constantly steal the spotlight in Stuttgart. So surely you can’t find anything but ducks in November, when the World Championship Duck Calling Contest and Wings Over the Prairie Festival take over this county seat of the northern district of Arkansas County. Or can you?
The Ultimate Party Fowl
DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A DUCK
Why, there’s plenty going on in Stuttgart that looks nothing like a duck! For example, on the first Tuesday of every month, local cancer nonprofit Pass on Joy hosts an open house featuring artists and product developers. On Nov. 5, the theme is Holiday Fun and Open House, and patrons purchasing gifts—or taking a painting class led by Stuttgart’s own painter and photographer Monica Petter—will feel good knowing that a portion of the event’s proceeds goes to sending cancer patients and survivors a monthly care package. Pass on Joy currently supplies these pick-me-ups to 235 folks in 60 towns in Arkansas, as well as 27 states, including Alaska, and even two people living in Canada. Founder Misti Coker started the service after her oldest daughter’s husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and she saw them struggling. She decided they needed a little joy in this dark time, as do others going through the same. “Cancer just doesn’t quit,” Coker told me, and that’s why those in remission still get these monthly happy boxes.
DOESN’T TASTE LIKE A DUCK
Speaking of eating, Stuttgart has plenty of food-centered activities that have absolutely nothing to do with ducks. In November alone, the Grand Prairie Church is hosting a communitywide fish fry, the Holy Rosary Catholic Church is presenting a turkey-and-dressing lunch and St. Alban’s Episcopal Church is having its chili supper. But if you really want to enter food heaven, head to nearby Hazen to experience Murry’s Restaurant—the destination that food goddess Kat Robinson has called “The Holy Grail of Arkansas Delta Catfish.”
Located just 20 miles north of Stuttgart, Murry’s Restaurant is renowned for its down-home delicacies. Whether it’s chicken-fried steak or a T-bone or handmade onion rings that you’re craving, Murry’s has you covered. And, of course, you just can’t skip the hush puppies and catfish … and if you leave without the bread pudding, well, I’m just not sure we can be friends. Be sure to bring cash, though, as this throwback to old-home cooking is as old-school as anything gets nowadays. Ah, Murry’s. As Delta as Delta can be.
BUT LET’S FACE IT—IT’S A DUCK
Who are we kidding? You just can’t go to Stuttgart in November and not attend some aspect of the Wings Over the Prairie Festival. This annual duck-centered celebration held during Thanksgiving week definitely looks like a duck (consider the fourth annual 5 Stand Sporting Clay Competition, where those discs, sure enough, fly like ducks into the sky) and tastes like a duck (check out the Bud Light World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook-off, where more than 50 teams compete for the coveted title of World’s Best Duck Gumbo).
However, this week is probably most famous for sounding like a duck, with a flock of quack-filled competitions going on for the World Championship Duck Calling Contest: the Youth Duck Calling Contest held on Tuesday, the 26th; the Arkansas State Qualifying Duck Calling Contest, the Intermediate World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest and the Last Chance Regional Duck Calling Contest, held on Friday, the 29th; and the Junior World Championship’s Duck Calling Contest, the Women’s World Championship Duck Calling Contest and the 84th annual World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest, concluding the festivities on Saturday, the 30th. And for heaven’s sake, you just can’t miss the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest for high school seniors on Friday, the 29th, which has—over its 43-year history—given away more than $73,000 in scholarships.
Sure, your ears might be ringing for days to come, but that’s nothing more than water off our backs.
Want to take another quack at Stuttgart? Read the original story at arkansaslife.com/stuttgart