A Toadally Cool Object In Exhibition Hall
Capitol Visitor Center Registrar Karin Johnston, takes an in depth look at one of her favorite artifacts currently on display in the Exhibition Hall exhibit, “Conflict and Compromise.”
As the Capitol Visitor Center’s Registrar, I’m not supposed to have favorites among the objects on display in Exhibition Hall. Nevertheless, there are some artifacts that are so much fun and so thought-provoking that they cannot be ignored. The toad box, which is currently on display as part of the “Conflict and Comprise” exhibition, is one of those objects.
For the Library of Congress’ bicentennial in 2000, Members of Congress and their constituents collaborated with the Library in Local Legacies: Celebrating America’s Roots, a project documenting American folklife and popular culture. Communities in every state worked with their senators and representatives to highlight unique local traditions and festivals.
Surely one of the most distinctive events chronicled in Local Legacies was the 2000 Toad Suck Daze celebration held in the towns of Toad Suck and Conway, Arkansas. First organized in 1982 in Toad Suck, the festival is now held annually in downtown Conway, Arkansas, during the first weekend in May. Events include music, arts and crafts, a variety of food, carnival rides, and, of course, the World Championship Toad Races.
For the World Championship Toad Races, visitors enter toads that they have brought from home or that were bred in the community for this purpose. To transport the entrants, they use toad boxes similar to the one on display in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Exhibition Hall, which is from the 2000 Toad Suck Daze celebration. Each box displays the official toad racing rules on one side and on the other, the name of the toad and its owner.
The legend behind the name of the town of Toad Suck comes from a time when steamboats traveled the Arkansas River. When the water was not deep enough, the steamboats tied up where the Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam now spans the river near Conway. While the captains and crew waited for the water to rise they refreshed themselves at the local tavern. People living nearby said, “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.'”
Be sure to check out this artifact, and all the others on display in Exhibition Hall on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. No passes or reservations are needed to visit the displays. For more information, go to www.visitthecapitol.gov.