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Fort-building contest celebrates Fort Smith’s bicentennial

August 6, 2018

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — Over 200 children on a recent Saturday used cardboard boxes to transport themselves back in time to the establishment of Fort Smith.

The “My City is a Fort” Fort Building Contest drew children to the Chaffee Crossing Historic District to construct forts out of cardboard boxes. The contest is one of several events in 2018 that celebrates Fort Smith’s bicentennial.

“This is their town, their city,” said Lori Robertson, director of the event and marketing director at Chaffee Crossing. “We wanted to give them something to be proud of and to recognize all of this.”

Robertson said the idea for the event was sparked by members of the Fort Smith Bicentennial Committee wanting to educate children on the history of the town. Fort Smith was founded as a military outpost in 1817.

This idea took off, Robertson said, with the book “My City is a Fort” by Kathy Watson and illustrated by Stacy Bates, which came out in May in celebration of the bicentennial. The front cover of the book displays a fort constructed from cardboard boxes.

“What’s really cool about this is, we are on what was formerly Fort Chaffee, so the kids are going to be building forts in what was once a true military fort,” Robertson said.

The children were broken up into multiple teams ages 5-9 and 10-12 and had from about 9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m. to construct their forts out of 24 boxes each. For that hour, the historic district lawn was bustling with children stacking boxes on top of them and decorating them with sidewalk chalk, water bottles and other accessories.

The forts were then judged on creativity, historical accuracy, originality and construction, the Southwest Times Record reported.

“Disabled American Veterans are here, the Creative Arts Network is here, and someone from the Association of Home Builders is here to be our judges,” Robertson said.

In the 5-9 age group, Team 22, which consisted of Seth Christly, 9, Elizabeth Chung, 5, and Ashlynn Parrott, 11, won the grand prize. Team 26, which consisted of Skylar Grimes, 12, Elliott Grimes, 12, and Ty Williams, 8, won the grand prize for the 10-12 age group.

The members of Team 26 aimed for historical accuracy when they constructed their fort, Elliott Grimes said.

“We (looked) at the picture and tried to make it look as much like that,” he said.

In addition to teaching children about the history of the city, Robertson also hoped the contest lent positive memories.

“Someday, when these kids are adults, they’re going to look back and say, ‘Hey, remember that time we built that fort out at Chaffee Crossing, and how fun that was?’” she said. “It’s kind of a simple goal, but we think it’s a good one.”

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Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

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