RECTOR, AR (KAIT) – Less than 2,000 people call the town of Rector home, but the population usually swells to five times that size every Labor Day weekend.
Volunteers put on the annual Labor Day Picnic in Rector, which draws an average of 10,000 people to town. The event lasts all weekend, culminating with a picnic and parade on Monday.
"People come home for Labor Day that don't come home for Christmas," Teresa Roofe said.
Roofe has not missed a Labor Day Picnic in Rector since she married her husband in 1970.
"I'm not from Rector," she said. "I grew up in Paragould, but I'm part of Rector now and I just absolutely love Labor Day and I can't imagine being anywhere else."
Roofe serves as secretary and treasurer for the Woodland Heights Cemetery Commission, which organizes the picnic each year to benefit the cemetery. She claims it's not unusual for the picnic to bring in about $50,000, which will mostly go to support maintenance and upkeep at the cemetery.
"It is an awesome thing to do," Roofe said. "You get to help a lot of people, and our cemetery's one of the most beautiful in Arkansas – anywhere."
She says the event would not run as smoothly as it does without the help of hundreds of volunteers, including the mayor.
"A friend of mine said this morning…if something needs to be done in Rector, somebody just does it," Mayor David Freeman said. "That's the way the whole town works."
Freeman says as long as he can remember, politicians have flocked to the picnic, too. The event this year attracted gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson as well as Rep. Rick Crawford and other local officials. It's easy to see why they come since the picnic usually brings together several thousand people into one place.
"Everybody that's been elected statewide in Arkansas has been to Rector," Freeman said. "They all know when and where the Rector Labor Day Picnic is."
Politics aside, people say the real reason this tradition has lasted 72 years is because they get to run into old friends and reunite with family members.
"You get to see people you haven't seen in a year," Freeman said. "Families change. It's just a real cool thing to do all weekend."
"It is a crime not to love Labor Day," Roofe added.