Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Every year, somewhere around the first weekend in May, thousands descend upon Conway for Toad Suck Daze, an annual festival to celebrate, well, who knows? There's the famous toad race, the funnel cakes, the cotton candy, corn dogs, massive turkey legs. There are craft booths and carousels.
But under one tent at the corner of Oak and Front streets, in a small bank parking lot, there's something different, something drawing people in like a magnet.
It's an endurance contest, a battle of wills, if you will, that has grown into a phenomenon. It's a tournament where locals put their health and their sanity on the line for a brand new Ford pickup truck. Desperation and sleep deprivation combine to form a human spectacle that will become the talk of the town over the course of the next four or five days.
Stuck on a Truck was modeled after similar contests in other southern small towns like Longview, Texas, and has been going strong for nine years now. Would-be participants sign up at local businesses for the chance to compete. The rules are fairly simple. Contestants must stand next to the truck, keeping at least one hand on the vehicle, until only one person is left standing.
Five-minute breaks every hour and 15-minute breaks every six hours are the only relief contestants have from the monotony. The parking lot of the bank, behind the big tent covering the truck, resembles a refugee camp. Ramshackle tents, make-shift massage centers and port-a-potties are crammed into the small lot and surrounded by a cattle fence. It is here that contestants use their precious-little break time to use the bathroom, eat, hear words of encouragement from family members or lie down for a change.
This year, the contest ended dramatically after 92 hours and 44 minutes. That's almost four days. Wearing sweaters and standing in puddles that had accumulated from the constant rainfall that weekend, the final three stood bleary-eyed and determined they would be the last to go. At 92 hours and 42 minutes, 24-year-old Jason Beck, who according to other contestants had so lost touch with reality that he thought he was in a food-eating contest at the time, took his hands off the truck to stretch his fingers and get ready to dig in.
As judges escorted him away, 19-year-old Carlie Porterfield struggled to hear her dad call out to her as the crowd cheered on the remaining two. Porterfield's father was trying to tell her that she had made it to the final two. When she couldn't make out his words, she took her hands off the truck and walked toward him. That left only Chuck Speer, the 36-year-old athletic director at Conway Christian High School, as the winner. The crowd, which was filled with about 200 Conway Christian students, erupted.
“They told me twice that I had won and I could take my hands off the truck,” Speer said. “But I asked them if I could just to make sure.”
Speer said he felt excited and relieved to have won, but the contest had been a trying one. Speer is a diabetic and he and his wife, Kim, who is a nurse, had to constantly keep track of his blood sugar.
“It was probably a pretty good experiment,” Speer said. “I don't think any diabetic has stayed up for four days to see what happened to their blood sugar. But we were checking it every hour and I was eating a really low-carb, fruit and vegetable diet. It stayed pretty normal.”