Decatur, located at the intersection of Arkansas Highways 59 and 102, is a great place to visit, start a business or call home. At first glance, Decatur may seem to be a sleepy little town along the railroad and built around the Simmons plant there — its population is only about 1,700 residents — but a closer look below will reveal churches, schools, city parks and lots of activity. A walk down one of Decatur’s streets on a summer evening reveals the sounds of children laughing as they catch fireflies on the lawn, and the smell of freshly-mowed grass. With an area of only about five-square miles, everyone is counted a neighbor.
The town has two convenience stores and a truck stop, a bank, public library, medical clinic, restaurants and numerous churches. Families can enjoy picnicking or fishing at nearby Crystal Lake or in one of the town’s parks. Swimming is available at the municipal pool, and there are plenty of ball diamonds available for a game of softball or baseball.
A 60-year tradition continues each summer on the first Saturday in August, with the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Decatur Barbecue held in Veterans Park. The annual festival causes the town’s population to swell to an estimated 10,000 with its famous barbecued chicken and other food, fun, games, contests, pageants, car show, motorcycle ride and first-class entertainment — with both local talent and a well-known country artist performing on the stage.
For those interested in railroad history, the Southern Belle engine — a landmark in the area — attracts attention from across the country as one of the last of its kind. Nearby stands a mid 1800s log cabin from just outside of town which was moved and re-assembled in its present location one log at a time. The cabin preserves some of the history of the area during Civil War days.
City Hall, located a block east of Highway 59, is a good place to stop for information on the city, its laws and city utilities. The city is served by a full-time police department and a volunteer fire department. It has its own water and new wastewater treatment facilities which are state-of-the-art.
Decatur Schools — with about 550 students in grades kindergarten through grade 12 — offer a low student-teacher ratio and dedicated teachers who know each child by name. A new elementary school facility was recently added on the west side of town.
The chief industrial employers in Decatur are Simmons Foods and FNA Group. Simmons Foods, which purchased much of the business established by the late Lloyd Peterson and Peterson Farms, operates a processing plant, hatcheries and a pet-food plant in the Decatur area.