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The annual Arkansas Folk Festival takes place on the third weekend in April in Mountain View (Stone County). Held since 1963, the event attracts thousands of people to the small mountain community, where the livelihood of many residents is based on tourism. The town has become nationally renowned for its folk music, and the downtown area is a popular place for impromptu “pickins” as musicians gather informally to perform.
The Arkansas Folk Festival has its roots in the Stone County Folkways Festival held in 1941, celebrating the musical heritage of the area. Musical performances and a jig dance contest were among events held at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. World War II prevented subsequent gatherings at the time, but the festival was revived in 1963 during the birth of a regional tourism effort. The Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild (now the Arkansas Craft Guild), which represented a seven-county area, had held its first show the year before in Batesville (Independence County), and the local Tourist and Recreation Committee (a subcommittee of the Rural Development Agency) had sponsored a regional Dogwood Drive for the previous few years. It was decided to combine the different events into one big spring festival.
Attendance at the festival peaked in the 1970s with the height in popularity of folk music and the free-spirited audience that followed it. The festival was extended over two weekends in its most popular phase; as of 2013, the event features three official days of activities sponsored by the Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce. A parade of local dignitaries, floats depicting area heritage, antique cars, and other entries is a main attraction. Musicians gather throughout the downtown area, and merchandise vendors display and sell their wares. Special programs such as living history forums and talent shows vary from year to year. Unofficial observers have estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people attend per year.
The Arkansas Craft Guild, which maintains its headquarters and gallery in Mountain View, worked in 2008 to re-establish handmade crafts as an important aspect of the festival. That year, the festival premiered the Artisans Market on the Square, a juried arts and crafts show and sale organized by the newly formed Mountain View Area Artisans Council.
For additional information:“History of the Arkansas Folk Festival.” Heritage of Stone 22, no. 2 (1998): 1–23.
Lori FreezeStone County Leader
Last Updated 12/13/2013
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