Folk Festival hosts Willi Carlisle, Chucky Waggs, Pokey Lafarge and more November 10-12
The original Ozark Folk Festival returns to Eureka Springs November 10-12 for its 75th year. The septuagenarian tradition includes a folk fair full of local art and music, as well as the traditionally beloved performance of the Hedgehoppers and the annual Barefoot Ball with optional shoes.
The annual festival began during the Great Depression when Eureka Springs, nestled in the scenic hills of the Ozarks, offered respite from those “Dust Bowl blues.”
Nancy Paddock — a Eurekian who has been involved in organizing the festival for many years — says folklorist Vance Randolph, writer Cora Pinkley Call and Otto Rayburn, who publishes a monthly guide to the Ozarks, have started working on a festival celebrating Ozark countryside life while appealing to travellers.
“They had outdoor arts and crafts displays in the basin park celebrating Ozark heritage,” she says, adding that the events also included a parade and lots of square dancing. “There were so many small towns in the Ozark area that were German, Irish, and Italian, and so there were square dance teams that came to compete in the auditorium at the time.”
Shortly after the festival’s genesis, a radio show called “Truth or Consequences” became cheeky with the idea of the barefoot hillbilly.
“They had a young couple who were getting a free vacation in the Ozarks, but they had to do the whole vacation without their shoes on,” Paddock says. The winning couple, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Forehans of Santa Ana, Calif., had to be barefoot from the time they left their home until they returned. The couple won a two-week stay at the Basin Park Hotel, and when people saw the Forehans walking barefoot around Eureka Springs, they took off their shoes and threw a ball in their honor.
Another 70-plus-year-old tradition is that of the Hedgehoppers, a class of third graders from Eureka Springs who perform a traditional Ozark dance and song for the audience. Paddock says it was originally a kids’ square dance competition, but now it’s a rite of passage for youngsters growing up in Eureka Springs.
“It’s really adorable,” Paddock says. “Everyone who grew up in town was Hedgehopper.” The 2022 Hedgehoppers will perform at 5:30 p.m. on November 10 at The Aud before the Barefoot Ball.
“In the 60s and 70s we had newer folk music,” she continues, quoting local historian June Westphal, that “changes are always incorporated because folk music always changes and the festival changes. to keep up with modern times. while remembering the good old days.”
That energy resides in this year’s musical lineup with songs that embrace the musical customs of the Ozarks and other regions while remaining grounded in the present.
Willi Carlisle and Chucky Waggs & the Company of Raggs will headline this year’s Barefoot Ball at Aud. Willi Carlisle, who called his share of square dances, sings new songs about old issues and old songs about water rights and the Ozark Hills. His original songs explore homosexuality, over-commercialization and love of fellow man. Like Carlisle, Chucky Waggs & The Company of Raggs bring punk rock energy with a solid foundation in bluegrass and Americana. The two are known for sharing intimate slow ballads and stomping barn burners.
Other weekend headliners include Shinyribs, a nine-piece blues and R&B band from Texas fronted by Kevin Russell. Expect a bright cape and conga line for this show. Rachel Ammons, “no man” band of one, is a blues player who plays many string instruments – guitar, banjo, fiddle – while providing her own percussion. She’s a familiar performer at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena and a favorite in northwest Arkansas. Shinyribs and Rachel Ammons begin at 7:30 p.m. on November 11 at The Aud.
Pokey LaFarge, a decades-old American folk music and stage superstar, wraps up the festival with the Hot Club of Cowtown at 7:30 p.m. on November 12. The Hot Club of Cowtown, an energetic American trio, has been described by The Independent as “a crossroads where country meets jazz and drives out the blues”.
Free music performances will take place during the annual Folk Faire, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. November 10-12. Master of Ceremonies Danny Spain will feature local musicians such as Skye Pollard & the Family Holler, Front Porch, Jesse Dean, Ozark Mountain Rhombus, Shannon Wurst, Sprungbilly, Brian Martin and Dandelion Heart. Carlisle will also perform a free show at 2 p.m. on November 1 during the Folk Faire.
Local artisans sharing their wares at the Folk Faire include Sage Holland, Vicky Hardcastle, Robert Norman (Official Folk Festival Artist), Ron Lutz, Julie Kahn Valentine and Lisa Crew, and booths will feature the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, Eureka Springs Historical Museum and Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale.
Original Ozark Folk Festival
WHEN — November 10-12
WHERE — The Aud, 36 S. Main St. in Eureka Springs
COST — The Folk Faire is free; headliners are ticketed events
INFO — bit.ly/ozarkfolkfestival22