50 and fine

50 and fine

Bella Vista Crafts Festival marks half century


The Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival marks a milestone this October: 50 years.

In the crafts fair world of Northwest Arkansas, that makes the fair middle-aged. The War Eagle Fair celebrates 64 years in 2018, so it’s often referred to as the granddaddy of them all. And the HeART of Rogers Crafts Fair marks its fourth year, making it one of the newest babies of the bunch.

courtesy of The Bella Vista Historical Museum
A 1969 newspaper clipping shows a Rogers man demonstrating rope making at the first Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival.

In 1969, 30 Village Art Club members decided to put on a crafts fair in Bella Vista. That first year, they rented a large tent and erected it in a pasture not far from the campground, which was then located on Little Sugar Creek, north of the dam.

Martha Anglin remembered bringing sock dolls to the Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival that year. And some things haven’t changed, she noted. She returns to the same booth each year and sees many of the same customers. (Some of her customers even call her at home to make sure she plans to be there.) But she no longer sells dolls. Now, she has jackets and felt bags.

That first festival was a success, according to a story published in The Ozark Mountaineer in October 1983, and the little club gained 23 more members. But the next year, 1970, it rained. The organizers were surprised to realize that didn’t stop some of the shoppers, who wore plastic bags on their feet and negotiated the muddy pasture to shop. After that the committee knew to keep a supply of straw and heavy plastic on hand, the author noted.

Another article published by the Festival Magazine reported that exhibitors saved the day when the large circus tent began to sag and lean. The exhibitors were used to outdoor shows, and they knew to clear the standing water and tighten the guy lines while they waited for the tent company to send workers down from Joplin, Mo.

The dates of the Bella Vista festival were changed to correspond with the War Eagle Fair in 1972, and in 1973, the festival moved to Blowing Springs Park, which had restrooms, a picnic area and paved roads. By then, there were three tents, 150 artists and 50,000 people in attendance. In 1993, the festival moved again, this time to its current location, just south of the junction of Arkansas 340 and 279.

At one time, Angln and her husband, Robert, went to 18 craft fairs all over the region, but now they go only to Bella Vista. She said she likes the Bella Vista fair — unlike the last craft fair she attended in Branson, Mo. The local fair still offers only handmade items, not “commercial stuff.” Also, Bella Vista is close to home for the Anglins, who live in Siloam Springs.

Courtesy of the Bella Vista Historical Museum
A 1998 poster celebrates thirty years of Craft Fairs.

The “Butterfield Tram,” drawn by a tractor, debuted in 1975. It would would bring festival shoppers into Blowing Springs. That first wagon was built by volunteers. Now there are two wagons drawn by tractors on loan from Bobcat of Northwest Arkansas and driven by volunteers.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of groups like the Rotary and the Kiwanis,” said Elaine Reinke, director of the fair. Several churches send volunteers, and last year, a 4-H Club joined the ranks of Festival Ambassadors, helpers who run the booths when the owners need short breaks. The exhibitors loved having the youngsters involved, Reinke said.

Volunteers also man the “large item” service. They use a donated golf cart to pick up larger pieces of art after a customer makes a purchase, transport it to a tent in the parking lot and wait for the buyer to drive up and retrieve it. They also use golf carts to pick up customers who need a lift.

There’s a family tent again where children can do their own arts and crafts, have their faces painted or watch an actual beehive. This year, 12 food trucks will park on site, each with a unique menu ranging from “fair food” — like cotton candy — to stir-fried vegetables. A trio of musicians will travel throughout the fair to entertain vendors and guests.

In honor of the festival’s 50th anniversary, Reinke plans to add a gallery tent. She realized many of the artists who sell their products in Wishing Spring Gallery — also operated by the Village Art Club — aren’t able to have booths at the festival. It’s not easy to spend three days outside in a tent, she pointed out. She’ll collect the artwork, set up the display and assign volunteers to man the booth, she said.

From the very beginning, the Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival has been a juried show. A committee looks at the products and chooses which artists can exhibit at the show. If an artist is found selling something purchased elsewhere, the artist is asked to leave and not allowed to return, Reinke said. That’s one policy she doesn’t expect will change any time soon.



Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival

WHEN — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18-20

WHERE — Arkansas 279, just south of Arkansas 340

COST — Admission is free

INFO — 855-2064 or bellavistafestival.org



Down The Road

HeART of Rogers Craft Fair

Now in its fourth year, the HeART of Rogers Craft Fair offers not only fine arts and crafts items for sale by local artists. It also offers five live demonstrations and guided tours of two historic buildings that are significant to the founding of the city.

Scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19-20, the arts and crafts fair takes place on the first floor of the beautifully restored Haas Hall Academy at 121 W. Poplar St., in what was once the Historic Lane Hotel, and in the fellowship hall of the First United Methodist Church at 307 W. Elm St. Church members will provide tours of the beautiful stained glass in the sanctuary during fair hours.

A juried event, the fair welcomes approximately 50 artisans and designers along with the five live demonstrations featuring bobbin lace, pottery, stained glass, fluid art and sidewalk chalk art.

Admission is free. Proceeds go toward GoDowntownRogers.com events including Bikes on the Bricks and Holidays on the Bricks.

Information: godowntownrogers.com/heart-of-rogers-craft-fair.


All The Rest

Northwest Arkansas is bursting at the seams with vintage shopping events and arts and crafts festivals in October. Here are just a few of them:

Spanker Creek Farm Arts & Crafts Fair — The farm setting creates a great Ozark atmosphere for many veteran exhibitors returning to the area and many new exhibitors from all over the country, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 17-20 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21, 8464 W. McNelly Road in Bentonville. Spankercreekfarm.com.

Ozark Regional Arts & Crafts Festival — Vintage, junktique antiques, home and garden decor, adult andchildren’s apparell and more, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 18-20, Washington County Fairgrounds in Fayetteville. craftfairsnwa.com.

War Eagle Fair — The granddaddy of them all along the banks of the War Eagle River offers more than 250 booths of handcrafted creations, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18-20 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21, 11037 High Sky Inn Road near Hindsville. Parking is $5. wareaglefair.com.

War Eagle Mill Arts & Crafts Fair — Professional crafters offer original, handmade work such as country decorative items, folk art, watercolor and oil painting, pottery, stoneware and more in this juried show, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18-20 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21, across from War Eagle Mills Farm. Wareaglemill.com.

Sharp’s Show at War Eagle — The third in the triumvirate of shows along the War Eagle River next to War Eagle Mill, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18-20 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21, across from War Eagle Mills Farm. (479) 789-5683.

It’s Fall Y’all Craft Fair — Featuring local artisans and small businesses, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18-20 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 21, Benton County Fairgrounds, 7640 S.W. Regional Airport Blvd. near Bentonville. liveloveeventsnwa.com.

Frisco Station Mall Arts & Crafts Festival — Offering a climate-controlled shopping experience, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 18-20 and noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 21, Frisco Station Mall in Rogers. (479) 841-3183.

Original Ozark Regional Arts & Crafts Festival — A comfortable, climate controlled, easy shopping experience that is accessible to anyone with a disability, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 19-20, Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale. craftfairsnwa.com.

HeART of Rogers Craft Fair — Some 50 juried artisans and designers who exemplify the best in creativity, diversity and individuality, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19-20, Haas Hall Academy, 121 W. Poplar St., and the fellowship hall of the First United Methodist Church, 307 W. Elm St. in downtown Rogers. godowntownrogers.com.

Categories: Maker Space