Folk Festival welcomes Willi Carlisle, Chucky Waggs, Pokey Lafarge and more Nov. 10-12

Folk Festival welcomes Willi Carlisle, Chucky Waggs, Pokey Lafarge and more Nov. 10-12

The Original Ozark Folk Festival returns to Eureka Springs Nov. 10-12 for its 75th year. The septuagenarian tradition includes a Folk Faire full of local art and music plus the traditionally beloved performance of the Hedgehoppers and the annual shoes-optional Barefoot Ball.

The yearly festival started during the Great Depression when Eureka Springs, nestled in the quaint rolling hills of the Ozarks, offered a reprieve from those “Dust Bowl blues.”

Nancy Paddock — a Eurekan who has been involved with organizing the festival for many years — explains that folklorist Vance Randolph, writer Cora Pinkley Call and Otto Rayburn, who published a monthly guide to the Ozarks, started working on a festival that celebrated rural Ozark life while also appealing to travelers.

“They had outdoor exhibits of arts and crafts in the Basin Park celebrating Ozark heritage,” she says, adding that events also included a parade and plenty of square dancing. “There were so many little towns in the Ozark region that were German and Irish and Italian, and so there were square dancing teams that would come and compete at the auditorium back then.”

Shortly after the festival’s genesis, a radio show called “Truth or Consequences” got cheeky with the idea of the barefoot hillbilly.

“They had a young couple that was getting a free vacation in the Ozarks, but they had to do the entire vacation without their shoes on,” Paddock explains. 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 kicked off their shoes and threw a ball in their honor.

Another 70-plus-year tradition is the Hedgehoppers, a class of third graders from Eureka Springs who perform a traditional Ozark dance and a song for the audience. Paddock says that originally it was a kids’ square dance competition, but now it’s a rite of passage for youngsters growing up in Eureka Springs.

“It’s really sweet,” Paddock says. “Everybody who grew up in town has been a Hedgehopper.” The Hedgehoppers of 2022 will perform at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at The Aud ahead of the Barefoot Ball.

“In the ’60s and the ’70s, we got more recent folk music,” she goes on, quoting local historian June Westphal, that “changes are always incorporated because folk music is always changing and the festival changes to keep up with modern times while remembering the old times.”

That energy resides in this year’s musical lineup with songs that embrace the musical customs of the Ozarks and other regions while staying rooted in the present.

Willi Carlisle and Chucky Waggs & the Company of Raggs will headline this year’s Barefoot Ball at the Aud. Willi Carlisle, who has called his share of square dances, sings new songs about old problems and old songs about water rights and the Ozark hills. His original songs explore queerness, over-commercialization and loving your neighbor. Like Carlisle, Chucky Waggs & The Company of Raggs bring a punk rock energy with a firm footing in bluegrass and Americana. Both are known to share intimate slow ballads and foot-stompin’ barn burners.

Other headliners for the weekend include Shinyribs, a nine-piece Texas blues and R&B band led by Kevin Russell. Expect a light-up cloak and conga line for that show. Rachel Ammons, “no man” band of one, is a blues player who plays many stringed instruments — guitar, banjo, violin — while providing her own percussion. She’s a familiar performer at King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena and a Northwest Arkansas favorite. Shinyribs and Rachel Ammons start at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at The Aud.

Pokey LaFarge, a decades-long superstar of the folk music and Americana scene, wraps up the festival with Hot Club of Cowtown at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12. Hot Club of Cowtown, a high-energy Americana trio, was described by The Independent as “a crossroads where country meets jazz and chases the blues away.”

Free music shows will happen during the annual Folk Faire, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 10-12. Emcee Danny Spain will present 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 do a free show at 2 p.m. Nov. 1o during the Folk Faire.

Local artisans sharing their wares at the Folk Faire include Sage Holland, Vicky Hardcastle, Robert Norman (Official Artist of the Folk Festival), Ron Lutz, Julie Kahn Valentine and Lisa Crew, and booths will showcase the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, Eureka Springs Historical Museum and Shiloh Museum of Ozark History from Springdale.



75th Annual

Original Ozark Folk Festival

WHEN — Nov. 10-12

WHERE — The Aud, 36 S. Main St. in Eureka Springs

COST — The Folk Faire is free; headliners are ticketed events


Categories: Music