One of my favorite events each summer is Ozark Heritage Day at Big Spring, near van Buren, in the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways. This year, the event is Saturday, June 13, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Because the Riverways is my favorite place in the state, any reason to head that direction is a good reason. But seriously, Heritage Day is worth the drive. Don't limit your trip just to the one-day event -- turn it into a long weekend by adding a float trip on the Current River, hiking some of the scenic trails in the area, and lodging in one of the many cabins or campgrounds in the area.
Besides being a reason to visit one of the most beautiful spots in the Ozarks, the festival is a great way to spend a family outing. The kids will learn about the past via living history demonstrations, and the oldsters will recall many of these old-time skills from their youth.
The event is sponsored by the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which is managed by the National Park Service to preserve the free-flowing Current and Jacks Fork rivers, the surrounding natural resources, and the unique cultural heritage of the Ozark people. It is the latter part of this mission that is the key to Ozark Heritage Day. Old-time traditional skills, crafts and music are the focus of the event.
Local and regional demonstrators will show how to make rope, baskets, lye soap, candles, fiddles, rugs, fishing gigs, turkey calls and johnboats, among other things. Spinners, quilters, woodworkers and log skidders will demonstrate these traditional chores.
Visitors will be reminded of the many things that had to be made by hand during the Great Depression. The area of the park used for the event is called the Ozark Depression Homestead.
Bluegrass music by Buzzard Run, featuring fiddle, banjo and dulcimer, and square dancing by the Western Grand Squares will round out the event. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to enjoy the entertainment.
Food will be for sale by a local vendor, or you can bring your own picnic.
For more information about Ozark Heritage Day, visit http://www.nps.gov/ozar/planyourvisit/special-events.htm or call 573-323-4236 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Big Spring is four miles south of Van Buren, on State Route 103.
Normally I would recommend staying overnight at Big Spring in one of the historic cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), but the cabins and the surrounding historic district are closed for renovation. Stay tuned to park service announcements to learn about the reopening, in 2016 or 2017.