Country’s Oldest Folk Festival Rolls On


The year was 1947. TV’s were just being tested, the phrase "baby boomers" was years away from being coined, and a little getaway town in the Ozarks held its first folk festival. 63 years later TV’s are omnipresent, baby boomers are seniors, and that little gathering in Eureka Springs has become the country’s oldest continuously running folk festival.

When the 63rd Annual Original Ozark Folk Festival takes place here Nov. 4-6, it will include the appearance of a folk icon, the return of a revered tradition, and the birth of a new one. Eliza Gilkyson headlines the featured show at the Auditorium Nov. 6. The Barefoot Ball returns to the 1905 Basin Park Hotel by popular demand Nov. 5. And a talent show competition will be inaugurated Nov. 4 as part of a free show at the Auditorium.

Gilkyson is a politically minded, poetically gifted singer-songwriter who has become one of the most respected musicians in roots, folk and Americana circles. Over the course of 13 albums, Eliza Gilkyson has built a reputation as one of the most original and influential folk artists of our time. In 2006, she was recognized with 3 Austin Music Awards and 4 Folk Alliance Music Awards, one for Song of the Year for her tune, "Man of God".

Opening for Gilkyson will be 3 Penny Acre and Wes Casto, who won last year’s Ozark Folk Festival Singer-Songwriter Contest.

A short performance by the Hedgehoppers precedes the talent competition. A student group has performed under that name each year since the festival’s earliest days. This year, Eureka Springs Elementary School teacher Sheila Payne leads this music and dance group of elementary school students. Doors open at 5:30 and the Hedgehoppers take the stage at 6 p.m.

The Youth Talent Show, for ages 17 and under, will be from 6:15-8 p.m. The Adult Talent Show, for ages 18 and over, begins at 8:30. The talent shows have been added to allow more individuals the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities.

A staple of nearly every Ozark Folk Festival has been the craft show, celebrating the diverse skills of our many local craftspeople. This year the free Back to the Ozarks Craft Show happens Nov. 5 and 6 from noon until 6 p.m. There will be displays of historic Ozark arts and crafts in Basin Spring Park, and artisans will be demonstrating their skills. Visitors to the crafts show will also be entertained by free live folk music in Basin Spring Park from noon until 6 p.m.

Since its inception as part of the folk festival on June 23, 1948, the Barefoot Ball has had a long and rich, if not uninterrupted, history. Doors open at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 for the 2010 edition of this festive, unpretentious dance. The 1905 Basin Park Hotel’s Barefoot Ballroom, named after the event, will once again be the venue. Fayetteville’s Cletus Got Shot opens, and regional favorites Big Smith, from Springfield, Missouri, headline. Despite the event’s name, shoes are optional.

The festival’s final day, Nov. 6, is the fullest. The free concerts and craft show continue in Basin Spring Park from noon until 6 p.m. The Singer/Songwriter contest finals are from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Auditorium. Admission is free. The folk festival parade winds its way through historic downtown at 2 p.m.

Tickets for the Barefoot Ball and the Ozark Folk Festival Featured Show with Eliza Gilkyson go on sale Sept. 13. For tickets, entry forms, rules for the contests and schedule updates, go online to

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