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article imageSpring Craft Fairs in the Ozarks Special

By Kay Mathews     May 8, 2010 in Entertainment
Ozark artists, craftspersons, and vendors gathered in Northwest Arkansas to showcase and sell their products. Craft fans flocked to various sites to peruse and make purchases of items ranging from handmade quilts to flour made at a historic grist mill.
As the saying goes, “Craft fairs and Northwest Arkansas go together like kettles and corn!” The weekend of May 7, 8, and 9 is one in which kettlecorn is popping and spring craft fairs are hopping in the Ozarks. Outdoor fairs are being held east of Rogers at the War Eagle Mill Spring Craft and Culinary Fair, the neighboring Sharp’s Show of War Eagle, and in Bella Vista at the Spanker Creek Farms Arts and Craft Fair, which features “many returning exhibitors that have been coming to the area for years, and many new exhibitors from all over the USA!”
In addition to the location at the Spanker Creek farm, there is a second location at the Clarion Convention Center in Bentonville. Likewise, for those interested in large indoor craft shows, there is the Frisco Station Mall Arts and Crafts Show in Rogers that continues through May 9 and the Ozark Regional Arts and Crafts Show that was held at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale May 7 and 8.
The spring and fall arts and crafts fairs held at War Eagle Mill are considered the “granddaddy of them all,” and this spring’s fair is no exception. I admit being a bit partial because former owners of War Eagle Mill, Jewell and Leta Medlin, were family friends. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent at the mill, and it was my destination this weekend.
War Eagle Bridge and War Eagle Mill.  May 8  2010.
War Eagle Bridge and War Eagle Mill. May 8, 2010.
The crisp yet sunny day was perfect for shoppers to browse the rows of booths staffed by craftspersons. One of the booths I stopped at is called Cedar Plus and features handcrafted wood items designed by Dale and Cathy Olson, and proudly made by Dale. We discussed how business was going. While the turn-out so far has been good, Dale said that “you can tell the economy is down. A lot of people are embarrassed they don’t have money, so they are lookin’ for something you don’t have.” Or, for example, Dale said he will be talking with female customers who point out items they are very interested in. “Then,” Dale said, “they will say 'I’ve gotta go get my husband,' and they don’t come back.” “Some,” said Cathy, “will just straight out tell you that they don’t have the money.” Both Dale and Cathy said that they had talked to other vendors about this and they noticed it, too.
Cedar Plus booth at War Eagle Mill.  May 8  2010.
Cedar Plus booth at War Eagle Mill. May 8, 2010.
Dale, who retired from the construction business, builds the wood items but the couple work as a team in the design phase. Cathy directed my attention to a napkin holder/salt and pepper shaker holder combo and told me that “everything is our own design. We do a lot of it [product design] together.”
Napkin Holder with Salt and Pepper by Cedar Plus.  War Eagle Mill.  May 8  2010.
Napkin Holder with Salt and Pepper by Cedar Plus. War Eagle Mill. May 8, 2010.
Overall, though, it appeared that business was good especially for those vendors selling specialty food products. This may be related to the fact that War Eagle Mill debuted their "new 'Water Wheel' pasta made by World Garden of Bentonville." The aromas in the air made the focus on culinary arts and food obvious.
Other vendors, such as Fesperman’s Beef Jerky out of Okmulgee, OK, mentioned that sales had been good and what was on the booth's shelves was all that was left. Advertising that they have the “Best Beef Jerky Around,” I decided to taste a sample. No false advertising here!
And, of course, business at War Eagle Mill itself was brisk. The mill grinds stone buhr whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, grits, cornmeal, rye flour, and wholegrain mixes among other products. My bag, like many other shoppers around me, was filled with jars of cranberry spread and wild blackberry preserves, and bags of organic flax seed and Grandma's Southern Cornbread Mix.
Grist mill grinding area  which grinds the products displayed on the shelves.  War Eagle Mill.  May ...
Grist mill grinding area, which grinds the products displayed on the shelves. War Eagle Mill. May 8, 2010.
Eighteen-foot undershot waterwheel that powers the mill.  War Eagle Mill.  May 8  2010.
Eighteen-foot undershot waterwheel that powers the mill. War Eagle Mill. May 8, 2010.
Anyone wishing to experience this "granddaddy of of all Arkansas craft fairs" is encouraged to "mark your calendars" for the Fall War Eagle Mill Arts and Crafts Fair scheduled October 14 - 17. The other fairs listed above, as well as a few additional locations, will also host arts and crafts shows around the same time in October.
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