The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival in downtown West Plains, Mo., will celebrate its 29th year June 2 and 3, 2023. The signature event for West Plains, the festival seeks to celebrate, preserve, pass on and nurture an appreciation of the old-time music and folk life traditions distinctive to the Ozark Highlands. Admission to all festival events is free.
Organizers announce this year’s event will feature increased programming of traditional arts, music, and lifeways. Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities, and Missouri Department of Tourism have partnered this year to help promote ten Missouri festivals – we’re so grateful they chose us to be part of that group!
“We always like to say we have ‘something for everyone.’ This year it’s truer than ever,” says the steering committee. Here are some highlights and links to more information available online.
This year’s Festival footprint will be expanded, encompassing vendors and activities from the east lawn of the Civic Center, down Trish Knight Blvd., up and down Washington Avenue, and continuing to the Commons on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus at Haas-Darr Hall. Workshops and demonstrations on musical and traditional arts will continue to be presented at the Civic Center, and a Quilt Walk is planned throughout the downtown area. Here’s the link to the online, multi-layered map showing all activities: Ozark Heritage Festival Map, 2023 – Google My Maps Just check the categories you want, and uncheck anything that’s not of interest at the moment. Click the program links for full schedule information at those locations.
Old-time music on the civic center theater and Garfield Ave. stages begins at noon. The evening headliner performances, featuring gospel groups The Isaacs, W.I.N.G.S., and The Blackwood Brothers Quartet, will be held in the Civic Center Arena. The lineup this year promises great performances all day by groups dedicated to their craft. Artist details are available on the website at 2023 Performers – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Workshops begin at noon in the Dogwood Rooms. Fiddle, banjo, harmonica, and dulcimer are among the offerings this year. 2023 Festival Musical Workshops – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
From 11 am each day, the Magnolia Room in the Civic Center will be the location where special programs by noted presenters will be scheduled. Each hour will feature a different topic including the influence of Scots Irish culture in the Ozarks; How the movement west changed our culture of food; A family tradition of sorghum -making; Ingenuity of Ozarks Toolmaking; and The Civil War – local history and stories. Meet Father Hogan of the Irish Wilderness and explorer Henry Schoolcraft. Their stories will intrigue and fascinate. Hear how the acapella Gospel tradition connects its roots to the Ozarks. Our presenters welcome questions, comments and interactive conversations. Traditional Arts Presentations in the Magnolia Room – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Quilts and other fabric arts are a huge part of our culture. Cindy McLean and friends will host a display on the mezzanine of the civic center and have scheduled “bed turnings” at 11AM and 4PM both days. JudyJo Protiva will be on hand to demonstrate her treadle sewing machine from 12-2PM on Friday, 1-3PM on Saturday. Twenty-one businesses and organizations have joined to provide locations for our first-ever Quilt Walk. Take a tour around the Square and down Washington Avenue, then up to the Harlin Museum for some beautiful quilts, complete with stories. Quilts and Fabric Arts – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Artisans and demonstrators will be located on the West Civic Center lawn in our Artisan Village Artisans/Demonstrators 2023 – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival and on the East lawn in the huge living history encampment featuring four historical eras – Indigenous People, Colonial, Civil War and Mountain Men. Living History Encampment 2023 – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival There’s so much to see!
The Mule Jump Competition will take place Saturday, June 3, on the corner of East Main and Curry St., with a demonstration planned for 2 p.m. and the competition at 6 p.m. Three categories (sizes) of mules will compete for cash prizes, sponsored by Hirsch Feed and Farm. Mule Jump – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
The National Bob Holt Jig Dance Competition will be held in the arena at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, with registration open at 12:00 p.m. There are four age categories, and each dancer competes to the same tune played by live musicians. Come try out your fancy steps. Prize money plus gift certificates will be awarded. Come watch this unique dance style. Jig Dance Workshops will be held Friday at 1PM on the basketball courts at the Grizzly Dorms, and again Saturday at 11AM in the Arena. Jig Dance Competition and Workshops – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Traditional square dancing, where the caller is part of the square, will take place both Friday 2 – 5 p.m. in the Student Rec Center on the MSU-WP campus, and on Saturday from 6-10 p.m. in the Arena. We have a great lineup of dance musicians, and the dances will be hosted by Andy and Jane Elder. Square Dancing – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
The Cooking Stage will be located under the Brush Arbor in the Civic Center parking lot at St. Louis St. Each day is filled with interesting dishes and discussions. Pie competition entries are due in the Redbud Room between 10:00 – 10:30 a.m. Results of the judging with prize money and special awards will be announced at 12:45 at the Cooking Stage, followed by samples! Check out the topics and the schedule here Cooking Stage & Pie Competition 2023 – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Bucket Brigade teams will form and compete at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. near the Children’s Activities area at the MSU-WP Student Rec Center. Look for the fire house and line up your teams! Children’s Activities, sponsored by the Always a Future for Kids Foundation, will be 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and noon till 6 p.m. Saturday. Children’s Activities – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Some of the new programming will include the Yellow House, where storytelling will be featured in addition to an art exhibit. The Avenue Theatre is planning a full slate of productions – live theater, showings of the West Plains Story Tour, silent films and more. Downtown, Washington Avenue and Trish Knight Street will be filled with vendors of all types, with KC’s Sports Bistro Stage providing the music. Full schedules for all venues are linked on the website Current – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Docents will be present at several downtown locations who will present the history of the buildings and locations featured in the Ozarks Deep: West Plains Story Tour around the square and down Washington Ave. West Plains Downtown Square History Tour – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
On the Missouri State University-West Plains campus, the Garnett Library will host Ozarks authors, sessions on archival methods for families and organizations, and will house a portion of the Broadfoot Collection on loan from the Harlin Museum. Jig dancing workshops and Friday’s square dancing will take place in and around the Student Rec Center, along with children’s activities and the Bucket Brigade. An outside stage will be placed on the corner of Garfield and Trish Knight for additional music throughout the day. Current – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
The Harlin Museum will feature the Broadfoot Collection exhibit, along with quilts and other area artifacts from the post-civil war era, in addition to hosting speakers on Ozarks traditions. Harlin Museum Events during 2023 Festival – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
The festival campus runs from the east civic center grounds and includes a block of Curry Street for the mule jump trailers. St. Louis and all other surrounding streets will remain open. There is ample parking in the city lots, and shuttle carts will be working in the parking lots to transport those who might need assistance. Disabled parking is available as marked in the Civic Center west and north lots. For your convenience, shuttle service will be available to festival attendees. Designated shuttle stops are located throughout the festival for easy hop-on and hop-off access. Please look for the green delineator posts that say “Shuttle Stop” or reference the Shuttle Service map for the exact locations. Shuttle service is at no cost thanks to sponsorship from Ramona Heiney, State Farm Insurance, Clear Creek Golf Car & Utility Vehicles, and the City of West Plains, Missouri.
More than one hundred booths promise a wide assortment of products, information on local organizations, and demonstrations of traditional arts; and include food concessions offering everything from shave ice to beans and cornbread. Organizers are grateful for their participation.
Fiddlin’ is encouraged throughout! Just choose a spot and begin. There’s bound to be a group form in minutes.
The master schedule showing locations and event times for Friday and Saturday, as well as schedules of activities by time each day are available on the Current Festival web page. Current – Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival
Many thanks to the West Plains Daily Quill for preparing a special Festival Tab each year. Copies were distributed to subscribers, and additional copies are available. More details and photos of artists and events are always included in that Tab.
2023 Festival partners include the West Plains Council on the Arts, the City of West Plains, the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center, West Plains Civic Center, and Missouri State University-West Plains. Partial funding for this event is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. Additional support has been provided by Missouri Humanities and Missouri Department of Tourism.