Old Country Fair

A group of individual musicians come together for a jam session at the 2018 Old Country Fair

The Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters invites the public to join them for their 2nd Annual Old Country Fair on Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Weddings at the Homestead, east of Branson.

Founded in Eminence, Missouri in Nov. 1931, The Hillcrofters were organized and then combined with the Ozarkians, which was also fathered by Otto Rayburn in 1928 in Kingston, Arkansas. The original Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters were comprised of hundreds of members, some even in foreign counties. Some of the more locally famous members of the group included Rose Wilder Lane, author and daughter of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Rose O’Neill, world renowned artist and illustrator and the creator of the Kewpies. 

The five fold mission of the Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters is to secure the proper recognition of the Ozarks, protect Ozarks wildlife, preserve the natural beauties of historic Ozarks locations, perpetuate Ozarks history, folklore and traditions and to teach fellow Ozarkians the value of the great heritage possessed in the Ozarks region. 

The society itself was given new life in 2017 by a group of local Ozarkians, and in 2018, the society hosted its first Old County Fair. Society President Curtis Copeland explained the mission of the society coincides with the inspiration behind hosting this one-of-a-kind Ozarkian event.

“The most important reason for the fair was to bring back an event that showcases traditional Ozarks music, as well as traditional crafts and also traditional activities and foods and so forth,” said Copeland. “So attendees get that experience and get to spend the day experiencing some true, traditional Ozarks culture. That brings an experience to a lot of people to show them what types of things we’re trying to preserve as part of our identity as the Ozarks region and people.”

Copeland added that there is an ever growing list of craftsmen that will be attending their 2nd Annual event at vendors.

“Our vendors that we invite, we try to keep close to traditional crafts as possible and we have a variety from everything from broom makers to spinning loom, different fabric crafts, custom knifes, black smithing, various pottery and other arts and crafts from a vendor’s standpoint,” said Copeland.

A few of the craft vendors already scheduled to attend this year’s event include the Wolf Broom Makers, Maple Hill Ceramics, M.R. Custom Knives, Backwoods Glass, Tarwear Vintage Enamelwear, Horseshoe Creations and Country Crafts and Goods.

Copeland said this free family friendly event will feature traditional Ozarks games for kids, as well as a dunk tank. 

Copeland also said there will be no shortage of food at this year’s event.

“There will be lots of varieties of food,” he said. “Lots of baked goods and preserves, but also food vendors. We’re real excited to have Flat Creek. They’re getting to be pretty well known in the area for their fried fish and barbecue,” said Copeland. “We also have Sara’s Food Truck, a local food vendor. We had such a good turnout last year, I think she sold out a couple times and had to go to town for more supplies.”

Additional food vendors at the fair will include KC Kettle Corn, Carol’s Fried Pies and Branson Bean Coffee Company. 

While the craft and food vendors are an important aspect of the fair, Copeland said the biggest part of this event has become the music. 

“The Old Country Fair is very quickly becoming area-known as one of the biggest events for traditional Ozarks and bluegrass music jams. This is where individual musicians, acoustic musicians, with fiddles, guitars, banjos, upright bass, come from all over southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, and they come together simply to get together and jam,” Copeland said. “They break off into groups and attendees can walk around and experience real Ozarks music up close and personal.”

Alongside the various pop-up music jam sessions, the fair will feature a line-up of various music groups on stage throughout the day. At 11 a.m. McClurg’s, Scrivener and Lansford will take the stage, followed by The Buffalo Gals at 12 p.m., Missouri 65 at 1 p.m. and Ozark Mountain Roots at 2 p.m. 

Copeland said White River Valley Historical Society and the Stone County Historical Society will be on site to answer questions and talk about the history of the Ozarks area. The fair is also being used to feature several Ozarks authors, including Nita Gould, Joshua Heston, Tom Koob, Phillip Howerton and Larry Campbell, who will be available for meet-and-greets and book signings. 

The evening will come to an end with a traditional square dance being held inside the homesteads restored 1848 timber-framed barn at 5 p.m.  

While the fair is free and open to the public, Copeland said it’s also a fundraiser for the society so they can continue to support their projects and fellow organizations.

“Whether it be scholarships, a historic structure preservation and educational efforts for protecting our hills and streams,” said Copeland. “We try to also be an organization that also assists existing organizations like the local historical societies, the stream teams or wherever we can plug in to assist. So we’re a regional organization, and that region is the Ozarks. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but we’re going to do our best.”

There is no fee for vendors to set up at this event, however attending vendors are asked to make a donation of at least 10 percent of their fair proceeds to the society.

The entire event will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 7. Weddings at the Homestead is seven miles east of Downtown Branson at 262 Collins Road, just off T Highway.

Any food or craft vendors or acoustic bluegrass or folk musicians interested in attending the fair or looking for more information are encouraged to contact Copeland at 417-339-6882 or visit societyofozarkianhillcrofters.com. 

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