Soon the sounds of steel blades clanging, traditional Ozarks music and the marching  of stormtroopers will fill the streets of Downtown Hollister.

The 3rd Annual State of the Ozarks Festival Sept. 14 and will feature Ozarks craftiness, contemporary fine arts, cosplayers, history expositions, martial art demonstrations, bluegrass jam sessions, Zumba sessions and more.

The festival will feature nearly 100 vendor booths and festival guests, many who have attended the festival in past years, such as Ghostbusters of the Ozarks, White Hart’s Feast of the Goblin King and the Dragonfest Renaissance Faire. Heston said those who have never been to the festival before, run the risk of being surprised by the diverse mixture of people and things one normally wouldn’t find together.

“We have an invitation to the 501st Imperial Stormtrooper Garrison, with the intent of having stormtroopers, and hopefully Darth Vader. I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that Sauron will be there this year. I don’t think any party is complete, officially complete without the Dark Lord of Middle Earth showing up,” said State of the Ozarks Editor in Chief Joshua Heston. 

“At the same time, I’m working on getting Civil War reenactors, historians, flintknappers, rendezvous participants to come together to explore our local and regional history. People do not put those things together. I put those things together, because I think they should go together.”

New to SOTO Fest this year will be a Missouri History Expo inside the Hollister railroad depot, which will have a main focus on the Civil War in the Ozarks.

Heston said he is excited to welcome European Medieval fighting group The Order of the Red Boar to this year’s festival. 

The new local group is headed-up by Jeffery Ryan Andrews, who fell in love with 14th Century, late Medieval period, European fighting styles while stationed with the U.S. Army in the Middle East and in Europe, according to Heston.  

“We are going to have a number of mercenary warriors from The Order of the Red Boar, putting on demonstrations. These demonstrations are using real armor and they’re using real weapons,” Heston said. “The weapons are not sharpened, but they are real, actual steel weapons. The fights are not scripted. There is no choreography. We are going to set up safety zones on the street and our mercenaries are going to move inside that safety zone and they’re going to fight.”

Additional festival participants will include Maple Hill Ceramics, who will have a raku kiln onsite to do live firing demonstrators, bounce houses courtesy of the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA, and a hillbilly welcoming committee that will be performing various skits and engaging with attendees throughout the festival, Heston shared.

Heston explained the purpose of the festival is to celebrate the anniversary of the State of the Ozarks online magazine, which will turn 12 next month, as well as celebrate the State of the Ozarks community called #SOTOLIFE.

“Our mission statement for #SOTOLIFE is giving the Ozarks a voice, and the festival is our big once a year bash to do that. The individuals involved with State of the Ozarks are extremely diverse,” said Heston. “We have a lot of people who are focused on history and tradition. We also have a lot of people who are focused on contemporary Ozarks culture, which can include progressive fine art, it can include cosplay, it can include modern dance, and there is a lot of new and a lot of old.”

“SOTO Fest gives the community, without specifically saying so on a banner, the safety to respect one another and to really appreciate what people are passionate about,” Heston said. “That can include extremely traditional Ozark Crafts and craftsmanship, that can include very progressive fine arts and everything in-between.”

The festival is free and open to the public. Interested festival vendors or sponsors are encouraged to contact Heston at stateoftheozarks.net.

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