By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Forest Heritage Center Museum will host the 22nd annual Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show Friday through Sunday, November 13 – 15. One of Oklahoma’s most popular autumn events, the festival brings visitors to southeastern Oklahoma each year in time to experience the beautiful fall colors.
Festival hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“The Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show was designed to extend the fall tourist season and enhance the economics of the surrounding area,” said Doug Zook, Director of the Forest Heritage Center Museum and the Festival coordinator.
Tourism deputy director David Davies, Lake Murray park manager Brice Todd, regional manager John Barnes, Beavers Bend park manager Steve Williams and four Forest Heritage Center board members visited the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas, in October 1993 to see if the crafters and demonstrators would be interested in holding a festival at Beavers Bend.
According to Zook, after making several trips to the Ozark Center to secure musicians and artisans, the Oklahoma Tourism Department’s vision became a reality in 1994 and is now the Folk Festival.
The festival is a showcase for turn-of-the-century arts and crafts. This year around 70 exhibitors and vendors will feature crafts and skills such as candle making, woodturning, lye soap making, and quilting. Herbalists will share their knowledge, instrument makers will exhibit their work, and quilters will show their best wares.
“Today, the Festival has a 2.5 million dollar economic impact to our tourism industry over the 3 day festival that attracts up to 17,000 visitors to our community annually,” Zook said.
Children’s activities, held in the courtyard of the Forest Heritage Center, will include storytellers, such as Ramblin’ Ray Ricketts. The petting zoo will offer up-close and personal encounters with furry critters. Kids will have the chance to create a puppet show with their own handmade paper puppets.
Some of the country’s best folk musicians will be performing throughout the three-day event. The lineup includes Clarke Buehling and the Ozark Highballers, Father Son & Friends, The Bear Creek Sallies, and The Herbin’ League.
The sounds of banjoes, fiddles and dulcimer strings will fill the out doors and free Mountain Dulcimer workshops will be offered each day. Guests are invited to bring their own dulcimers or try their hand on instruments provided by instructors Keith and Darlene Vanderbosch.
“The hands-on demonstrations are what set this festival apart from others,” Zook stated. “Throughout the festival, folk musicians perform music passed down through generations. Visitors experience all the sights, sounds and smells of fall and have the opportunity to interact with some of the best demonstrating artists in the country.”
This year the delectable array of festival fare will include pork-o-bobs, patty melts, chicken tacos, as well as smoked turkey legs and paninis. Back by popular demand will be Indian tacos, cowboy tacos, and burgers. Festival favorites like kettle korn, caramel apples and funnel cakes will also tempt visitors.Thirsty visitors can enjoy fresh apple cider or old-fashioned root beer.
Fall colors should be peaking and park guests can also enjoy the scheduled Beavers Bend State Park activities, like nature center programs, hayrides and train rides.
The Festival is made possible by Oklahoma Forestry Services, the Forest Heritage Center Advisory Board and staff, Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the McCurtain County Tourism Authority, Oklahoma Humanities Council and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
“The Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show is truly an event to experience,” Zook said.
“Visitors sharing the experience of families gathering together and sharing memories of ‘days gone by’ with children and grandchildren has been a major impact and a rare occasion that no longer exist in our technology, television, video game driven world.”
For more information, contact the Forest Heritage Center at 580-494-6497 or [email protected]