War Eagle Mill
September 12, 2003
War Eagle Fair Turns 50,Continues to Bring Folks Back
to Rural America
By Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
WAR EAGLE -- Blanche Elliott and a group of fellow weavers who founded the
War Eagle Arts and Crafts Fair 50 years ago had a simple goal -- to provide
a means to preserve and display the skills and traditions of Ozarks
"They sent out invitations for the first one," explained Shirley Sutton,
daughter of Mrs. Elliott and director of the non-profit organization that
operates the event. "They figured if 100 or 150 people showed up, great."
But more came. In fact some 2,000 people attended the inaugural fair. "Now
you have to add a couple of zeros to that," Sutton said, explaining that
about 200,000 people are expected to attend this year's fair, scheduled for
Oct. 16-19. "It always has been more people than you plan for. You just
don't know, and the weather doesn't seem to stop them."
The original fair was held in the Elliotts' historic home and other
buildings on the property of the War Eagle Mills Farm. Located in the
rolling hills that flank the War Eagle River, the pioneer homestead (built
in 1832) seemed to be the perfect location to showcase the works of mountain
craftspeople. Today, tents and permanent buildings house the 300 booths of
artisans and crafters that show their wares.
The renowned fair features handmade items from weavers, woodworkers, carvers
and basket makers. Shoppers will also find artisans of stained glass,
pewter, leather and scores of other arts and crafts including oil and
acrylic painting, watercolors, sculpture, metalworking and photography.
Because the War Eagle Fair is dedicated to preserving Ozarks crafts,
exhibitors primarily come from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
"We've got six [exhibitors] that have been here 30 years or longer. We've
got about 22 that have been here 20 years or longer," Sutton said, adding
that crafts will be shown by about 50 new exhibitors this fall. "We've got
several new woodworkers, a quilter, jewelry maker. Each new artist will give
it a different twist."
Concessions traditionally include baked potatoes, turkey legs, hamburgers,
hot dogs, Mexican food and more. New will be The Salad Hut, in a permanent
building constructed for this year's fair. The Salad Hut will house all the
makings for a salad with about 15 items to choose from.
Over the years, television coverage as well as articles printed in
publications such as The New York Times, Southern Living and
Sunshine Artists magazine have brought national recognition to War
Known as a leading craft magazine, Sunshine Artist named War Eagle
Fair as first in the nation last year in its "traditional craft fair"
category. The fair has been in the top 10 of that category for the past nine
years. The magazine has yet to publish its top picks for this year.
Sutton said a 50th anniversary cookbook will be sold at the fair. Otherwise,
the only event scheduled in celebration of the 50th anniversary is an
invitation-only banquet the weekend before.
The War Eagle Fair is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The parking lot opens at 6 a.m. The
best way to reach the War Eagle Fair is to take U.S. 412 east and then Ark.
War Eagle One of Many Craft Fairs
The tradition of the War Eagle Fair gave birth to what is now known as "War
Eagle Weekend." Spread throughout the gentle hills of northwest Arkansas,
numerous fairs now offer antiques, collectibles, souvenirs and other items.
Booths are set up in the open air, under circus-style tents, and in fair
buildings, pavilions, shopping malls, convention centers and historic sites.
War Eagle Weekend has become an integral part of the autumn landscape in
Arkansas's Ozark Mountains.
In most cases, there is no charge for admission or parking, and most offer a
variety of food and beverages for hungry shoppers. Typically, the fairs open
at 8 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., although a few have later hours and most end
earlier on Sunday. A majority of the fairs are juried, which means artisans
must meet stringent requirements before they can enter a show.
Craft show maps will be available in local newspapers as well as at chambers
of commerce, area hotels, motels, visitor information centers and
Fairgoers should check local media for shows in addition to those listed
below, as well as for exact dates, times and locations. Comfortable shoes
are a must, and veteran fair patrons also bring tote bags for stowing their
handmade finds. A final word to the wise: bring rain gear just in case. Most
outdoor fairs are open rain or shine.
Accommodations in many northwest Arkansas cities are often hard to come by
when booked in late September or October. Reservations are strongly
Contact local Chambers of Commerce for additional information, including
Bella Vista-Bentonville, (479) 273-2841; Eureka Springs, (800) 6-EUREKA;
Rogers, (479) 636-1240; Prairie Grove, (479) 846-2197; Springdale, (800)
972-7261; and the Fayetteville Convention and Visitor Bureau, (800)
Other fairs taking place in northwest Arkansas during War Eagle Weekend
* 35th annual Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival -- Oct. 16-18, festival
grounds, near junction of Ark. 340 and 279 in Bella Vista. Over 350 juried
exhibitors from across the U.S. showcase some of their best arts and crafts.
Specialized food vendors, a supervised Kid's Activity Tent, plenty of free
parking with trams to deliver visitors to the site. Musical entertainment,
see-and-sample foods, and many craft demonstrations. Sponsored by Village
Art Club, Inc. Admission: free. For more information, phone (479) 855-2064
or visit www.villageartclub.org.
* 31st annual War Eagle Mill Arts & Crafts Fair -- Oct. 16-19, War Eagle
(separate from but adjacent to the original War Eagle Fair). Arts and crafts
show and sale on the banks of the War Eagle River. Live musicians and vast
array of foods surrounding the historical water-powered War Eagle Mill and
Bean Palace Restaurant. Admission: free. For more information, contact Zoe
Caywood at (479) 789-5343 and visit www.wareaglemill.com.
* 31st annual Sharp Shows of War Eagle -- Oct. 16-19, War Eagle (separate
from but adjacent to the original War Eagle Fair). Over 250 booths offering
everything under the sun in arts and crafts. Food vendors are also on site.
For more information, phone Lucy or Billy Sharp at (479) 789-5683.
* 19th annual Arts & Crafts Fair -- Oct. 16-19, Benton County Fairground,
Bentonville. Arts, crafts, antiques, collectibles, food and musical
entertainment. Admission and parking: free. For more information, contact
Pat Payne at (479) 273-3270 and visit www.oleapplegateplace.com.
* 17th annual Ole Applegate Place Autumn Arts & Crafts Festival -- Oct.
15-19, Ole Applegate Place Farm, Bentonville. More than 600 crafters will
show and sell their quality wares -- handcrafted clothing, jewelry, wood
crafts, stained glass, metal arts and more. Exhibitors travel from over 35
states to participate. Great entertainment each day, including bluegrass,
country, gospel and more. Food court with over 30 food concessions.
Admission: free. For more information, contact Vernon Patton at (479)
273-7478 or visit www.oleapplegateplace.com.
* 6th annual Jones Center Arts & Crafts Festival -- Oct. 16-18, Jones Center
at 922 E. Emma Ave. in Springdale. More than 100 juried exhibitors with the
most unique arts and crafts from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and
Texas. The festival is located inside the Jones Center for Families where
you will also find activities such as ice skating, hockey, swimming, country
and western music and a restaurant.
Admission: free. For more information, contact Carolyn McCoy at (479)
* 5th annual Clarion Convention Center Arts & Crafts Festival -- Oct. 15-19,
Clarion Convention Center, Bentonville. More than 125 crafters will show and
sell their quality wares -- handcrafted clothing, jewelry, wood crafts,
candles and more. Open until 8 p.m. each night. Sample for-sale specialty
food items such as salsas and dips. Admission: free. For more information,
phone Vernon Patton at (479) 273-7478.
* Falling for Rogers Arts and Crafts Fair -- Oct. 17 and 18, Rogers historic
downtown district. Crafters and food vendors will be set up in Frisco Park,
which is adjacent to Rogers's historic downtown district. The district
encompasses about eight square blocks with brick-paved streets leading to
old-fashioned store fronts filled with unique furniture, antiques and gifts,
cafes, jewelry and business offices. For more information, contact Main
Street Rogers at (479) 936-5487.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"
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