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War Eagle
War Eagle
    War Eagle
War Eagle
War Eagle Mill
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 craftspeople.

"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 Eagle.

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. 303 north.


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 restaurants.

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 recommended.

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) 766-4626.

Other fairs taking place in northwest Arkansas during War Eagle Weekend include:

* 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

* 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

* 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

* 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

* 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) 751-9313.

* 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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