Volunteers Contribute To Success Of Clothesline Fair
The Clothesline Fair started in 1951 and has been successful through the efforts of Prairie Grove Lions Club, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park and Arts Center of the Ozarks, formerly the Council of Ozark Artists and Craftsman.
The arts and crafts idea originated from trips by Fred and Madge McCuistion of Prairie Grove to visit local arts festivals in the Appalachians.
They wanted to promote native and local artists and craftsman and moved their crafts fair around northwest Arkansas for a few years before finding a permanent home in Prairie Grove in 1957. History shows there had been craft fairs at the state park as early as 1953.
Battlefield State Park already held a Labor Day celebration and reunion of Confederate soldiers and their survivors so it seemed only natural for the Clothesline Fair to also occupy the same weekend.
Through the efforts of the Lions Club, Fred and Marge and countless others in Prairie Grove, the Fair was successful from the beginning.
In 1957, 30 exhibitors presented their crafts and an estimated 7,000 people visited the fair. The number of crafters doubled the next year from 30 to 60.
The Council of Ozark Artists and Craftsman lasted until the mid 1970s until it merged with the former Springdale Fine Arts Center and the name was changed to Arts Center of the Ozarks to reflect both organizations.
Square dancing is as much a part of the Clothesline Fair as the arts and crafts vendors.
Square dancing has been going on since around 1958. Most people credit Peggy Parks of Prairie Grove with starting the square dancing tradition, though she won’t take all the credit. Parks, who recently passed away, was a fourth-grade teacher in Prairie Grove and remembers watching a high school group do the Virginia Reel folk dance. That gave her the idea her own students could do the same.
She taught her fourth-graders how to folk dance and they probably were the first group to perform at the Clothesline Fair in 1958.
Over the years, the Fair has added square dance exhibitions and competitions for children.
The Prairie Grove Lions Club sponsors the square dancing and handles all concessions at the Clothesline Fair. Proceeds are used to help others, especially those with vision needs.
Arts Center of the Ozark handles the craft show and state park staff prepare the grounds and take care of needs throughout the three-day event. EDITOR’S NOTE: HISTORY COURTESY OF ARTS CENTER OF THE OZARKS.
Rainbo the Clown played by Mitch Whitehouse of Prairie Grove entertains during the 2016 Clothesline Fair parade.