Vol­un­teers Con­trib­ute To Suc­cess Of Clothes­line Fair

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - CLOTHESLINE FAIR - STAFF RE­PORT

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.

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