66th Clothesline Fair Draws 32,000 Visitors
SQUARE DANCE CONTEST RENAMED FOR PARKS
PRAIRIE GROVE — The annual square dance performances, original craft vendors, food and music continue to draw thousands of people to the Clothesline Fair each year at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.
Laura Jennings, park interpreter, said officials estimate 32,000 people came to the 66th annual Clothesline Fair over Labor Day weekend.
“Saturday was very busy and Sunday and Monday were a little slower,” Jennings said.
This was Jennings’ first time for the fair and her first time to watch square dancing.
“I thought it was a great event that brings a lot of people together,” Jennings said. “It’s a unique experience that something like this takes place in a state park.”
Park staff stayed busy over the weekend making sure everything ran smoothly.
“We were trying to make sure everyone was happy and that there weren’t any maintenance issues,” Jennings said.
Thousands showed up Saturday and Monday to cheer on their favorite square dance groups.
Prairie Grove Lions Club voted this year to rename the dance contest in memory of Peggy Parks, who recently passed away.
“She did so much to start this great tradition,” said Craig Battles with the Lions Club. “We thought it fitting to have her name on the competition and to keep the tradition going.”
Parks, a former teacher and beloved member of the community, is credited with starting the square dance tradition. Some of her students performed the Virginia Reel folk dance at the Clothesline Fair in 1958, and square dancing has been going on since then.
The Git R Done Gang won the 2017 Peggy Parks Memorial Square Dance Competition by only one point. The group scored 533 points and won $400. Original Hoot ‘N Holler came in second with 532 points. Other awards went to Dixie Dynamite, third place, and Grin ‘N Square It and Arkansas Aces, honorable mention.
Battles said a new trophy will be presented to the winners of the 2018 square dance contest. The names of winners from all past and future competitions will be engraved on the trophy. Battle said the plan is to move the trophy around to different businesses in Prairie Grove so it can be seen by the community.
Eve Smith, who coordinates the craft show for Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, said 150 vendors participated in the Clothesline Fair, the most Smith has had since she started eight years ago.
More than 15,000 people came through Saturday and Smith attributed that to the weather and also the fact the Razorbacks were not playing.
“The vendors did awesome,” Smith said. “So many told me that
they did more this year than the last several years.”
Several new vendors set up booths for the 2017 fair and all indicated they hope to return in the future.
Mary Maddox with Mountain Man Skrub of St. Louis, Mo., heard about the Clothesline Fair from a friend and decided to sign up.
“I’m glad I did it,” Maddox said. “This is the most I’ve been welcomed in a fair. The hospitality is great. I definitely will be back.”
Daniel Kim is a pastor from Denton, Texas, and a professor of theology in China. He was creating posters for his customers. He would take the letters of each person’s name and make a special drawing out of each letter.
“This is best show,” Kim said. “I’m very happy here.”
He said he would return next year if his teaching schedule allowed it.
Jo McCarty of Springdale recently moved to Northwest Arkansas from New York and was visiting the Clothesline Fair for the first time as a customer.
“I absolutely love it,” McCarty said. “There is a variety of vendors and a friendliness from everyone.”
McCarty was buying a necklace from another new vendor, Kuchy Coo of Springfield, Mo. Owner Denise Kucharski said she travels across the country setting up her booth and always likes Arkansas fairs. She said she especially likes the Clothesline Fair because of the state park and its beautiful, peaceful setting.