story and photos by Brittany Ransom
Unseasonably cool weather didn't keep the crowds away, as thousands flocked to downtown Van Buren for the 37th annual Old Timer's Day Festival this weekend (May 16-18).
Arts and crafts booths, carnival rides, "fair food," and live music were just a few of the draws for many families and friends who came out to enjoy this year's festival. Sponsored by the Downtown Merchants Association, the event is a spring staple for the city each year.
More than 200 vendors were at the festival, with booths ranging from custom clothes and accessories to handmade wooden toys, home decor, and delicious treats. Vendors included local businesses and crafters who traveled from throughout the state and region.
Chelsea Jones and her mother, Angie Smith, were among the many locals in attendance. The two operate "Crafty Gals," a specialty infant and children's clothing line. Jones and Smith sew all of the clothes and accessories themselves and market primarily through Facebook and at local arts and crafts shows. Sister Whitney Smith also gets in on the craftiness, painting and selling decorative canvases.
"This is our third year to have a booth at Old Timer's Day," said Jones, a Van Buren native. "It is one of our favorite festivals to attend, not only because it has a great crowd, but because we get to see so many familiar faces in the process. We look forward to it each year."
Many downtown merchants extended their storefronts into to the streets, setting up booths outside their shops and opening their doors to the crowds. Several offered special discounts and promotions in honor of the festival.
In behind Main Street, families lined up for a chance to hop on the tilt-a-world and other carnival-style rides. Several games, and a "rickety bridge" were also set-up for visitors to enjoy.
Headlining the festival's entertainment line- up was local favorite, Mr. Cabbage Head and the Screaming Radishes. The group performed to a large crowd Saturday evening on the stage located at the historic train depot on Main Street.
Several other local artists and groups also performed throughout the festival, including Vertical Groove, who kicked off the festival on Friday night, as well as Doug McCutcheon, Lee Altman, Denim & Pearl and others. On Saturday afternoon, a live mixed martial arts (MMA) cage demonstration was also held on Main Street.
Old Timer's Day will continue through Sunday until 5 p.m.