FORT SMITH — The Heritage Festival started out with a bang.
The festivities began shortly after 10 a.m. (Saturday) with the very popular lawbreakers and peace-maker’s gun fights. These skits ran throughout the day and drew large crowds. A series of scenarios ensued: there were bank robberies, a group was ambushed while transporting a criminal to jail and a woman seeking revenge for her husband’s murder. Although the gun shots scared some small children and startle almost all the adults, the audience and actors didn’t seem to mind. Gil Snipes set the scenes for the audience and put his all into the death scenes.
Later, participants had a chance to learn more about the history of Fort Smith. The N.W. 15th Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment lead by Michael Morris showed off the precision of their maneuvers. Reggie Moore could be heard across the field calling in recruits to sign up with the Fort Smith Emigration Company in California, saying, “We have never lost a person.”
Cody Faber attracted a large crowd as he described his musket, which he used for hunting, protection, and recreation. Faver also was able to answer any question about the musket, from when the gun was made to its general accuracy. Then he loaded it with gun powder, pulled the trigger to let loose a very loud boom and a cloud of white smoke.
Activities took place at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, which was free to explore. The site had the first jail and a court room with recorded voices, plus artifacts on display like guns and plates. Just around the corner, Karl McKinney led the the Choctaw Nation Youth dancers in dance.
The most popular way to get around was the horse- drawn carriage, but an electric trolley, gas-powered trolley, and tour bus was also available. Lynn Lane made rounds on a tour bus, talking about the historic sites as visitors drove by. There were 15 total stops total. When a passenger felt intrigued enough to get off the bus to explore the event, another bus would arrive 15 minutes later to pick them up to continue the tour.
One of the stops included Immaculate Conception Church. Just beside the Parish Hall, visitors watched performances from the Irish dancers, Vietnamese singers, Cherokee singers and Hispanic dancers took place. A silent auction and dinner raised money for Meals for Kids the previous day.
This is the fourth year for the Heritage Festival. Visitors of all ages were entertained by day of living history in the area.