The fifth annual Fort Smith Heritage Festival was held in downtown Fort Smith on Saturday and Sunday (April 6-7), and presented the history of Fort Smith as well as many cultural dances.
The event included a cannon-firing demonstration and Mexican dancing horses. The riders were vibrantly dressed Mexican men and women. The horses had long manes that were styled beautifully. While there was no music the horses had no problem prancing around and showing off their stuff.
Several cultural groups showed some amazing dances to their native music. The McCafferty School of Irish Dance began the dances with impressive and high stepping performances. Dressed in vibrant clothes with neat hair styles these dancers drew a large crowd.
The Laotian dancers performed a peaceful dance focusing on hand symbols and releasing flowers into the air as they spun around. Later in the day the Natchez Nation performed their friendship dance.
All the museums were free to the public during the weekend, including the Fort Smith Trolley Museum and the Fort Smith Museum of History. Guests were also encouraged to visit the Trail of Tears historic maker, Bass Reeves monument, and the Old Fort at Belle Point.
The headquarters for everything was the Frisco station where vendors set up tables and the inside was lined top to bottom with paper plates containing artwork. A miniature train, labeled as the “Free Time Express,” gave rides around the station while busses and electric trolleys gave a tour around historic Fort Smith. This tour had several stops including; Fort Smith Museum of History, Fort Smith National Historic Site, Immaculate Conception Church, Compass Park, Miss Laura’s Visitor Center, William H.H. Clayton House, Cisterna Park and William O. Darby Home. During the tour a guide gave information relating to each stop and gave a pamphlet telling about what events were taking place today.
The Lawbreakers and Peacemakers was back again from last year. They moved to a different area and had props set up, including a Saloon. They performed many skits including some target practice gone wrong and a full shoot out that covered the whole area in smoke.
Along Garrison Avenue beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, re-enactors stood along historic areas of the downtown street to engage in “living history.” They told about events that happened to the character they were role playing.