Thousands visit Clothesline Fair to experience history and handmade crafts

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 450 views 

Living history met handmade crafts and square dancing as thousands of people flocked to the 64th annual Clothesline Fair at Prairie Grove Battlefield Park over the Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5-7).

With free admission, guests at the fair enjoyed shopping for one of a kind crafts, tapping their toes to various musical artists, watching a variety of square dancing competitions and feasting on typical fair food.

In addition, Holly Houser, Prairie Grove Battlefield historical park interpreter, said attendees had the opportunity to interact with living history experts. They shared with guests what life was like 150 years ago at the time of the Civil War battle that the park is named after.

Houser said attendees benefitted from learning the history, and also benefitted others by purchasing hand-made items from vendors at the fair. The money raised from the vendors’ booth rentals goes to support the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale. In addition, the Lions Club, the local band boosters, the PTA and local Boy Scout troops sell food to raise money for their organizations.

“People remember what happened on these grounds and then fund all these great organizations that help this community and the people of western Washington county,” Houser said.

Eve Smith, director of visual arts at the Arts Center of the Ozarks (ACO), said with ore than 130 vendors and more than 200 vendor booths, the fair is one of the main fundraisers for the ACO. Smith said all of the goods sold at the fair are made by hand by artisans, mostly from the mid-South, who put hours into their craft. Crafts offered for sale ranged from paper jewelry to musical instruments to baskets from Ghana, Africa, to quilts.

Angela Story, owner/designer of One Loom, and her partner, Melissa Gresham, offered handmade straps for yoga mats, cameras and guitars, along with a variety of headbands and children’s headwear, all sourced from artisans in Guatemala who are single mothers, trying to support their children.

“We work alongside single mothers out of Guatemala to give them a marketplace,” Story said. “They don’t have an opportunity in their own culture to share (their products) at a price point that would give them the ability to feed their families, to put food on the table, to put shoes on their feet, to send their kids to school.”

The Swan family, from Oklahoma City, has been selling their crafts at the fair for 28 years, which is the record for the longest running vendor booth at the fair. Loretta Swan, said each year she looks forward to seeing friends she has made over the years, that she dreads going home when the fair closes and then she eagerly anticipates the next year.

“Coming to the fair is like coming home,” she said.

Swan said the name, “the Clothesline Fair,” dates back to post-Civil War days when ladies would come out to the park and hang up clotheslines and then pin their handmade quilts to them for sale.

Other fair activities included a parade, 5K run/walk and a display of farming antiques.