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Thanks to community, volunteers for successful expanded festival


To the editor:

The 2023 Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival was deemed a great success by artists, artisans and attendees alike. The expanded campus created some unique issues, but overall participation at each venue was outstanding!

The festival steering committee would like to thank everyone who was involved in any way with this year’s event. The festival is the culmination of lots of planning and preparation, but without community support and assistance (including new partnerships), it would not happen. The people who volunteer their time in one segment or another are the reason we can provide this free experience each year, working toward celebrating and preserving the distinctive culture of the Ozark Highlands. What a blessing to live where there is such great support for this city of West Plains signature event!

New features for this year’s event included living history encampments on the east civic center lawn, increased humanities programming at all locations, and additional program venues at the Avenue Theatre, Yellow House Community Arts Center and the Ozarks Heritage Research Center in MSU-WP’s Garnett Library. Southern Gospel was the featured music for headliners both nights, and music was featured on three stages this year. 

The inaugural Quilt Walk and history docents brought festivalgoers onto the square and down Washington Avenue for added enjoyment. Increased numbers of shuttle carts, with designated stops, helped many negotiate the expanded festival campus. Paper and online maps were available denoting all activities.

Music radiated from the outside and theater stages both days, and our folkways artisans demonstrated traditional crafts on both the east and west side of the civic center. The Cooking Stage was a great mix of storytelling, sharing and Dutch oven presentations. Workshops were well-attended, and we’re grateful to each one who performed or presented at this event. Jig dance and mule jump competitions had great attendance again this year. Jig dancing and square dancing had great turnouts in their efforts to keep these traditions alive. The Pie Competition brought a record number of entries, and we all enjoyed sampling the pie submissions. 

To our artists, sound techs, emcees, booth workers, survey takers, cart drivers and all those who worked in the public eye and behind the scenes — THANK YOU!  Each one of you who contributed your time and effort is appreciated.  Special thanks to the AmeriCorps team for their help throughout — what a great group of young people! And as always, our West Plains city departments went above and beyond with their efforts.

With support from city tourism grants and our partners the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri State University-West Plains, the City of West Plains, West Plains Council on the Arts, Missouri Humanities and Missouri Department of Tourism, festival events were once again offered free of charge to all attendees. Your financial, technical and in-kind support is invaluable.  Additionally, thanks to the many individuals from each of these organizations who contributed their personal time.  

Be sure to thank all our 2023 festival sponsors:

Our event sponsors: Aid Downtown Antique Mall -Cooking Stage; Rep. David Evans -Pie Competition & Garfield Stage; Hirsch Feed and Farm Supply - Mule Jump Competition; KC’s Bistro - Washington Ave. Stage; The Fish Shack - Jig Dance Competition; and OCTV - Storytelling Stage.

Special thanks to our official print media sponsor. the West Plains Daily Quill, for their coverage before and after the event, and for the wonderful program book provided to our guests. We also want to thank the other media outlets who provided festival coverage: Ozark Area Network and KHOM/K-KOUNTRY. 

Pickin’ Circle sponsors included Clear Creek Golf & Utility Vehicles, Media Arts Center, Ramona Heiney State Farm Insurance and West Plains Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dance Circle sponsors included E-Communications; Holiday Inn Express; Howell Rural Fire Dept. No. 2; Robert I. Leonard, DVM; Outpost Motorsports; and Ozark Marketing.

Whittlin’ Circle sponsors included Horse Trader, Renewal by Andersen, South Howell County Ambulance, The Dulcimer Shoppe and West Plains Bank & Trust.

Quiltin’ Circle sponsors included Meek’s the Builders Choice, Ozark Folk Center State Park and West Plains Music.

Featured donors who supported the festival: Avenue Theatre, First Christian Church of West Plains, Harlin Museum of West Plains, Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative, Ozarks Heritage Research Center, Pepsi Mid America, West Plains Optimists Club, West Plains R-7 Schools and Yellow House Community Arts Center.

Thank you especially to our Festival Steering Committee members who devote hundreds of hours throughout the year to the planning and execution of this festival. Your ongoing commitment to its success and growth are essential. 

Hoping for an even better event next year — mark your calendars for June 7 and 8, 2024!


Paula Speraneo,

Festival Committee,

West Plains