I have just returned from this year's Neosho Fall Festival and the Newton County Historical Society's History Alley.
Yes, it was unseasonably chilly. But was the day enjoyable? Absolutely.
This year, I didn't get to actively participate — that is, dress in my 1860s garb and wear my slouch hat that some folks seem fond of — but was covering the event for the newspaper instead. That's OK. You get to see more things that way.
There were more vendor booths this year on the Neosho Square than there have been since the fall festival was brought back to life a few years ago. I think the cold may have kept some folks at home, but I expected that. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who did come out, especially as the day wore on. Given mild temps and a sunny day, I bet next year's event will be even bigger.
History Alley, at the Newton County Historical Park, is always special to me. I love that event. Kudos to the folks at the Newton County Historical Society who were involved in organizing it this year. Like last year, there was a focus on our War Between the States (since most of America is commemorating the 150th anniversary of that unfortunate conflict). There were Civil War reenactors there, with tents set up, and doing live demonstrations in drilling, weaponry and soldier's life. There was a nice display of Civil War soldiers fare, such as hardtack and salt pork, which visitors could sample. New this year was a big multi-panel Civil War display, on loan from George Washington Carver National Monument, set up in our rural school house. If you haven't see it, stop by the museum very soon between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Besides all that, there were the usual booths featuring other area historical societies and organizations, and hands-on demonstrations in things like blacksmithing, wool spinning, basket weaving, banjo making, and more. Those are the kinds of things we must keep alive for future generations! It's probably no secret how I feel about that.
I spoke with a couple of different people who said they remembered the old Neosho Fall Festival of decades past. In those days, there was a parade and the event spilled over into Big Spring Park. I think we're headed back in that direction. Each and every annual event I have attended in Neosho lately has seemed bigger than the one before. Despite a few naysayers – oh, and they're out there – I believe many people in Neosho are beginning to yearn for the better days of the past, whether they realize it or not. They just want something more, without really being aware of how things used to be. And do you know where this spirit of revival is coming from? My age group, and those slightly older (I just turned 30). It's the people with young families who say, "you know what? I want my kids to have something to do here. I want my kids to want to stay in this community." And it all boils down to quality of life. I have a lot of strong views on that, but I better not express them here.
Page 2 of 2 - How in the world did I get off on this tangent? I realize it really doesn't have much to do with history. Or does it? There are exciting, history-related things in the planning stages that I truly believe will be great for our local area. Not only that, but you don't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been. I get so excited when I hear people around my age talk about how they want things to be, because you know what? It's how things used to be. We may be younger than some, but we're not naïve. We realize to regain part of what was lost will require a different approach than before. It starts with ideas and ends after hard work. We have a great capacity for both.
At the risk of seeming abrupt, I suppose I'll just wrap this up with a simple "see ya at next year's Neosho Fall Festival!"
Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He is also a staff writer for the Neosho Daily News. He can be reached at 658-8443.