After 18 years of hosting the local Barnyard Days arts and crafts festival, organizers Steve and Tammy Roark have announced that they are “retiring” the event, effective this year.

The annual event was located on the Circle R Ranch — located north of Neosho — and was held the first full weekend of October.

“It is a great run, a great experience, that we made over those many, many years. We made dear, dear friends through so many of our exhibitors and our other vendors,” said Roark.

“We had challenges with the getting our liability coverage, our special event coverage here in Missouri, to cover our event. And without that level of protection, when you bring in as many people as we do from the public, you can only stand to have so much risk exposure and we were just bumping up against some limitations that we were not comfortable with, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO) they were not comfortable with them either. Missouri is in a bit of a quandary right now in terms of liability limits – basically we don’t have any. That is kind of the fundamentally reason I think that we did what we did.”

In the 18 years and 20 events of Barnyard Days — including one year with a spring and a fall event, as well as a blues festival another year — there were no accidents, Roark said.

“We never had to use so much as a Band-Aid,” he said. “We knew that we had liability exposure, we had the kids riding horseback, train ride going on. Our hats off to the wonderful groups that ran all of these things out here, because not once was anybody hurt.”

On average, 20,000 people attended the arts and crafts festival. There were things for all ages from petting zoo to horseback ridding to mountain men exhibits, archery club, antique tractors to look at, food vendors, music and of course the arts and crafts vendors.

About four years ago, the owners of Barnyard Days handed over the “reins” to BCFO, as a fundraiser for the foundation.

“I think what Barnyard Days did for BCFO, is that they provided them a presence in this community to build name recognition for BCFO,” said Roark. “Four years ago, most people down here – unless they had been one of the recipients of BCFO’s generosity with their help with their living expenses while they were in breast cancer treatment – unless they had participated in that, they didn’t know about BCFO.”

But today, Roark said that BCFO is a “household name.”

“With all of the advertising that we did, BCFO is now known by a whole lot more people down here in this region than it was,” he said. “So that allows a lot of other organizations to begin doing fundraising things for BCFO. Our major fundraiser that we do down here for BCFO is our Pink Ribbon Gala (which will be held at Downstream Casino Resort), that takes place every August. But beyond that, we have literally dozens other organizations down here now that do different things to raise money for BCFO because they know about BCFO, they know what BCFO does. I believe in the four years that Barnyard Days was promoted for BCFO’s benefit with all of the money that we spend at promotion and advertising for Barnyard Days, we made BCFO much more of a household name.”

But overall, Roark said he and Tammy are discouraged to see Barnyard Days go.

“We are sad,” he said. “We get calls from exhibitors wanting to know about this year’s coming show and we explained to them that there will not be show this year.”

For the Roarks, Barnyard Days was also a family and friend reunion.

“We have family from Oregon, California, and friends from Arkansas, Kansas to help us put it on,” Steve Roark said. “Part of the sadness is not only that we won’t get to see so many of our good friends, exhibitors and vendors that we had, but we also had been able to use Barnyard Days as a friend/family reunion for folks to come back and help do this.”

Asked what he thinks contributed to the success of Barnyard Days, Roark said, “somehow, we struck a chord with people. We were a family event, we were a very wholesome event, in terms of the cost to attend Barnyard Days, and we always kept our cost at the very lowest level. We made sure that our food prices out here were fair. We are proud of that [Barnyard Days’ success].”