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West Plains celebrates Ozarks culture with the 30th annual Old Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival

Marideth Sisco brings us a look at what to expect at this year's Old Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival.

So, what do you have planned for this weekend?

You gonna go fishing? Go to the fair? Hit the outlet malls?

I have another idea that may not have made it onto your calendar, yet. There’s this festival in West Plains that happens every year on the first Friday and Saturday in June.

You may have to drive a little. It’s an hour and something east of Springfield. But boy, is it worth the drive, especially if you’re at all into the history and culture of this wonderful part of the world. We’ve got quilt-makers, a Dutch oven cooking workshop, a pie contest, a mule jump, cow sorting, a living history encampment by the black-powder folks, and a real smorgasbord of old time music and related activities. Everything from Duane Porterfield’s mountain dulcimer wizardry to the Bob Holt National Jig Dancing championship. It’s just a whale of a good time. And get this: it’s all free.

And you’re not going to believe this - in celebration of the festival’s 30th anniversary, we have managed to wrestle out of retirement for one last farewell performance one of the most iconic bands in the history of Ozarks old time music. That’s right - the legendary Big Smith band will grace Saturday night’s main stage.

Of course if you lean a little more toward the country side of old time, Friday night’s headliner is will be CJ Newsome’s Classic Country with Terry Wayne Sanders, the funniest man on the planet.

Each day is packed with examples, performances, and demonstrations of the Ozarks traditional arts, from model railroad displays to demonstrations of old time fiddle playing, a jig dancing workshop, and, if you don’t want to walk around all day, you can hole up at the Yellow House Community Arts Center for an afternoon of storytelling, featuring Danette House, Lin Waterhouse, and me, Marideth Sisco. I’m not a house, but I’ll be with the houses at the Yellow House. Afterward, you can stroll up to Court Square for music on the outdoor stage and a tour of historic John Deere tractors, including a lawn tractor that was the first of its kind sold in the Ozarks, in Alton, in 1967.

All told, it’s two solid days of more fun than a bucket of monkeys. Believe it or not, among the many vendors and food trucks, there is also rumored to be an appearance by the fabulous and legendary Mandy’s Hot Dog Emporium, about which I can only say, you may think you’ve had a hot dog, but you haven’t. Not til you’ve had Mandy’s. And just think, there’s a beer garden just up the street. That’s just about perfect.

So what are you waiting for? Grab the kids and a couple of friends and come down a little deeper into these Ozarks Hills and join us. We’d feel bad having all this fun without you.

For details, go to

Marideth is a Missouri storyteller, veteran journalist, teacher, author, musician and student of folklore focusing on stories relevant to Ozarks culture and history. Each month, she’s the voice behind "These Ozarks Hills.” Sisco spent 20 years as an investigative and environmental writer for the West Plains Quill and was well known for her gardening column, “Crosspatch,” on which her new book is based. Sisco was a music consultant and featured singer in the 2010 award-winning feature film “Winter's Bone.”