“Is this Ash Grove?” asked the woman in a red dress behind the wheel of a small car that pulled off on the shoulder beside me. “This is Halltown,” I told her. She didn’t understand my directions until a young girl produced a Missouri road map from the glove compartment and I showed her the way to Ash Grove. “I’m performing at some kind of festival there. Come see me.” She did a U turn and headed back east following my directions.
When I finished taking pictures of Halltown I went on to Paris Spring Junction. (Click on the links to see those posts). Later that afternoon I did end up in Ash Grove, and I did see a picture of the lost woman in red propped up by the door of a café. There was no Sing-a-Long Sweet Memories of Silent Movie Music coming from inside, so I did not hear Teresa Arth sing and play the piano. There was a strolling harmonica player, though.
The light was perfect, but it would not last. Things were definitely winding down at the Ash Grove Main Street Heritage Festival. Attendance was sparse, but the old buildings looked good through my viewfinder. The century old structures were an intriguing combination of decay, restoration, and unfinished restoration, many enhanced with stylistic choices not yet categorized by architectural historians. Such esthetic chaos may disturb purists, but American development has been wildly eclectic from the beginning. Bricolage, an arty French word, describes the practice of incorporating readily available materials or styles into an object or work. Unfamiliarity with the theory hasn’t stopped the citizens of this small town from bricolaging the hell out of their buildings, the collections of artifacts in those buildings, and culture.
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Back Roads to Main Street Heritage Festival
October 18 – 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Main Street – Ash Grove
CELEBRATING AND SHARING A FASCINATING HERITAGE
Notable Missourian Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone, early settler – here…. Birthplace of notorious 1930’s gangster Ma Barker, on FBI’s Most Wanted List – here……Civil War bushwhackers’ terrorizing raids – here……Main Street shoot out between horse thieves – here.…..Murder over missing foxhound said to be basis of book and movie, “The Voice of Bugle Ann” – here.……Enterprises that distinguished our area nationwide, Ash Grove Portland Cement and Phenix Marble Quarry – here.
Celebration of this fascinating heritage begins on Historic Main Street. It is a mix and mingle of Civil War to 20’s and 30’s eras in fashion, buggies and vintage vehicles, live music – fiddle — ragtime piano -Irish folk songs, plus foods from the days of biscuits always on the table, sarsaparilla a favored drink, and nothing was better than catfish fried up in a pan.
Come in historic full attire…enter the 10:00 am costume contest (for all ages and gender)… and a free order of biscuits and gravy is yours. Costume up your whole family and not only is your breakfast covered but so are the Halloween costumes.
No costume? Get in the spirit of the day with a flapper headband or gangster hat from the Headband and Hat shop. Don’t forget your camera to get a photo of your new look with flapper, Sara Vega, professional model.
Listen to the story telling and watch the re-enactments of stories from our heritage….join in the games and competitions….see artisans demonstrate their skills…make and take a painted gourd… make a planter from Ash Grove cement and paper… AND keep an eye out for Ma Barker’s boys – they’re usually up to no good.
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Even if I had missed the opening act, the coda of the celebration was a provocative visual display of old, new, in between and outside the boundaries of time. It certainly wasn’t one of the laid-out-on-a-slab villages I’d photographed for Ozark Prairie Border. Ash Grove has a pulse.
Googling Ash Grove, I pulled up a dissenting opinion. “Agricultural commerce has abandoned Ash Grove. It isn’t a sleepy community. It’s in a coma,” wrote freelance reviewer of live music, Bill Glahn. He pronounced the town of 1,500 a victim of corporate greed that has killed the family farm and sent factory jobs overseas. Glahn is active in Occupy Springfield, a franchise of Occupy Wall Street, so it’s not difficult to discern his political leanings.
He motored up to Ash Grove from Springfield on Labor Day of 2010, “to make some kind of photographic record that this place actually existed before it crumbled into dust.” The anti capitalist protest group didn’t begin until September 2011. So he wouldn’t have been able to start a subchapter – Occupy Ash Grove – to protest the pernicious influence of big business on small towns. After my brief sojourn I don’t get the feeling the place was or is ripe for revolution.