Growing Up War Eagle

**Reprinted from the 60th Anniversary War Eagle Fair Guide Book**

     Every fall, thousands of people converge on the War Eagle River valley.  For sixty years, they have come from near and far to the War Eagle Fair to shop, eat, and create memories.  Throughout its history, the fair has been many things to many people.  To some, it is part of their livelihood and how they preserve their art.  To others, it is an annual family outing.  To me, it is where I come from, a member of my family, a living legacy left behind by those who came before me.

War Eagle Fair founder great-granddaughter     I was born in the summer of 1982, the year before the fair’s thirtieth anniversary.  My father, Fred Jr., is the grandson of Blanche Elliott who founded the War Eagle Fair in 1954.  At the time that I was born, the Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair Association, the non-profit organization behind the fair, sponsored three events each year: a spring arts and crafts fair and antique show, a two-week summer seminar where classes on everything from woodcarving to dried flower arrangement were taught, and a fall arts and crafts fair.



Blanche Elliott, Blanche Hanks Elliott, War Eagle Craft Fair      During these early years of my life, I was a frequent fixture at each of these events.  I would spend the fairs perched in a spinning wood chair in front of the main office window.  I would answer questions from the public, hand out brochures and fair books, and gobble up lots of snacks.  Once, I carved my name in that beautiful chair.  My Granny Shirley (Blanche’s daughter) was not happy about that.  During the seminar, my job was usually to deliver mail to people.  I also felt that it was my job to feed leftover chips to the geese who call the War Eagle River their home.  During the 1985 seminar, it was my job to announce the birth of my little sister, Katie.

     Over the years, the nature of my jobs with the fair evolved.  I have done everything from simply staying out of the way to putting together exhibitor mail outs and packets to coordinating social media efforts in recent years.  My little sister and I spent many summers with our grandparents, Shirley and Fred Sutton.  During those summers, our grandparents put us to work and, in the process, taught us how the fair runs.  We learned that running a nationally ranked fair is a year-round job.  We learned the ins and outs of evaluating screening applications.  We learned that you always have to have enough toilet paper and someone on-site who knows first aid.  From childhood, we were shown that the secret to a great fair is in the details. 

      Many things have changed over the course of the fair’s sixty years.  One thing that has remained constant is my family’s involvement with the fair.  My great-grandmother ran the fair until 1985 when she suffered a stroke during the spring fair.  Her daughter, my grandmother, took the reins after that and served as Executive Director of the fair board until her passing in 2008.  Since then, running the fair has remained a family affair.  Blanche’s grandchildren, my dad and my aunt, have made sure that their grandmother’s vision continues to move forward.  My father serves as the board’s president, my mother is the treasurer, my aunt sits on the board, and my sister is the secretary.  During my adult life, I have not always lived close enough to be as involved as them.  Now that I am back in the area, I have resumed my position as odd-job completer. 

Great-Grandchildren of Blanche Elliott
     My great-grandmother started the War Eagle Fair in 1954 as a way to preserve the traditional handmade arts and crafts of the Ozarks.  She worked hard throughout her life to build the fair into an event that celebrated this idea.  In more recent years, the fair has opened up this vision to welcome exhibitors from across the United States.  The fair continues to thrive. 

     Blanche now has six great-great-grandchildren who are growing up War Eagle much like my sister and I did.  I hope they will love it and come to appreciate it as much as Katie and I have.  These three boys and three girls are sure to continue her legacy into another generation. 

     Thank you all for supporting and loving the fair through sixty years!  We look forward to sharing another sixty with you.

Comments

  1. I was prviledged to spend the afternoon with a lovely lady I presume was Mrs. Blanche Elliot. It was the summer of '73 I believe, when I was singing at Inspiration Point outside Eureka Springs. I had been attending the fair for years while living in Memphis, so she was a bit of a celebrity to me. Thanks for reminding me of your special family. Henrietta Alves, New Orleans

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