A Short History of the War Eagle Fair

The War Eagle Fair has a rich history, full of stories that are just begging to be told.  For this reason, the history of the Fair will have to be told over multiple posts.  That, after all, is part of the purpose for this blog.  We want to share more than just a blurb with you about the Fair.  But, before we start our trip down memory lane, I thought it would be good to do a short version of the Fair's history.

The War Eagle Fair was founded in 1954.  It was the brainchild of Blanche Elliott.  After a successful week of a weaving course hosted in War Eagle by the Northwest Arkansas Handweavers Guild which ended with a exhibition of items created during the course, Mrs. Elliott was inspired to put together an arts and crafts fair with the beautiful War Eagle River valley as the backdrop.  Fall was chosen in order to showcase the colorful beauty of the Ozarks foliage as well as the traditional arts and crafts.
War Eagle Fair, war eagle arkansas
The first War Eagle Fair, attended by 2,259 people according to the sign-in books, was held in the living rooms of a few local ladies.  The people who came to that first fair traveled down unpaved roads, flanked by colorful lines of trees, to see what the artisans and crafters had brought.  On display and up for sale were products ranging from hand-woven rugs, leather craft, and pottery to baskets, quilts and jewelry.  It quickly became evident that there was much unrecognized artist talent in the Ozarks. 

Rules requiring items to be handmade and exhibitors to come form the Ozarks area, among others, were put into place with that first Fair.  Over the years, as times have changed, some rules have been changed.  However, the handmade rule is still the number one rule for participating in the War Eagle Fair.  This dedication to tradition and quality is what has set the War Eagle Fair apart from others over the years.

In 1957, the Fair had become such a success that an organization was started to oversee the running of the Fair.  The Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair Association, a non-profit organization, was begun and has been responsible for keeping the Fair going in the years since then.  The Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair Association is guided by a board of directors and is self-sustaining.  The Fair receives no grants or outside funding.  As a non-profit organization, all money made is put back into running the Fair.  When there is extra, scholarships are funded at local universities.

So, there you have a short version of how the War Eagle Fair came to be.  In future posts, I will share more stories about various facets of the Fair's history, such as other events hosted by the Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair Association, interesting people from the Fair's past, and amusing anecdotes.


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