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Confederate Reunion Evolved Into Clothesline Fair

by Lynn Kutter | September 1, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Clothesline Fair started in 1951 and has been successful through the efforts of Prairie Grove Lions Club, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park and Arts Center of the Ozarks, formerly the Council of Ozark Artists and Craftsman.

The arts and crafts idea originated from trips by Fred and Madge McCuistion of Prairie Grove to visit local arts festivals in the Appalachians.

They wanted to promote native and local artists and craftsmen and moved their crafts fair around northwest Arkansas for a few years before finding a permanent home in Prairie Grove in 1957. History shows there had been craft fairs at the state park as early as 1953.

Battlefield State Park already held a Labor Day celebration and reunion of Confederate soldiers and their survivors so it seemed only natural for the Clothesline Fair to also occupy the same weekend.

Through the efforts of the Lions Club, Fred and Marge and countless others in Prairie Grove, the Fair was successful from the beginning.

In 1957, 30 exhibitors presented their crafts and an estimated 7,000 people visited the fair. The number of crafters doubled the next year from 30 to 60.

The Council of Ozark Artists and Craftsman lasted until the mid 1970s until it merged with the former Springdale Fine Arts Center and the name was changed to Arts Center of the Ozarks to reflect both organizations.

Square dancing is as much a part of the Clothesline Fair as the arts and crafts vendors.

Square dancing has been going on since around 1958. Most people credit Peggy Parks of Prairie Grove with starting the square dancing tradition, though she won't take all the credit. Parks was a fourth grade teacher in Prairie Grove and remembers watching a high school group do the Virginia Reel folk dance. That gave her the idea her own students could do the same.

She taught her fourth graders how to folk dance and they probably were the first group to perform at the Clothesline Fair in 1958.

Over the years, the Fair has added square dance exhibitions and competitions for children.

In 2107,, the Lions Club decided to name the square dance competition in memory of Parks. It's now called the Peggy Parks Memorial Square Dance Competition.

The Prairie Grove Lions Club sponsors the square dancing, handles all concessions at the Clothesline Fair and this year, also is in charge of the craft vendors. Proceeds are used to help others, especially those with vision needs.


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