Vol. V, No. 2, Fall 1991


Something For Everyone

Old Iron Works Days

By Robert Gilmore



Old Iron Works Days is one of the outstanding crafts events in the Ozarks and has been held each fall for the past 13 years at Maramec Spring Park near St. James, Missouri.

The discovery of a rich deposit of iron ore close by a huge spring led to the establishment in 1826 of the Maramec Iron Works, which operated until the late 1870s. The site is now managed by the James Foundation as Maramec Spring Park, a beautifully maintained 1856-acre park and a National Park Service Natural Landmark. In the park is the spring itself, remnants of the old iron works, a mining and an agriculture museum, a nature center, and of course, picnic shelters, campgrounds, and hiking trails. By a cooperative arrangement with the Missouri Conservation Commission, there is even trout fishing. The park is a perfect setting for Old Iron Works Days, a celebration, according to the sponsors, bringing together trades, crafts, and people representing the way of life of the 1860s.
Using the excuse that I needed to get some pictures for the Craft issue of OzarksWatch, I visited Old Iron Works Days on a gorgeous Saturday morning, October 12, the first day of its two-day run.

The program promised "Something For Everyone ! ! !," and that commitment was kept with a variety of entertainments, games for the kids, contests, pony rides, food, and an especially impressive selection of crafts demonstrations.

Some 48 craftspeople were at work in the park, each of them demonstrating their skills. Old Iron Works Days is different from many other crafts events in that crafters who have not been selected to demonstrate may not sell on the grounds. In the program the organizers explain, "You may purchase any item that is made by the demonstrators. The demonstrators must be working on the objects they are selling .... We are a non-commercial show, but have granted sale rights to the demonstrators to help defray their expenses."

Maramec was the fourth festival /reunion /craft show /fair I have been to this fall. I enjoyed it. I liked being able to get up close to the demonstrators, to watch their skill, to ask questions. But then I've enjoyed all the events. Such a choice. A real Ozarks feast of festivals.

How many festivals /reunions /craft shows /fairs are there in the Ozarks during the fall? I don't know. I doubt anyone does. Eighty such events, scheduled for October and November, were listed in the October, 1991 Ozarks Mountaineer, but I'd be willing to bet that was only a portion of those actually held during those two months.

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Most of these festivals /reunions /craft shows / fairs feature the display and sale of craft items. True, there might be other activities headlined at some--apple butter makin' at Mt. Vernon, Missouri, a championship outhouse race at Mountain View, Arkansas, an international mule jump at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, for example--but there's a pretty good chance that each of these events will also have an extensive exhibit of handicrafts.

Another thing. Each will be unique.



OzarksWatch photos.

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