Thoughts on the 14th Annual Fall Arts Festival, Poplar Bluff, Missouri

Oct 10, 2007

I had a meeting Saturday here in Poplar Bluff, which brought me face to face with what Festival Sign Waving At Margaret Harwell Art Museumappeared to be the Mother of All Poplar Bluff Street Jams—the 14th Annual Fall Arts Festival/Art on the Run blowout, spilling forth along the historic red-cobblestone stretch of Main Street with gusto. Simply put (if you happen to be Frank Sinatra): The Friends of Margaret Harwell Art Museum, organizers of the event, really know how to throw a swingin’ shindig.

There was live music. I saw Toni Becker engage those assembled with her rich vocals and wonderful guitar. To my chagrin, I had missed by a hair Gary Garner’s performance on the Chapman Stick—an instrument not unlike a guitar, but for people who laugh in the face of additional strings, and who are likely closet keyboardists at heart.

At one point, while actually in my meeting in a building on Main, I heard the relentless, driving beat of drums wafting in from the street fest, and longed to rush out and experience what the drummers were communicating to the people. I sensed there were singers involved as well; perhaps next year I will be fortunate enough to hear what they were all sharing with the many listeners lining the street.

Museum Director Tina Magill, Friends of MHAM President Gerry Vandervort, and city Arts &A Master Ironsmith And His Wares Advisory Board Secretary Emily Geddes all remarked with pleasure on the great turnout for the event this year. Geddes was pleased, too, that this year the children’s activities were moved from behind the Museum to the space in front of it—thus uniting them more effectively with the myriad other happenings taking shape right on Main.

And oh, what happenings, what sights. There was the 10K run and then the one-mile Die-Hard Artisans After the Festival, With Palsrace. There were artists selling prints, jewelry, and carved-wood creations, among other items. There was plenty to snack on, from sweets to savories. There were people guiding eager children in various arts, and kids going paint-happy—some smearing themselves in bright colors, and many saving the artistic urge for a junked auto brought onto the street for the occasion. Cat in the Hat toppers were all the rage for both young and old.

A marvelous, community-centered energy animated the clusters of people strolling, playing, visiting, munching, browsing among the booths. Last Saturday I witnessed the most widely diverse cross-section of Southeast Missourians I’d seen to date in a Poplar Bluff setting. Many races, many ages, many walks, yet a single theme: celebration of community, creativity, and life in this neck of the woods.

Rather a nice way to mark the age-old change of seasons, under an almost cloudless fall sky.

I look forward to discovering what the Friends of Margaret Harwell Art Museum have in store for us down the road. The Fall Arts Festival is a true gem of the season.