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Celebration Honoring Ozarks' Heritage Kicks off Friday

Missouri State University hosts the Ozarks Celebration Festival, beginning Friday evening. As KSMU’s Julie Greene reports, the event, which features live bluegrass music, square dancing and storytelling, is in its 16th year.
Ozarks Celebration Festival
Credit: Ozarks Celebration Festival

MSU began the Ozarks Celebration Festival as a way to create a sense of place for its students, as well as to celebrate and honor the Ozarks’ history and culture. Since its inception 16 years ago, the weeklong festival has become the university’s largest yearly event, which attracts around 20,000 people from across the country and beyond.

For 10 years, Barbara Jones has been the director of the festival. For Jones, the Ozarks is home. She says that out of all the places she’s lived and traveled to in the United States, there’s something special about our region’s culture and heritage.

“This area, it’s probably one of the most self-sufficient areas in the United States. They used to say that the people could put a fence around the Ozarks, and we could survive without anybody coming in because we grow our own food; the people here are so strong and so wonderful. It’s just a great place to be,” she said.  

This year’s event will include more than 75 traditional artists and artisans as well as storytellers, musicians and dancers performing on three separate stages. The festival will kick off with the Annual Ice Cream Social & Concert Under the Stars starting at 5 p.m. Friday.

Mike Smith, host of KSMU’s Seldom Heard Music, has been a volunteer for the festival since it began. 

“Here in this university setting will allow for students who might not be from the Ozarks, who might in fact be from China or Japan or those foreign nations that are here as exchange students. It also allows them to learn a lot more about our history, our culture and our music,” Smith said.

For more information on the festival, visit www.ocf.missouristate.edu.

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.