Skip to content

The Snoop 6.4.2015

The Old-Time Music Festival and Ozarks Heritage Festival will be held in West Plains on June 19 and 20. Although held in West Plains, this event could well be attributed to Ava and Douglas County, because it hinges largely on the works – and memory – of Bob Holt and Edna Mae Davis.
For that reason, this week the Snoop shares the information released by West Plains regarding the upcoming Festival.
Dancin’ and Fiddlin’ Abound
At Old Time Music,
Ozark Heritage Festival
WEST PLAINS – The Bob Holt Jig Dance Competition; nightly traditional square dances; and the Fiddlers’ Frolic, the long-running gathering for fiddlers and other musicians, will again be features of the Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival in downtown West Plains, Mo. The festival celebrates its 21st year Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20. The two-day annual event in downtown West Plains, Mo., celebrates Ozarks music and culture. Admission to all festival events is free.
Bob Holt Old-Time Jig Dancing Competition
It’s time to get out those dancing shoes and get ready for the annual Bob Holt Old-Time Jig Dancing Competition, which is returning as a featured event of the annual Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival.  The Bob Holt Old-Time Jig Dancing Competition will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, in the civic center theater.
Jig dancing contestants will compete in four age divisions:  Under age 17, age 18-50, age 51-70, and over age 70.  No entry fee will be charged, and contestants can register to participate by contacting Kathleen Morrissey at the West Plains Council on the Arts, or 417-293-7751.
Over $500 in prizes will be awarded, organizers said. Cathy Marriott, Ava (and daughter of Edna Mae Davis), a master artist with the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program of the Missouri Folks Arts Program, will be the competition’s emcee.
The competition was named in honor of the late Holt, a long-time Ava resident renowned for his old-time fiddle playing for square dancers.  He received a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1999 for his music and was a master artist with the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program in the Missouri Folk Arts Program.
Within the southern folk tradition, there are several styles of solo, freestyle dances, organizers said.  Flatfooting and buckdancing are two of the most common forms.  In the Ozarks, the term “jig” is frequently used to describe this style of dance.
Although these dances are all loosely related, they also are distinctly different.  The word “jig” dates back at least to 1500 AD and is probably somewhat older in usage.  It describes a solo dance that originated in the British Isles where it consisted of repeated hops on one foot while the free foot pointed patterns in the air – heel and toe, front, side or back.
The Ozark jig draws not only from British tradition, but also from American Indian and African cultures.  It basically consists of movement from the hips down while the upper body is held erect, organizers explained.  Emphasis is on leg rather than body movements, and the steps are individualistic and virtually limitless.  The feet serve as a rhythm instrument, and the sound of the shoes striking the floor beats the time of the music.
Even though a number of jig dancers may take to the floor at the same time, each dancer’s steps are improvised without regard to the movement of the other dancers.  When jig steps are incorporated into square dances, no effort is made to synchronize steps with other dancers in the square, organizers explained. Another major difference in the British and Ozark versions of the jig is the rhythm of the dance, they added.  In the British Isles, the jig was danced to a lilting 6/8 rhythm.  Ozark dancers prefer extremely fast-paced, driving 2/2 or 2/4 hoedowns.  The Ozark style of jig is a “freestyle” dance form identified with northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.
Each year the Bob Holt Jig Dance Competition is enjoyed by hundreds of spectators and contestants, organizers said.  This year’s event is again being sponsored by The Fish Shack in West Plains.
Traditional Square Dances
Traditional square dancing has been an integral component of the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival since the first event in 1995.  Fiddler Bob Holt and caller Edna Mae Davis of Ava introduced this art form that year, and their influence continues to be felt.
Square dancing has been an important vehicle for both artistic expression and social recreation in this region since the arrival of the first white settlers.  It is closely associated with traditions of fiddling and string band music, as well as traditions of solo dancing such as jig dancing.
Square dancers in the Douglas County, Mo., area, especially Ava, maintain a distinctive tradition of square dance characterized by brisk tempos, the incorporation of solo jig dancing into square dances during transitional segments, and the participation of the callers as dancers.
Traditional square dancing still takes place at least occasionally in some locations within the Ozarks.  Additionally, Western square dancing, a pan-regional, popular-culture version of the art form that is related to traditional square dancing but does not have long-established local roots, has become popular among some Ozarks residents in recent decades.
The square dancing featured at the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is predominantly traditional square dancing.  Dances take place in the West Plains Civic Center exhibit hall from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday during the festival.  Square dancers from Douglas County and the Potosi, Mo., areas frequently participate in the dancing in leadership roles, but everyone is welcome.
Experienced string band musicians from south-central and southwest Missouri who are thoroughly familiar with regional square dance traditions, led by guitarist Alvie Dooms of Ava, and fiddler David Scrivner of Mansfield, provide live musical accompaniment for the dancing.  Joining them are fiddler Ashley Forrest Hull of Norwood, and banjoist Nathan McAllister of Neosho.
Fiddlers’ Frolic
Fiddlers, other instrumentalists and those who like to listen to good, toe-tapping fiddle music are invited to the Fiddlers Frolic at the annual Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival. The music begins at 5 p.m. Friday, June 19, in the West Plains Civic Center Theater at 110 St. Louis St.  Admission to all festival events is free.
An annual component of the festival, the Fiddlers Frolic gives participating fiddlers an opportunity to select and lead tunes in an open jam session.  It focuses principally on traditional fiddling found in this region, but traditional is defined broadly and flexibly, coordinator Matt Meacham said, and fiddlers of all backgrounds, stylistic orientations and skill levels are welcome to participate.
“It’s always enjoyable and really fascinating to hear the participating fiddlers exchange tunes and compare notes, in multiple senses of the word,” Meacham said.  “We know that there will be folks on hand who are very knowledgeable about the history of fiddling in this part of the country and will provide interesting commentary on many of the tunes that will be played.”
One of the goals of the Fiddlers Frolic is to help conserve and perpetuate old-time tunes and techniques, Meacham said.  As a result, it tends to emphasize traditional fiddling, but we know that traditions are always evolving and don’t want to define tradition in an artificially rigid way, so we strongly encourage fiddlers of all kinds to join in. And, of course, we’ll need banjoists, guitarists and other instrumentalists to provide accompaniment.
Everyone’s welcome.
For more information about The Fiddlers Frolic, contact Meacham at 417-372-3177 or, or the West Plains Council on the Arts at
The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is the signature event for West Plains.  The two-day festival seeks to celebrate, preserve, pass on and nurture an appreciation of the old-time music and folk life traditions distinctive to the Ozark Highlands.
2015 Festival partners include the West Plains Council on the Arts, the City of West Plains, the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center, West Plains Civic Center, Charles and Pam Drago, and Missouri State University-West Plains. Partial funding for this event was provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
For more information on the festival e-mail info@westplains, visit the website at http://www.oldtimemusic . org, or “like” the Facebook page at Music.Festival.