It offers year-round classes and workshops in jewelry making, soap making, knife making, gunsmithing, blacksmithing, printing, wood carving, pottery, coppersmithing, broom making, basket weaving, quilting, and more. You’ll also find courses on making musical instruments as well as herbs and food. Additionally, the park holds an annual Folk School comprised of one to nine day sessions.
“You can also set up and create your own workshop all year long, even when the park is closed,” explains Crafts Director Jeanette Larson. She says setting up a specific class with friends is great for a girlfriend getaway.
Larson finds more and more that people sign up for classes because they say “I’ve looked at every YouTube video on this and I’m just not getting it.” She adds, “There’s also a synergy when you’re making things with other people that doesn’t happen when you’re spread out there at home by yourself.”
“The thrill you get from learning you can make something, something you can use throughout the rest of your life, it’s hard to explain how great that feels,” Larson says. “You could make a basket you’ll have for the next 20 years, a broom to keep your house clean, a knife or even your own fireplace utensils.”
“I know a couple that made their wedding rings here with our jeweler,” Larson explains. “The three days they spent here making them, that’s an incredible memory.”
Many people take the courses because they want to make items they can use in their home and give as gifts or pass down as heirlooms. Some take them to learn a trade. The knifemaking classes are very popular and book quickly. “This is the only place in the nation you can come and build a black powder rifle,” Larson adds. The food and herb workshops are well attended also. The wide variety of courses, particularly during Folk School, allows couples and families to enjoy the park together yet take different classes.
Yvette Woell of Bowlingbrooke, Ill. took a basket weaving class this spring. “I took a class about 10 years ago elsewhere and I’m back because I need further instruction,” she explains. “I kind of hit a plateau and needed an expert to show me what else I can do with them. My daughter found this class online and said, ‘Look mom, you can learn to weave baskets better than you were before.’ I actually couldn’t find classes in Illinois so when I found this I thought it was a great opportunity.”
The teachers for the classes are also the crafters at Ozark Folk Center State Park during the regular season, which runs from April through November. At their shops at the park they demonstrate and sell their wares. You can buy directly from crafts people or from the park gift shop.
“When the park is open most of us teach in our shops,” explains Sharon Fernimen, who teaches reed and pine needle basketry. “People visiting the park really love to see that. They will stand around and watch a class and then come back later and see how they’re doing.”
“We’ve got close to 50 crafters,” explains Larson. For example, there are seven spinners and weavers offering demonstrations in rope twining, locker hooking, triangle weaving, tapestry weaving and more.
While the parks mission is to preserve, perpetuate and interpret precious traditional folk arts, some of the crafts are not from the 1800s. “They are more modern than that but have their roots in the Ozarks,” says Larson. For example, the blacksmith teaches about different heats such as coal, peat, corn, charcoal and propane. The woodworker has a foot lathe and an electric lathe and teaches which is best for which project.
Larson adds that the park itself is an excellent retreat with its cabins, restaurant, and concerts, as well as the surrounding area for hiking and fishing. Also on the park grounds is Loco Ropes, a tree top adventure offering three ropes courses, a zip line, climbing tower, and free fall. Just down the road is Blanchard Springs Caverns.
For more information about the park or classes, visit www.OzarkFolkCenter.com or call 870-269-3851. For information on Mountain View and the surrounding area, visit www.YourPlaceintheMountains.com.
Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer