Bob Mitchell: Events worth promoting

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

If I had to choose one of the best efforts the town of Cassville ever put forward in promoting the area it would be difficult. There have been many over the years: Strawberry Festival, Soils and Crops Conference, June Dairy Month, Industrial Days and Fescue Festival. All have, in their time, done their part to bring the City of Seven Valleys into the focal point of the region.

Most, with the exception of the Soils and Crops event, have done their thing and just faded out of the picture. The demise of many events has been tied directly to the duration of what they were promoting.

But, my vote for the best effort has to go to the Harvest Show, a program of the mid-l930s that called for not only organization and promotion, but considerable physical effort to get underway and then to finish.

Closed square

The fall event would completely close the public square since stalls had to be constructed to show the livestock and swine. These facilities were located on three sides of the square with only Main Street remaining open.

Not only were the stalls constructed, but they were covered to provide the best protection possible for the pride of livestock that came out of the hills and pastures of the county. Structures were built a full block long and had stalls on both sides.

Hard part

If you have gotten this far and wondered why the event might rate so high in my estimation, here’s the kicker, the stalls were built of native oak, and most of it seasoned. Now, if you have ever driven a nail in seasoned oak you know it can be very stubborn. And let me tell you there were plenty of nails to pound in building the Harvest Show facilities.

Add to that most of the labor was volunteered from Cassville business people, and one can easily imagine how many fingers got mashed and some of the language that might have been within earshot of the construction project.

Once started, work went on day and night, with crews reporting for relief every few hours, until the stalls were completed and ready for the arrival of animals.

Judging

Showing and judging of the animals was held in an area heavily strawed to cover the streets in the block in front of the post office. Agriculture agency judges came in for the event, some under sponsorship of feed firms.

It was here I probably suffered one of my earliest embarrassments. I had a Jersey heifer named Fawn. The late J.R. Fuquay, quite a milk cow man in his time, helped me get her trimmed and showed me how to smooth and polish her horns. Scraping them with glass, they soon got into pretty good shape. It took polishing with light oil and sandpaper to put the gloss on them.

About 10 minutes before I was to show her, I was getting her water bucket for a fresh drink and she nudged me with those horns, nearly taking my pants off me. There was nothing I could do but head home for a change. Missing the class judging, and under the circumstances, Rube was permitted to show the animal and won a red ribbon that was treasured for years.

Anyone of that era that showed cattle can undoubtedly recite similar pleasures that event out of the past provided.

During the show

It was also the responsibilities of those same businessmen-volunteers to handle the chore of cleanup each evening. Individuals had to keep their stalls clean and were provided a nearby area on which to deposit the dirty straw. Provisions also had to be made to clean the streets at the conclusion of the event.

The end

Just as hard physical labor had to be available to get the show started, the same would apply for time to tear down the sheds. The pounding was much louder when this part of the work came around since larger hammers were being used.

Whether this type event would ever be possible in this neck of the woods today is highly doubtful.

Other events

Probably the most popular event out of the past was the Strawberry Festival, which got the folks out of Joplin and Springfield headed this way to bid in the auction that sold prime crates of Barry County berries. Some of the most popular celebrities of the region would willingly come here to be a part of the program. Some of the senior citizens still around could well have been king or queen of the event.

Industrial Fair was among the most recent, in the mid-l970s and designed to show people the diversity of manufacturing that went on inside the walls of local industry.

June Dairy Month and Fescue Festival was a couple of agriculture-related events that went strong for a number of years. Departure of Pet Milk Co., from Cassville, eliminated some leadership in this event. Fescue slipping from a high dollar crop for farmers lost interest here.

There are rumbles out there at this time that efforts are going to be made to pump new interest into this three-way, graze, hay and seed crops.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.