COLUMBIA — As bluegrass music and Native American prayer songs filled the air Saturday, visitors to Columbia’s 32nd Annual Heritage Festival experienced a taste of mid-Missouri’s arts and crafts, food, dance and song.
Karen Ramey of Columbia Parks and Recreation said about 15,000 people are expected to attend the festival over the weekend. Ramey said there were about 100 booths to visit.
Bob Boxley comes from a long line of carvers, and his booth was filled with an array of intricately carved short statues, tiny mice and wizardlike faces on thin poles of driftwood. Boxley has collected knives that he uses for many types of work – he even has one specifically for carving eyes.
“I work with any type of wood that I can get my hands on,” Boxley said. “I also carve on morel mushrooms and pumpkins.” The pumpkins are typically used for demonstrations in which children help.
Boxley usually picks driftwood for his projects from the Missouri River. He comes across basswood, butternut wood, cottonwood and walnut.
For Boxley, carving is “a subtractive art.”
“You can take it off, but you can’t put it back on,” he said.
With a brother who is a professional carver in Washington and with 15 years of experience, Boxley has developed a system.
“I don’t know if it runs in the family or sneaks up on you,” he said, laughing.
Jeff Goris lends a similar delicacy to his work as a tinsmith. Goris used to be an industrial arts teacher in Wabash, Ind., where he taught machine shop and other classes. After retiring in 2005, Goris and his wife moved to Licking, where Goris now pursues tin-working as a hobby. Although the Gorises used to participate in about 19 festivals every year, they’ve scaled back to about half a dozen.
“We really enjoy it,” Goris said of the Heritage Festival. “It strives for authenticity, and the crowd is always attentive and interested in what we do.”
Goris’ booth is filled with gleaming teapots, lanterns and smaller tin objects with elaborate patterns on their surfaces. Goris is unique in that he uses antique tools, some dating from the 1840s. He sometimes buys and sells the tools on the Internet.
“I use that modern contrivance called eBay,” Goris said about his collection of the old tools.
On a different stage outside the Maplewood Barn, the Haskell Indian Nations University Dancers, dressed in traditional brightly colored and intricately beaded and embroidered outfits, performed and encouraged audience members to get onstage and share the culture and heritage.
Orlando Begay, Adrian Primeaux, Andrea Fowler and Travis Brown spoke about the cultural significance and intricacies of the traditional music and dances. They invited children and adults to learn one simple and one more complex dance.
This is Brown's final year performing as a Haskell student. He said he wanted to inform others about Native American participation in the founding of the country and to bridge the gaps among races and cultures.
The festival welcomed not only showcased period artisans, but also those selling more modern wares. Kate Martin and Sandra Loar sell T-shirts to benefit organizations that aid animals or peace efforts. Their organization is aptly called Peace Kitty.
“It’s about hope and helping make the world a better place,” Martin said. She donates the profits from her sales to organizations such as Columbia’s Second Chance, as well as Second Chance’s Spay, Neuter and Protect program, the Central Missouri Humane Society and the Peace Nook.
“I did morning meditations, and I started asking myself what I could do to be of service for the greater good,” Martin said. “I wanted to make it fun and make it helpful.”
Visitors to the festival can take hayrides; visit pigs wallowing in mud; see a tepee, a log cabin from 1821 and a general store from 1890; and take part in the “1800 Games,” featuring jacks, tic-tac-toe and stilt races.
The festival is booked again on Sunday with talent on three different stages, including dances by the Haskell Indian Nations University students. Bluegrass, folk, Cajun, clogging and swing dancing performances will take place as well.