COLUMBIA — Standing like a sentry in front of his teepee, a grizzled man with piercing blue eyes and a fox-fur hat banged his drum slowly before delivering his speech.
“Come one, come all, and hear the story of the fur traders and mountain men,” said Jim Two Crows Wallen, an oral historian and one of the numerous "living history interpreters" who gathered in Columbia’s Nifong Park for this year’s Heritage Festival & Craft Show.
“My whole goal is to get people excited about history," Wallen said. "Missouri history, Native American history, fur-trade history… whatever it is, I want to get people excited so they can walk away saying, ‘Boy you made me feel like I was there.’”
Interpreters like Wallen help draw around 15,000 people from Missouri and beyond for the two-day event, said Karen Ramey, Columbia Parks and Recreation superintendent.
Bryan and Becky Ross come to the festival every year with their two children for the hayrides and to get an early start on Christmas shopping.
“We like seeing the old time crafts, the music … oh, and we have to get a pumpkin," Becky said. "It wouldn’t be the Heritage Festival without getting the kids a pumpkin. It’s kind of just neat to hang out and learn a little history.”
In addition to historical education, the festival has a wide variety of other offerings:
Food: Barbecue, Jamaican food, Italian ice, burgers, hot dogs, caramelized apples, funnel cakes and kettle corn can be found in the concession area.
Music: Folk, bluegrass, swing, German, Cajun and cowboy music are featured on the main stage at different times while roaming fiddlers and flutists make their way around the park at their leisure.
Games: Hayrides, stilt-walking, a “Fun for Young’uns” area and another area where children can pan for "gold" are just a few of the activities found in various locations around the festival.
Shops: Deer suede, tomahawks, whips, lanterns, flutes, swords and much more are available for purchase in several canvas tent shops set up around the park.
“We’ve had a huge turnout already,” Ramey said. “We’ve been busy since before the events officially began … with people coming in around 9:30 in the morning.”
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said volunteer David Sapp, the "mayor" of Boone Village. “It’s easy for people who have been around for a bit longer to take for granted the things they’ve learned about their own culture and their own heritage, and youngsters that are coming up can use this to understand a little bit better where we came from and what our heritage is.”
The Heritage Festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.