BOONVILLE — On the corner of Sixth and Spring streets, Kenny Williams helped two girls who were teetering on Rollerblades to crank his fire-engine-red antique corn sheller at the 35th Boonville Festival of Leaves. As soon as the wheel’s rotations were fast enough, Williams slid a cob through the top. The children watched as the dry, multi-colored kernels rushed out the bottom into an orange bin. He then pulled the stripped cob out of the other end and held it against the quickly rotating wheel until the friction caused it to stop.
Williams’ corn machines, in and around his stand propped with cornhusk-covered poles, allow him to demonstrate the 1920s machines, which he says will one day be relegated to museums.
“It shows the American tradesman at his finest,” Williams said. And besides, he never met a person at a festival he didn’t like. On a sun-warmed Sixth Street, visitors enjoyed a festival that also featured pork producers, a kettle corn stand and a booth with books about the entire history of Little League Baseball in Boonville.
Fall brings the last of warm weather, colorful foliage, and a multitude of festivals, each with its own feel and identity.
Mary Grigsby, an MU associate professor of rural sociology, said festivals “give visitors a lens into the culture — past and present — of the local community.”
She said these festivals combine elements of Midwestern culture with a venue for boosting the economies of small towns.
“The festivals link to some aspect of our history and sense of belonging to a culture,” Grigsby said.
She said there are old traditions of festivals centering on the planting and harvest seasons.
About 20 miles from the revelers in Boonville, wine tasters at Rocheport’s Missouri Artisan Festival spent Saturday consuming the product of recently harvested grapes. Winemaker Cory Bomgaars said harvest runs from the last week of July through the second week of October.
“During harvest, we’re out here nonstop,” Bomgaars said as he and fellow winemakers worked into the evening a little ways down Route BB from where festivalgoers were.
Up the hill from the bluff on the festival grounds, the Missouri Artisan Festival’s artists showed their wares on a gravel plot by the vineyard.
“Everyone likes to get out in the fall and experience the outdoors,” said Curtis Bourgeois, chief executive officer of Les Bourgeois Vineyards.
Grigsby said these kinds of festivals and events provide a local shopping opportunity and a way for people to experience local culture. She noted that they also provide a social and cultural solidarity for people to identify with and that they unite people of diverse backgrounds through a common interest.
“They have a sense of common purpose,” Grigsby said. “All people need to have a sense of belonging and history.”
A sense of common purpose brought participants to Sunday’s Crop Walk in Columbia, coordinator Walt McManus said. He said the walk is an October tradition in the area. Walkers from Christian denominations and representing the Islamic Center joined and prayed to raise money to end hunger.
“It’s a rare opportunity for members of the community to experience everyone here for a common purpose,” McManus said.