Entries - Entry Category: Folklore and Folklife - Starting with A

Arkansans versus Arkansawyers

The name for residents of Arkansas has long been a subject of controversy. A fundamental premise of Arkansas culture and lore is the impossibility of defining, categorizing, or otherwise pigeonholing its people as any single type or group. This resistance to uniformity is seen in the question of whether “Arkansas” should be pronounced like “Kansas.” Because that argument was settled in favor of ArkanSAW by the Arkansas legislature in 1881, it follows that the demonym—the name of the inhabitants of a locality—“Arkansans” makes no sense, given that they live in ArkanSAW, not ArKANSAS. Although “Arkansan” has become the standard usage, some of the state’s best-known writers have argued in favor of “Arkansawyer.” To confuse the issue further, another term, Arkansians, …

Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness

aka: Bluebird of Happiness
The original Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness was created by Leo Ward at Terra Studios near Durham (Washington County). Since their introduction in 1982, over nine million bluebirds have been sold. Each bird is individually crafted from molten glass by artisans at Terra Studios and is signed and dated. Though Terra Studios creates glass birds in many colors, the bluebird has always been the most popular choice. While living in San Diego, California, in the early 1970s, Leo Ward discovered a passion for glass blowing. Along with his wife, Rita, Ward opened a gift shop and constructed a glass furnace on the premises. When a city inspector discovered this furnace, the shop was closed, and the Wards moved to Arkansas, where …

Arkansas Folk Festival

The annual Arkansas Folk Festival takes place on the third weekend in April in Mountain View (Stone County). Held since 1963, the event attracts thousands of people to the small mountain community, where the livelihood of many residents is based on tourism. The town has become nationally renowned for its folk music, and the downtown area is a popular place for impromptu “pickins” as musicians gather informally to perform. The Arkansas Folk Festival has its roots in the Stone County Folkways Festival held in 1941, celebrating the musical heritage of the area. Musical performances and a jig dance contest were among events held at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. World War II prevented subsequent gatherings at the time, but the …

Arkansas Food Hall of Fame

The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame was established by the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) in 2017, with the first honorees inducted in an event held that winter. The goal of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame is to honor the food traditions and the Arkansans involved in the local culinary arts that represent the culture of Arkansas. The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame divides the awards into five categories: Arkansas Food Hall of Fame (for restaurants), Food-Themed Event, Proprietor of the Year, People’s Choice, and Gone but Not Forgotten. Every year, a nomination period is open to the public to choose restaurants for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee selects the blue-ribbon …

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is a nonprofit collaborative network of more than 400 hunger relief organizations across Arkansas working to alleviate hunger in the state. Members include the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas in Jonesboro (Craighead County), Harvest Texarkana Regional Food Bank in Texarkana (Miller County), Food Bank of North Central Arkansas in Norfork (Baxter County), Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in Bethel Heights (Benton County), and River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), as well as numerous food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Arkansas has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. More than twenty-eight percent of Arkansas families with children experience food insecurity on …

Arkansas Made [Books]

The Arkansas Made books are a two-volume set researched and written by two leaders of the Arkansas Territorial Restoration (which later became the Historic Arkansas Museum) and published by the University of Arkansas Press in the early 1990s. The books document much of the art and material culture created in Arkansas between 1819 and 1870. The Arkansas Made books were largely researched and written by curator Swannee Bennett and director William B. Worthen of the Arkansas Territorial Restoration in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in an effort to identify the artisans and artists who plied their trades in Arkansas from the frontier period through 1870. According to the book’s introduction, the pair, “finding a vast hole in the state’s already neglected …

Arkansas State Capital, Folkloric Relocations of the

There are a few staples of local history and folklore in the state of Arkansas repeated widely throughout numerous different communities. One such oft-repeated phrase is “Hernando de Soto went through here,” which many communities were able to claim more authoritatively before more modern and scientific reconstructions of the route of the de Soto expedition narrowed down the possibilities. Other stories deal with the location of Indian mounds or villages in the area before white settlement, or the presence of noted outlaw Jesse James, or a visit from Civil War guerrilla William Quantrill. Also among the legends presented in many local histories is that any number of towns were almost designated the state capital. Much of the confusion as to …

Arkansas Traveler

A tune, a dialogue, and a painting from the mid-nineteenth century, the Arkansas Traveler became a catch-all phrase for almost anything or anyone from Arkansas: it has been the name of a kind of canoe, various newspapers, a racehorse, a baseball team, and more. The term is familiar to the present-day general public, especially as the name of a baseball team and a certificate presented to distinguished visitors to the state. Origins The Arkansas-based version of the Traveler is said to have begun in 1840. Colonel Sanford Faulkner got lost in rural Arkansas and asked for directions at a humble log home. Faulkner, a natural performer, turned the experience into an entertaining presentation for friends and acquaintances in which the …

Arkansas’s Image

Two defining forces have shaped Arkansas’s image. First, physical geography placed the Mississippi River floodplain on the state’s eastern border. Second, public policy determined that, for almost 100 years, the region adjacent to the state’s western border would be known as Indian Territory. The combination of these two forces were primarily responsible for Arkansas being less densely populated than its neighboring states and being predominantly rural for the first 150 years of its existence as a territory and state. Lacking a major urban area or dominant physical attraction, relatively few people had first-person knowledge of the state. As a result, this area came to be viewed as a rustic, backwoods region out of touch with mainstream America. In an effort …

Ashley, Eliza Jane

Eliza Jane Burnett Dodson Ashley spent more than thirty years as the cook in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, serving from the administration of Francis Cherry to Bill Clinton. Her 1985 book Thirty Years at the Mansion garnered her national attention. Eliza Jane Burnett was born in Pettus Township in Lonoke County on the Oldham Plantation on October 11, 1917. She was the daughter of William Burnett and Eliza Johnson Burnett. Eliza, who carried the same name as her mother, was often referred to as Liza or Janie. Although she had spent some time in Little Rock (Pulaski County) with her mother as a teenager, she was working on the Oldham Plantation when she married Calvin Dodson in 1933. Louis Calvin …

Atkins Pickle Company

Atkins Pickle Company was the major industry in the town of Atkins (Pope County) for more than fifty years, and its legacy survives in the annual Picklefest celebration that began in 1992. The building that housed the pickle plant now houses Atkins Prepared Foods. The new company employs more people than the pickle plant did at its end, but it does not provide the same level of recognition for the town once dubbed the “Pickle Capital of the World” and known as the home of the fried dill pickle. In 1946, a group of citizens led by Lee Cheek raised $17,000 for a loan to the Goldsmith Pickle Company of Chicago, which had agreed to invest $75,000 of its money …