The Home of American Craftsmanship gets a little larger every fall, as some of the best artists in the nation converge at Silver Dollar City for the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival. You’ll find innovative creations in every corner of the park, including some that only appear during this limited-time event.
The seven-week event, presented by Humana®, features over 125 visiting craftsmen in addition to the 100 resident crafters demonstrating at Silver Dollar City throughout the year. With so many handmade treasures to discover, it’s no wonder the festival was named The Best Fall Festival in Missouri by Travel & Leisure and One Of the Nation’s Top 8 Fall Harvest Festivals by U.S. News & World Report Travel.
Often, the stories behind these works of art are as interesting as the items themselves. We at the Silver Dollar City Attractions blog recently spoke to some of the visiting artisans to learn more about their inspiration.
Long before Gloria and Bill Coughlin loved each other, they loved Silver Dollar City.
Bill has been coming to Silver Dollar City for 50 years, and Gloria has been coming since the park opened. Before they became visiting craftsmen four years ago, they were traveling to the park together from their Illinois home about five to six times per year.
“We just love it,” Bill Coughlin said as he put the finishing touches on one of the pair’s decorative hay wagons. “You can’t beat it.”
The Coughlins are demonstrating on the Silver Dollar City square through Oct. 27. Once they leave, they’ll take about a month off before starting back up in December. They go shopping for wood once a week, and purchase about two tons of steel over the course of the year. They’ll weld the steel into wagon wheels for their wooden wagons, and use more wood to create birdhouses, sleighs and buckboards. After Bill sands and cuts the wood, Gloria will start painting their crafts in the spring.
In every step of the process, they listen to recordings of two of Silver Dollar City’s signature musical groups, the Homestead Pickers and the Sons of the Silver Dollar. Bill remarked that his brother will often come into the workshop and remark that it sounds like he just walked into Silver Dollar City.
“That’s what I like,” Bill says.
Teresa Flatness has been part of Silver Dollar City for 40 seasons, the vast majority of them hand-painting gourds. The multi-talented Galena native has also written six books on different forms of paper mache art, and spent about a decade painting pottery in the Ozark Marketplace.
“I have a lot of interests,” she joked.
Her craft takes some serious dedication. She grows some of her gourds at her residence in Springfield, and dries them out for six months to a year before she starts hand-painting them. She tries to come up with a new design every year, and this year she has quite a collection on display. Her latest harvest is adorned with farm animals, snowmen, nativities, Santa Claus and her personal favorite, butterflies.
“There’s just so many possibilities,” she said.
Flatness will be on the Silver Dollar City square through Oct. 27.
Kenda Baker started crafting two decades ago, hand-painting snowmen ornaments for her Christmas tree. Now it’s a full-time job, and she’s in her second year of displaying her work at Silver Dollar City.
Her booth on Hugo’s Hill Street includes porch signs, pillows, wall décor, mason jar boxes and wooden blocks. The blocks feature old hymnals, recipe cards and maps glued to the block, and she’ll then hand-paint with Bible verses, inspirational phrases or other words on top of the paper in a process known as decoupaging. Despite the intricate details, it typically only takes about an hour to create each block.
“It’s funny,” she joked. “I write better with a paintbrush than I do with a pen.”
Baker's creations will be featured at Silver Dollar City through September 30.
Though he now splits his time between Kansas City and Cape Fair, R. Glenn Garrison grew up in St. Louis and spent many days at the St. Louis Zoo. He's been drawing and sketching all kinds of animals since he was six years old.
Now, visiting his booth near Crossroads Pizza is like strolling through Garrison's own personal zoo. The walls are lined with pen-and-ink drawings of bears, birds, lions, deer, moose, wolves and a wide variety of other wildlife.
Garrison specializes in pointillism, a technique he perfected while working in Southern Illinois University's graphics department as an undergraduate. Every component of the animal is created with tiny ink dots, and Garrison can often be seen demonstrating his craft at a table just outside his booth.
His favorite animals to draw are eagles and cardinals.
"Cardinals are just spiritual birds," he says. "Eagles are a very majestic bird."
Garrison will be at Silver Dollar City through October 27.
Marveta Foutch has been teaching art for more than 40 years, and has created thousands of paintings now found across the world. But the work she performed before she became an art teacher was truly out of this world.
Foutch worked on ground support equipment for Project Gemini, the NASA human spaceflight program that preceded the historic Apollo missions. The lessons that NASA learned from Project Gemini in 1965 and 1966 were instrumental in helping the agency place the first man on the moon in 1969.
Foutch is originally from Cheyenne, Oklahoma, but has also lived in California, Connecticut and her current home in Searcy, Arkansas.
When an injury temporarily affected her ability to paint, Foutch began looking for other ways to create art. She learned how to make decorative wreaths, using ribbon, ornaments, lights, and other components to create fun fall and winter decor. On a recent day, her booth contained creations containing elves, nutcrackers, snowmen, scarecrows, gingerbread men and angels — and she had her hot glue gun in hand and was hard at work creating another.
While each of her wreaths is different, her goal is always the same. She hopes that her art will make other people happy, or make them smile.
"When someone tells me they love it, it makes me feel like I've succeeded," she says.