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Hidden behind a row of trees and a set of railroad tracks is an incredible collection of Arkansas pioneer history. After a hiatus in 2020, the Parker Homestead Festival near Harrisburg returns this fall.
For more than 20 years, Teressa Parker and her family have invited the public to view one of the most expansive private collections of pioneer-era buildings and artifacts in the state of Arkansas. The family’s collection has grown over the years to include a church, school, barn, blacksmith shop, four houses, a grist mill, post office and thousands of artifacts foraged from across Arkansas.
Much of the Parker family collection has been sourced from the community of Whitehall, just outside of Harrisburg. The collection and the festival grew almost by accident. It serves as the collective memory of the people of Whitehall and the surrounding communities.
Nearly 20 years ago, Parker’s husband decided to make sorghum the old-fashioned way using an antique mule-powered press and evaporator. He opened the demonstration to the public and it shocked him when nearly 200 people showed up.
Attendees loved seeing the demonstration and viewing the small collection of antique farm tools on the property and requested to return for more. Out of necessity and public interest, the homestead festival was born, and the homestead slowly grew into the phenomenal collection that exists today.
Parker states that they were adding a building each year for many years and would often come home to find antique tools and memorabilia left on their doorstep, never knowing who donated the items.
They would receive phone calls, often from older people, who knew they had something of interest.
As the collection grew, so did the festival and the interest of the community. The 200 people who showed up for the first demonstration pales in comparison to the nearly 10,000 people who now attend the two-weekend festival.
On Oct. 9 and 10 and Oct. 16 and 17, visitors can tour the buildings and collections. They can see living history demonstrations of broom making, blacksmithing, corn milling, sorghum making, quilting and more. The demonstrations are made possible by local individuals, area farmers and groups like the Northeast Arkansas Blacksmiths.
Don’t miss your opportunity to see this unique living history demonstration of Arkansas’s pioneering history and lifestyle.
The Parker Homestead Festival will take place on Oct. 9-10 and 16-17. Bring out the whole family for a day of history, food and fun! Demonstrations take place throughout the day. Hours are Saturdays from 10-5, Sundays from 12-5, admission is $7, children under five are free.
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