Fall fun in the Ozarks: Festivals, pumpkin farms and more

Pontiac resident Linda Dunsmuir recently visited the McWilliams Pumpkin farm in West Plains with grandkids Mia Dunsmuir, 11, and Alex Dunsmuir, 6. “That place is awesome,” Linda told the Times this week. “They’ve added a lot of new stuff for the kids.”

Fall is here, although the weather hasn’t yet turned to those familiar crisp October temperatures. Autumn events around the Ozarks are being held to celebrate the season and in anticipation of Halloween. Listed below are events happening soon in the area. Watch the Times each week for an updated list of seasonal events. Those organizing a local fall or Halloween-themed event should contact Jessi Dreckman at jessi@ozarkcountytimes.com or 417-679-4641 to have the event added to the listings. 


This weekend

Baxter County History Day, Saturday, Mountain Home, Arkansas

Baxter County (Arkansas) History Day will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cooper Park in Mountain Home. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. with the opening of the festival settlement and exhibits. Cannons will be fired at 9:30 a.m., and at 10 a.m. Juliet Morrow from Arkansas State University-Jonesboro will present a program on the archeology of the Central Mississippi Valley. At 11 a.m., Brooks Levins of the Missouri State University History Department will present a program titled “Bluecoats, Yellow Dogs and Red Counties: 180 Years of Politics in the Ozarks.” The cannons will fire again at noon, followed by a program titled “New Deal Era Dam Building in Baxter County” by Blake Perkins of Williams Baptist College. A final 1 p.m. firing of the cannons will signal the last hour of the history day; all exhibits will close at 2 p.m. For more information, call the Baxter County Historical Society at 870-425-2251 or the Mountain Home Parks and Recreation office at 870-424-7275.


Fall Fest ’17, Saturday, West Plains

This completely free event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Peoples Park in West Plains. The event, hosted by First United Methodist Church, will feature free food, live music, pony rides, carnival games, inflatables, an obstacle course, slides and more. For more information, search for “Fall Fest ’17” on Facebook.   


Oktoberfest at Dawt Mill, Saturday, Tecumseh 

The third annual Oktoberfest at the Beach Bar will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7. Pork, game hens and sausages, along with traditional German potato salad and a mixed green salad will be served. A variety of beer choices, including several local craft beer options, will be available. Jared Painter will perform live music throughout the festival. For more information, call Dawt Mill at 417-284-3540 or search for Dawt Mill on Facebook. 


Ozark Fall Farmfest, Friday through Sunday, Springfield 

The 38th annual Ozark Fall Farmfest will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6-7, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield. The event is free, and free parking is also offered. The event features more than 750 agricultural exhibits, 800 booths and 500 head of registered livestock. Booths will offer a wide selection of home decor, lawn furniture, cosmetics, clothing and apparel and rural living displays. Livestock exhibits will include Angus, Belgian Blue, Brahmousin, Brangus, Braunvieh, Beefalo, Beefmaster, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Hereford, Irish Dexter, Limousin, Longhorn, Maine-Anjou, Red Angus, Salers, Scottish Highland, Shorthorn, Sim-Angus, Simmental and White Park cattle in addition to horses, Boer goats, dairy goats, Katahdin hair sheep, swine, miniature donkeys and rabbits. Stock dog demonstrations by Danny Shilling will return this year at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. on Sunday. 


Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks, Saturday and Sunday, 12 miles east of Ava 

For many years the popular Pioneer Descendants Gathering was hosted each October by Dale and Betty Thomas at their farm on Bryant Creek. Organizers say 2016 was the last year the festival was held at the Thomas farm. This year the festival has been renamed the Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks, and a new location has been secured at the Chapel Grove area near the Bryant Creek Bridge 12 miles east of Ava on Highway 14. Watch for signs. The festival features many old-time exhibits including basketry, chair seat weaving, pottery, bow making, flint-knapping, handmade turkey calls, fiber arts, woodworking, traditional blacksmithing, spinning and weaving, lye soap making, broom making, handmade soap, hand-forged knives, leatherwork, herbal remedies, walking sticks, clothing from the American Civil War and Medieval era and more. 

Saturday’s events include a full lineup of live music and cloggers, a cornbread cookoff, an embroidery contest and a period costume contest, and several games for kids including a three-legged race, a water-carrying race, a sack race and an egg toss contest. Sunday begins with a 10 a.m. nondenominational church service and singing, followed by more live music and kids games. An open music jam session will be held at 3:45 p.m. Sunday, and organizers encourage festival-goers to bring an instrument and join in for the one-hour jam session. 

Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Tickets for a benefit raffle featuring a new Rossi Rio Grand 30/30 hunting rifle and a bow custom-made by Butch Stone will be available. The festival has a suggested gate donation of $5 per adult; kids are free. For more information, visit www.heritage417.com, search “Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks, Inc.” on Facebook or contact Donna Eslinger at heritage417@gmail.com or 417-496-2711.


Taney County Fall Demolition Derby, Saturday, Forsyth

The Taney County Fall Demolition Derby will be held at the Taney County Fairgrounds in Forsyth at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7. Adult admission is $7 per person, and kids ages 6 and younger are free. Pit passes can be purchased for $12. For more information. 


Turner family molasses-making demonstration, Saturday, Thornfield 

For more than 40 years the Turner family has been turning the juice of homegrown sorghum cane into sweet molasses on their farm. Visit the Turner farm between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later) Saturday, Oct. 7, to see the process in action. In case of rain, the demonstration will be held Oct. 14. The process includes feeding sorghum stalks into a tractor-powered press, and the resulting pressed liquid flowing into a strainer and then a barrel. Gravity pulls it down a pipe to flow into the wood-fired cooker, where it cooks until it turns into rich, bronze molasses. When it reaches the perfect point, it’s strained and poured into quart, half galloon and gallon-sized jars. To get to the Turner farm from Gainesville, take Highway 5 north to Wasola, turn left onto Highway 95 at the old Y store and continue past Thornfield 2 miles. Turn right on D Highway, turn left on County Road 915, then watch for signs.  For more information,  or to confirm the date Friday evening if weather seems questionable, call Doyle at 417-372-0568.


Bear City Fall Fest, Willow Springs,  Saturday 

The Bear City Fall Festival, held each year in Willow Springs, will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, in downtown Willow Springs. The event includes craft and food vendors, booths, a bounce house, car show, live entertainment, games, contests, demonstrations and more. In addition to a pie show, chili cookoff and a quilt show, the festival has a number of more unique events including a wood cutting competition, wood splitting contest, wood chopping contest, a log roll and a pole throw. For the younger crowd, the festival features a kids’ nail drive competition and a kids’ log roll contest, both open to children ages 3 to 13. For more information, search Facebook for “Willow Springs Bear City Fall Festival.” 


Ongoing events


Bakersfield Haunted House, Bakersfield

 The Bakersfield Haunted House, a half mile down County Road 585 off Highway 101, is open every Friday and Saturday night through October and on Halloween night. Organizers say the two-story haunted house operates from dark until 10 p.m. or until all visitors have left. 

This year marks the seventh year it has been open, and organizers say it’s the spookiest ever. A concession stand is on site, and T-shirts are available for purchase. For more information call 417-284-7215, visit www.thebakersfieldhauntedhouse.com or search for “Bakersfield Haunted House” on Facebook.


Fields of Terror Zombie Paintball Hayride, Midway, Arkansas

This new attraction in Midway, Arkansas, features a half-mile, 20-minute ride through “zombie-infected zones” in which hayride attendees, armed with fully loaded paintball guns, aim and shoot the zombies with glow-in-the-dark paintballs. Fortunately, the zombies aren’t able to shoot back. The hayrides are on trailers pulled by 2.5-ton military trucks; the trailers  come equipped with 28 high-pressure, 50-caliber paintball guns preloaded with 100 glow-in-the-dark paintballs, which are included in the admission price. More paintballs also can be purchased at the ticket booth if 100 aren’t enough. The zombie paintball hayrides will be held from 6 until 10 p.m. (or later) every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Nov. 4 and on Halloween night. Fields of Terror is located at 1062 Cannie Baker Road, off Highway 5, about 3 miles south of Midway. For more information visit fieldsofterror.com, call 870-405-9826 or search Facebook for “Fields of Terror.” 


Haunted Lost Caverns at Top of the Rock, Branson

Organizers say living history will become “undead history” at the Haunted Lost Caverns at Top of the Rock. Guests ages 13 and older can take part in the tour group shuttles that run through the golf course turned graveyard, where an archaeological dig has reportedly uncovered the (fictitious) restless remains of Civil War soldiers, Bald Knobbers and native Osage tribe members. Those who escape with their lives will reach the Halloween cave, where more than 100 animatronic displays accompany menacing figures, fearless frontier moonshiners operating hidden stills and other sights. “Survivors” can relax with a drink or snack at the Bat’s Blood Bar before a golf cart escort returns them to the Welcome Center. The site operates from 7:15 p.m. to midnight each Thursday, Friday and Saturday in October. For more information or to purchase tickets visit http://www.basspro.com/shop/en/haunted-lost-caverns-at-top-of-the-rock or call 800-597-9926.


McWilliams Pumpkin Patch, West Plains 

This 700-acre farm and pumpkin patch on County Road 6920 off Highway 160, 5 miles west of West Plains, is a favorite of many Ozark Countians. General admission is $3 for shoppers only; the $10 activity admission includes most activities. Children ages 2 and younger are free. A full price list can be found at mcwilliamspumpkinpatch.com.

The pumpkin patch has several family-friendly activities including a 30-acre corn maze, horse-and-wagon rides, a 40-foot monster slide, a zipline and mini-zipline, train rides aboard the pumpkin patch express, goat rides, animal maze, straw mountain, monster slide and a large pumpkin patch with pumpkins and other fall decor for purchase. For more information, call or text 417-372-0389.


Mountain Home Berry Farm, Mountain Home, Arkansas 

Mountain Home Berry Farm is currently open on weekends through Nov. 5 for its fall festival. The farm, at 693 County Road 57 near Mountain Home, is open from noon to 5 p.m. Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

The pumpkin patch is open for purchasing pumpkins, and playtime in the haystack is free. Festival tours cost $6.50 and include a hayride around the farm with stops at a petting zoo, mulch mountain, a kids’ corn maze and the pumpkin patch. 

A country store is on site with homemade jams, jellies, butters, fresh-pressed apple cider, local honey, salsas, spices, sauces, scented candles, squash, fresh and frozen raspberries, ornamental gourds, corn stalks and hay bales. For more information, visit mountainberryfarm.com or call 1-870-425-7028.


Rainbow’s End Fall and Christmas Bazaar, Tecumseh

 Rainbow’s End Fall and Christmas Bizarre on County Road 555 near Tecumseh is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Saturdays and from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 10. The crafthouse bazaar includes autumn items, Halloween- and Christmas- themed crafts and decor, antiques, furniture and other crafts. For more information, call Jerry Ann Lash at 417-284-3727 or search for “Rainbow’s End” on Facebook. 

To get to Rainbow’s End from Gainesville, take Highway 160 to County Road 555 and continue for 2.5 miles. Follow the signs. 

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423