For More Details
For more information, contact the Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce, 1-888-679-2859, (870) 269-8068 or www.mtnviewcc.org
Ozark Folk Center, (870) 269-3851 or www.ozarkfolk-center.com. For lodging at the center, call 1-800-264-FOLK (264-3655); Blanchard Springs Caverns, 1-888-757-2246, (870) 269-2211 or www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark/ recreation/bsc.html
Arkansas Depart-ment of Parks and Tourism, 1-800-NATURAL (800-628-8725) or www.Arkansas.com.

Travel Assistance
Visit your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks and TourBook guides.
Order travel materials online or use our online travel research tools.

A town in: Arkansas
Music is the tie that binds Mountain View folks together

By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann
Published: Jan/Feb 2001

If one word could define a town, music would be the word for Mountain View, Ark. It’s easy to understand why this little town in the heart of the Ozark Mountains proudly calls itself the Folk Music Capital of the World. The sound of banjos, dulcimers and fiddles rings throughout the area–and not just in theaters.

In Mountain View, musicians gather for impromptu sessions on the courthouse square just for the joy of making music. Crowds gather to listen, dance or tap their toes. It’s just like in the old days.

Music is just one aspect of the Ozark way of life that is alive and well in Mountain View. The town is home to the Ozark Folk Center State Park, the country’s only state park dedicated to preserving folk culture. The center focuses on the performance, preservation and perpetuation of the music, crafts, history and folklore of the Ozark Mountain Region.

The Ozark Folk Center is a living showcase for the period from 1820 to 1920. During the day, the craft area bustles with demonstrations and music shows, as well as seminars and workshops. In the evening, the theater reverberates with authentic mountain music from traditional Ozark instruments, such as the fiddle, mandolin, autoharp, mountain and hammered dulcimers, five-string banjo, acoustic guitar, harmonica and spoons. The music is original and unplugged.

A rich heritage

This colorful heritage has been passed down from one generation to the next in the small mountain community, a sort of time capsule that survived because of its isolation and strong oral tradition. The center’s existence is a testimony to the indomitable spirit of the local people, according to Bill Young, general manager of the Ozark Folk Center.

The 700-acre park is owned by the city of Mountain View, a town of fewer than 3,000 citizens. In the mid-1960s, Mountain View and the Stone County area were pockets of poverty, poor in material assets but rich in Ozark culture. The town received a federal grant and loan to build a permanent home for folk heritage preservation, which would provide much-needed local jobs, as well as share the area’s rich traditions with the world.

In 1973, when construction of the center was almost complete, the private resort management firm pulled out of the project–which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Native son Jimmy Driftwood, a musician and songwriter, approached the Arkansas Parks Recreation and Travel Commission about operating the center as a state park.

The park’s regular season opens the first two weekends in April, then runs daily from April 20–Nov. 4. In addition to the daily attractions of music and crafts, the calendar is packed with festivals, workshops and seminars. The heritage Herb Gardens and organic herb program are nationally recognized. Crafts apprenticeships are offered through the park’s hands-on learning program. Young Pioneers programs for children and Elderhostel sessions for older folks are offered throughout the year.

During the off-season, there are many special events, such as organic gardening workshops in January and February and workshops on medicinal herbs and herb cookery in March. The annual holiday events, Thanksgiving in the Ozarks and Ozark Christmas, bring each year to a close.

Caverns and springs

The other major attraction in the Mountain View area is Blanchard Springs Caverns, which opened in 1973, the same year as the folk center. Operated by the United States Forest Service, Blanchard Springs is one of the most spectacular caves anywhere. It is a living cave, where the limestone formations are still changing.

The Dripstone Trail Tour is open year- round and shows about a half-mile of cavern rooms and formations. It is stroller and wheelchair (with assistance) accessible. The Discovery Trail Tour is open only in summer. This longer, more strenuous tour includes the cavern’s natural entrance and a peek at the water-filled third level of the caverns, plus some 700 stairs. Wild cave tours are available by reservation only; these strenuous tours require climbing and crawling and participants must be in good physical condition.

The underground stream that flows through the cavern gushes out of the rocks at Blanchard Springs, a scenic site that is worth a visit. The springs were one of the original reasons people settled this area.

Other attractions

Back in town, there’s a variety of arts, crafts and antiques stores, music shows and eateries. Don’t miss Woods Old Fashioned Soda Fountain that serves old-fashioned ice cream favorites.

Almost every night during the season, traditional music and dance are performed at the Ozark Folk Center Theater in the park. There are also several music shows in town; you might want to visit Jimmy Driftwood Barn and Folk Hall of Fame, Cash’s White River Hoedown, John Taylor’s Laid-Back Pickin’ or the Leatherwoods Music Show (pending the opening of their new theater) one night.

Mountain View is also famous for the Arkansas Folk Festival the third weekend in April (April 20–22) and the Bean Fest and Great Championship Outhouse Race the last Saturday in October (Oct. 27).

Outdoor recreation activities

Surrounding it all is the scenic beauty of the rolling hills and hollows of the Ozark Mountains. The Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest is just north of town. Outdoor recreation opportunities abound in the area. Go trout fishing on the White River or floating on the Buffalo National River. You can go for a train ride on the White River Scenic Railroad, or a trail ride at one of the many resorts in the area. Fishing, canoeing, hunting, hiking and mountain biking are available–take your pick.

When it comes time to rest your head, there are many lodging options: bed-and-breakfast inns, cabins, motels, campsites and RV parks. The Dry Creek Lodge at the folk center is comfortable. To start the next day, try homemade biscuits, hot from a wood stove, topped with peach and apple “chunky,” delicious preserves made at the folk center.

A time capsule

As Young said in a video about the folk center, “This time capsule that is the Ozark Folk Center State Park is not just a living museum dedicated to a way of life that once was. It’s a reflection of a way of living that still is.”

Mountain View and the Ozark Folk Center live up to the park’s slogan, “a wonderful way to enjoy yesterday.”

Barbara Gibbs Ostmann is a contributor from Union, Mo.


Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.