Tontitown, Arkansas is just a stone's throw away from where I live in Northwest Arkansas. Every year, they hold a Grape Festival which features craft vendors, amusement rides, carnival-style food, used book sale, grape flavored ice cream, homemade spaghetti dinners (made from scratch--no boxed spaghetti, here), grape stomping and live entertainment. Catholic Mass is also held for those who wish to attend. This year, the 110th annual celebration was no different.
Beginning in 1895, Italian settlers established a colony in Tontitown. They established farms, their first general store and a post office. They successfully grew strawberries, apples and grapes. In 1900, the men of the town worked together to build a church. Each August, the settlers would celebrate their harvest with a Mass of
Thanksgiving in the little church. They'd sing and dance, and the women served the tastiest meals that their provisions would allow. These little celebrations continued to blossom and every August, without fail, the Grape Festival is held on the grounds of St. Joseph's Catholic Church. With something for everyone, this celebration is one that the locals look forward to attending year after year.
Homemade Spaghetti Dinner:
My husband and I attended last night's celebration. We started the night off with the delicious homemade spaghetti dinner. Women work for weeks before the celebration making the pasta from scratch and hanging it on racks to dry. Their efforts are very much enjoyed by the locals, and we were no different. Fresh pasta has a taste all it's own. Our dinner came with homemade fried chicken, tossed salad, rolls, butter and a beverage. It was absolutely delicious. Thank goodness I wore my shorts with the stretchy waistband!
Oh, and did I mention? Packages of the dried spaghetti were also for sale for those who wanted to make it at home. I picked up a couple of pounds so my entire family can enjoy it for a yummy dinner to come.
Used Book Sale:
While my husband set up our chairs outside the entertainment stage, I checked out the used book sale. The sale boasts all kinds of books, music (in the form of LP's, CD's) and even some puzzles and games. The items cost anywhere from 25 cents to 50 cents so you can stock up on all sorts of goodies and not break the bank. I walked out with 2 bags of books and LP's. Now, in all honesty, the LP's really aren't anything I would listen to, but the kitschy album artwork was just screaming at me. In the near future, I am going to transform them into something cool, like tote bags or clocks.
The live entertainment for the night was provided by a local band, Whit Landers and the Hillbilly Connection, and country music singer Bryan White. The stage consists of a large trailer from the back of a semi truck. There's nothing quite like listening to live music under the stars in such a homey atmosphere. The first time I saw Bryan White in concert was in 1998 in Arizona, when he toured with LeAnn Rimes. The one thing that struck me both times - then and now - is that Bryan really is a nice guy. He's very down-to-earth and just one of the boys.
After the show ended, Bryan chatted with fans, posed for pictures and signed autographs. I took the opportunity of slipping him my business card and he promised he would check out my original jewelry designs. I would love the opportunity of making him and/or his wife some personalized jewelry with their little boys images on it. Now, I don't know if I will actually be hearing from Bryan or his wife, but if you don't ask, it's a definite "no", right?