Ozark Memories Day
Finding Inspiration in Every Turn
The first Ozark Memories Day festival was held on May 26, 1979, the same year that the Dover Area Chamber of Commerce was officially begun. The first two years, the festival was held at Lovelady Filed on Highway 27 east of Dover. It was moved to the City Park and finally to the grounds of the Dover Public Schools.
In late 1978, a group of six area men gathered in Smithers’ Realty (later Pirates’ Cove) to talk about organizing an Area Chamber of Commerce to replace the Dover Men’s organization, which was not doing well. Among these men were Bill Walker, L.J. Churchill, David Dunlap, Wetzel LaGrone, and Jim Smithers. The chamber was officially organized in January of 1979.
It is obvious that the members were very active because only four months later they were staging the first Ozark Memories Day as a fund-raising event. Bill Walker recalls that the first festival, which drew as many as 1,500 people, grossed about $2,000, but the expenses were also about $2,000.
The first Ozark Memories Day was dedicated to L.J. “Lattie” Churchill, Mayor of Dover, who had suffered a stroke and was unable to attend the festival.
Dr. Tate C. “Piney” Page, former and now deceased dean of the School of Education at Western Kentucky University, was instrumental in advising the Chamber officials in their efforts to get the festival off the ground. A man knowledgeable about Arkansas history, especially Pope County History, Dr. Page extolled the merits of Dover at the first festival: “Dover is a town too tough to die. It has been plagued with fires and bushwhackers and almost every natural disaster except a flood. Even losing the railroad and the county seat has not stopped this strong little town.”
The special guest for the second Ozark Memories Day was then-Governor Bill Clinton, who rode in the parade in a small cart with Mayor John Page. Little did the folks who were watching the parade know that only a few years later this same man would be riding a bullet-proof limousine down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., as our country’s President. A caption under one of the newspaper photographs in a 1980 story about OMD reads: “HIGH THERE, I’M THE GOVERNOR, I’ve got a little girl at home just like you,” smiled Bill Clinton at a young lass in a sunbonnet as her beaming mother looks on Saturday at Ozark Memories Day at Dover.”
Ozark Memories Day was once held over three days, beginning with a beauty pageant on Friday; games, vendors, music, and arts and crafts on Saturday; and ending with a tractor pull on Sunday. An old-timey meal of brown beans, cornbread, and homemade butter and kraut was cooked and served. People dressed in costumes to celebrate their heritage. Over time, the celebration has been scaled down to a one-day event. The festival is held the last Saturday in September at the amphitheater on the high school campus and admission is free.
The Chamber of Commerce has been responsible for the antique lighting and flowerbed projects on the Dover Town Square as well as many of the other beautifications efforts in the town. These projects have been financed by fund-raising efforts such as Ozark Memories Day.
The Dover Area Chamber of Commerce has achieved remarkable success in its forty-four year history and has always had as its purpose improving the quality of life for the citizens of the Dover Area. Its brainchild, Ozark Memories Day, is still alive and well and will be held again this year.
We hope to see you there!