In cities across the US, spring and summer are full of festivals. In Arkansas, these seasons are undeniably beautiful. They bring with them green grass, blooming flowers, and blossoming trees. After an often gloomy winter, people come out of their houses in droves to enjoy the beautiful weather. Thus, towns around Arkansas typically have many outdoor parades, festivals, and celebrations. Siloam Springs is no exception. Since its founding, Siloam Springs has celebrated its warm climate and its beautiful, natural setting. This week’s featured photo, donated to the museum in 1984, depicts one of these celebrations.
While examining this parade photo, we realized that it is a larger version of a photo used on a postcard which is also in the museum’s collection. The 1907 date on the postcard and the power lines in the photograph suggest that it was taken in the first decade of the twentieth century. (The picture also appears in Maggie Smith’s book about Hico and Siloam history, and she cites the year as 1913. Between Maggie and the postcard, it is unclear which date is correct.) To take the photo, the photographer stood at the corner of present day Broadway and East Main Streets. Leading the parade are several women in show dress on horseback. Behind them is a wagon with clowns sitting on top. The parade stretches north past the three story Morris Hotel, and spectators, most of them in fancy dress, line the streets.
The postcard on which the above photo appears refers to the scene as “Show Day.” Another postcard, labeled “Show Day 2”, was donated with it and shows a second parade. This photo was taken from just in front of the Morris Hotel looking south down present day Broadway. In this photo, male spectators are wearing white shirts, and female spectators are wearing white dresses and large hats. The balconies of the Morris Hotel, lined with people, can be seen on the right side of the photograph. In the center of the street, a wagon carries a caged male lion!
The parades pictured above may show Siloam Springs’ St. John’s Day celebration, held on June 24 of each year when the town was young. According to Maggie Smith, Siloam began celebrating St. John’s Day in 1880 with a parade led by the Masons. After the success of the 1880 parade and the incorporation of the town in 1881, the city government took over the celebration’s organization. For several decades, the St. John’s Day parade was Siloam’s largest and most popular, but it would eventually lose that popularity. It would lie dormant for many years, return for special occasions, and then cease once again. The museum has many photos from the height of the parade's popularity, however. The following photos may show this parade in action, though that specific information was not included in the donation records.
Today, Siloam enjoys a number of celebrations throughout the year. The town gathers for the Dogwood Festival in the spring, the Homegrown Festival and the Veterans’ Day Parade in the fall, Light Up Siloam near Christmas, and others. This year, the Dogwood Festival will take place only a week after the publishing of this article, from April 27 to April 29. The festival began in 1975 as an arts and crafts show where artists could bring their original works for the enjoyment of others, and has taken place on the last full weekend of April every year since. Some estimates show that the festival’s first year brought 7,000 visitors from Siloam Springs and the surrounding area. Today, the Dogwood Festival receives around 30,000 visitors in historic downtown Siloam Springs who attend for the arts, crafts, vendors, food, and kids’ activities at this large celebration.
Whether you live in Siloam Springs or not, come see this festival for yourself. There’s no better time to visit a new town than when it is celebrating!
Written by Chuck McClary
Photos provided by the Siloam Springs Museum archives and the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Information from the Siloam Springs Museum archives, Images of America: Siloam Springs by Don Warden, and Hico, a Heritage: Siloam Springs by Maggie Smith.