‘Hands-on history’: Heritage Festival celebrates culture, art | Local

Four generations of Angela Combs’ family attended Columbia’s Heritage Festival and Craft Show on Saturday. The family represented a St. Louis rendezvous camp in the 1780s-1850s fur trade era.

This was their sixth year at the festival, and she said it was a time for her family to celebrate their history, which includes ancestors from the Cheyenne and Cree nations, as well as Europe.

The 44th annual festival at Nifong Park shared history, arts, activities and food — including 19th century cowboy reenactments, historic and modern crafts, live bagpipe performances and food trucks. The festival started Saturday and continues Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

Combs shared stories about the items her family has collected over the years. The family filled a table with items such as dreamcatchers, gourd water containers, woolen blankets, a hand drum and a hacky sack.

“We like to think of it as more of a hands-on history approach to present it,” Combs said. “It’s not necessarily a demonstration so much as, ‘Come here, touch, feel, let me tell you a story about it .’ I think that really helps to tie the history into an experience as opposed to just telling somebody about something.”

Combs wore a traditional tear dress made of hide that she crafted herself. Green and yellow ribbons are stitched onto the sleeves. Ribbons like these were historically used for trading and represented how wealthy one was, she said.

Ennet Moholisa and Andrew Edewa listened to Combs’ stories. They attended the festival for the first time while on United States Department of Agriculture-sponsored fellowships for food safety, animal health and plant health research.

Moholisa — from Pretoria, South Africa — and Edewa — from Nairobi, Kenya — were interested in learning about Indigenous American history and culture.

“I’m happy to see all this cultural stuff because back in South Africa… we are also celebrating our heritage month, so it’s very beautiful,” Moholisa said.

Teresa Moore visited the festival for the first time as well. She drove from St. Louis to perform music on her mountain dulcimer, a Scotch-Irish instrument popular in the Appalachians.

The mountain dulcimer is an hourglass-shaped, wooden instrument with strings and frets that’s usually played flat on the lap. Moore’s instrument has four strings and heart-shaped sound holes, and she has played it for 28 years.

“Festivals like this are wonderful because a lot of old-time instruments, a lot of old-time crafts, have been lost in this era of technology,” Moore said. “Having an outdoor venue where people can show their handiwork and play traditional music without amplifiers and modern soundtracks is a real gift to people because we’re losing a lot of our old culture.”

At the Columbia Weavers and Spinners’ Guild booth, Carol Leigh Brack-Kaiser demonstrated weaving a blue, yellow and white patterned potholder, inspired by a Ukrainian plaid she discovered on a recent trip to Scotland.

Like Moore, she sees the festival as a way to show people historic arts. She’s run Hillcreek Fiber Studio, a weaving, spinning and natural dyeing business, for 40 years in Columbia and has been sharing her work at the festival since the mid-1980s .

“People have been spinning and weaving forever,” Leigh Brack-Kaiser said. “But it’s almost a dying art in many respects because people don’t have to weave anymore; they can go out and buy stuff.”

The festival also showcased booths and activities geared toward children. Rowyn York, who’s almost 4 years old, said her favorite event was face painting. She chose a bright blue zombie design that covered her whole face.

Other children’s activities included hayrides, wooden stilts, paper pumpkins and animals to visit such as goats, donkeys and chickens.

Katherine Gale, 30, came to the festival with her mother, who used to take Gale when she was a child. The pair said they enjoyed coming back after several years and seeing the booths again.

“It’s just an opportunity to see how creative people are, (and) the interesting things that people can make out of the most unusual things,” Gale said.

Nifong Park is located at 3700 Ponderosa St. Festival parking includes limited on-site spots and lots south of Nifong Park at the Discovery Office Park development and Columbia Sports Fieldhouse.

Shuttles are also available from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm at the Boone County History and Culture Center.

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Jorge Oliveira

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