Monday, April 27, 2009

The 2009 Annual Dogwood Festival

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Love the Dogwood Festival:

10. The Friends of the Library Booksale- this year, I scored a fifteen volume set of 1965 Childcraft books for $4. What a bargain!

9. Kettle corn. Need I say more?

8. "The Stick Man," James C. Taylor- I love the tall walking sticks he makes with carvings of gnarled old men on the handles. They remind me of Treebeard from "The Lord of the Rings".

7. The sheer volume of fried items.

The knowledge that, for three days out of the year, I can ride a pony and a Segway
and purchase Pampered Chef products just blocks from my home.

5. The Masonic Lodge is semi-open to the public during the Dogwood Festival, when normally it seems so shrouded in impenetrable mystery.

4. The number of area garage sales triples.

3. Listening to the guy who plays the pan flute.

2. The miniature train, operated by Connie & Willie Misemer and their three Boston Terriers, Sissy, Bud & Morgan.

1. Seeing the beauty of Siloam Springs being enjoyed by so many visitors.

Thank you, Chamber of Commerce, for another great Dogwood Festival!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Charles Alsheimer Photography Seminar

By "Word on Main Street" contributor Hope Johnstone

I had heard about this photography seminar last year from Ron Harp, who has an award winning deer head in his Edward Jones office downtown. This year, the Main Street board decided to hold an expo along with the photography seminar because Charles Alsheimer is an avid hunter as well as a published photographer and Siloam has a grand hunting population. As luck would have it, an anonymous donor purchased my ticket, and I was on my way to the seminar. I was so grateful because I knew this experience was going to inspire me.

On Saturday, April 18, I walked into Community Christian Fellowship for the seminar. I was greeted by at least twelve deer heads that were lined up on display. This made me laugh because I had contemplated wearing a shirt that said "I shoot photographs, not animals." Seeing that the best hunters in Siloam Springs would be at this event, I had decided against that attire. I greeted Ron Drake, who was setting up for the event along with some volunteers. He introduced me to Charles Alsheimer who gave a very firm handshake and introduced himself as "Charlie." He was very approachable. I could tell he was a pro at meeting new people.
His first question was, "What kind of camera do you use?"
"Digital," I replied, "but I'm taking a photography class right now and we use a manual." We went on to talk about tri-pods and mega pixels. I was impressed at how friendly he was.

I made my way into the small meeting room to find myself a chair. I've learned in school that a front row seat is my ticket to success. I walked slowly over to the front row and placed my bag on a seat close to the middle of the row. I ended up being the only person seated in the front row. However, I could hear the camera chatter going on around me and felt comfortable knowing that these people understood my love for taking photos.

Ron Harp stood up and introduced Charlie. Charlie came forward and stood in front of a projection screen and gave all his credit for taking wonderful photos to Jesus Christ. Charlie then took a seat next to a slide projector, and cautioned that digital projectors lose some of a photograph's sharpness. All the lights went out and we sat in darkness for a few seconds. I heard the loud click of the projector and instantly a beautiful image appeared on the screen. It was so peaceful to be in a room with twenty-five other people, who are completely silent, staring at a beautiful photograph.

Charlie took us through the basics of photography and guidelines to remember when we're out shooting pictures. Having a focal point, framing the focal point, angles and light. He showed us about fifty of his photos. Many were covers of magazines. It was interesting to learn how he changed his style of photography to accommodate magazines. After the seminar he opened the floor up for questions. Some asked about camera/lens types, another person asked Charles how he waits in the forest for hours until an animal approaches.
I sheepishly raised my hand and asked, "So once we've taken the photos, what do we do with them?"
He responded, "Be sure to save them in two locations!"
He told an anecdote of how he loads his photos onto his computer, then onto an external hard drive, and once a week he copies his external hard drive onto another external hard drive that he keeps at a separate location. He also said that if you want to send photos to magazines or print companies (cards, calendars, etc), that you cannot send the same picture to different companies. I was appreciative of his answers.

After the seminar, I walked out to my car. It had just rained, and I couldn't keep my eyes from looking all around. I was searching for the greatest angle of the parking lot, then on my drive home I would look down streets and think of everything Charlie had said and attempt to visualize the best angle in my mind. Its a wonder I didn't drive off the road! Thank goodness I only live a mile from the church. This seminar was very educational and inspirational. I didn't think I would appreciate a deer expo as much as I did.
photo by Hope Johnstone

Monday, April 20, 2009

Parks & Recreation

After some pretty dreary weather, today's gorgeous sunshine prompted us to hit the streets. It was the perfect Siloam day- 75 degrees, crisp blue skies with a few fluffy white clouds, Sager creek merrily flowing.. The after school traffic was in full swing as we strolled down University. Also, some adorable and tiny ballerinas were arriving for dance class at Sherry's as we went by. I can't think of a cuter sight!

Our first stop was the Siloam Springs Parks & Recreation building on Mt. Olive. I must admit, I've never visited before. We were there to register for Iddy Biddy Soccer, and judging by the numerous calls and in-person visits that took place while we were there, we aren't the only ones ready for the upcoming sports season. Parks & Rec employee Peggy Chipman was very helpful and amazingly calm fielding requests. She said that a lot of people are signing up for softball, swim lessons and buying aquatic center passes.

While there, I also saw a flyer advertising the first of the "Second Saturday Music" events. I am a huge fan of these free, outdoor concerts that take place in the gazebo in Twin Springs Park. My father was visiting from Orlando several years ago, and I took him to a Second Saturday show. It was a peaceful summer evening, with lovely folk music, and children catching fireflies on the lawn. We both agreed that it looked like some sort of movie set depicting the perfect small town.

The first concert will take place Saturday, May 9th at 7:30, featuring Shout Lulu Stringband. Be sure to bring your blanket and lawn chairs and enjoy this great musical gift.
After our visit to Parks & Rec, we spent some time at Bob Henry Park, where we saw preparations for the 35th annual Dogwood Festival in full swing. I'm very excited about the festival, taking place April 24-26. It's one of my favorite things about Siloam Springs. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Opening Day at the Farmer's Market

By "Word on Main Street" contributor Karyn Elliott

The day had been noted on our calendar for weeks. We were excited opening day had finally arrived! We packed up and headed out to meet our friends. And then we were off to the Siloam Springs Farmer's Market located this year in the parking lot adjacent to the downtown Community Building.

Still being early in the season, only a few vendors and farmers were present. One vendor, Marie Davis, was selling kitchen towels and washcloths embellished with crocheted loops and buttons. Another table was surrounded with hand painted items--canvases, bird houses, and hand saws. Behind the handmade items stood the lone farmer. Hoping for tender spring lettuces, I headed over to see what he was offering. There were a few things lined up on his table. He had what looked like seed potatoes (I meant to ask him if my guess was correct, but we got to chatting about other things), sweet potatoes, and freshly ground corn meal.

My two boys love sweet potatoes, so we put a few in our market bag. I was quite interested in the freshly ground corn meal, but having just purchased a bag from the grocery store, I decided to save that item for another visit. I asked the farmer if he thought the meal would work cooked as a polenta. He wasn't sure. Regardless, I think sometime later this season, we'll take some home with us and conduct an experiment.

I asked the farmer what he had growing for the upcoming market dates. He mentioned the basic vegetables from lettuces to tomatoes to zucchini. I asked if other farmers were committed to attending the market; he said he "sure thought so." The newspaper confirmed his hunch. This morning's edition mentioned multiple farmers selling a variety of vegetables and potted plants each week.

While disappointed there wasn't more available, the boys and I are happy the market is open. We enjoyed getting out with friends and chatting with other friends at the Community Building. Shelley Simmons, Executive Director of Main Street Siloam Springs, was there handing out bumper stickers to advertise Siloam Springs' Farmer's Market. We happily took one to adhere to our car. Eager for future market adventures we headed home to cook our sweet potatoes.

This past summer, my mother-in-law shared with us her technique for cooking sweet potatoes. Diced and roasted in the oven, they are a great treat for a snack or a dinner side dish. Here's the recipe for you to try:

Mary Lou's Roasted Sweet Potatoes
1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wash and peel the potatoes.
2. Line a shallow baking dish (we use a half-sheet pan) with aluminum foil. Note: I've heard rumors of a compostable parchment paper that can be used in place of the aluminum, but I have yet to find a local source. Chop the potatoes into a large dice--about 1-1 1/2 inch squares. Spread the potato chunks out on the pan.
3. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. I prefer to use course sea salt, but yesterday we were out and used regular old table salt.
4. Pop those potatoes into the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes. I usually stir the potatoes once or twice during the roasting process. You'll know the potatoes are done when the edges are a deep, golden brown.

We usually let the cooked sweet potatoes cool down to just above room temperature before we start sneaking bites. It's true! These potatoes usually end up being a pre-dinner snack. They are so yummy--sweet and savory all at the same time! Rarely do we have any left to eat with our dinner.

I think they are best fresh, but on occasion I do cook a bunch and store the uneaten cubes in the refrigerator for a couple of days. I guess one could warm them up, but we typically eat the leftover potatoes cold. Until the lettuces appear, we hope you'll take an hour to roast some sweet potatoes from the local market.

Support our local farmers and come on down to the market. Grab a bumper sticker and some fresh veggies. The farmers and vendors will be waiting for you from 7am-1pm each and every Tuesday and Friday throughout the summer. Who knows...maybe we'll see you there!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dogwood Literacy Council Open House

Looming thunderclouds did not deter the Dogwood Literacy Council from hosting their open house this evening. When I arrived at the corner of East Central and Broadway, Randy Torres from Arvest Bank was outside serving up king-sized hot dogs. Upon entering the council's cozy interior, I saw some familiar faces- Paul & Lois Kimball, Molly Torres, and Robin Orcutt. I also met Lucy McLane, a volunteer tutor, who gave me some information about the Literacy Council and the role it performs in our community. Their mission is to provide free instruction in speaking, reading, and writing to adults who wish to learn English or improve their literacy skills. They have a need for volunteers who are willing to tutor two to three hours per week. Volunteers do not have to know Spanish, and the DLC provides training.

I spoke with Bob Bethke, a tutor who teaches four Spanish-speaking men two evenings a week at the center. Christine Agrew, an English Education major from John Brown University, is a tutor to six Spanish-speaking adult students two evenings per week. She said that is has been "one of the best experiences." Four of her students are sisters, and the other two are brothers, and their ages range from the mid-20's to 40's. There are also one-on-one tutoring opportunities available.

Before leaving, I spoke with the DLC's affable Executive Director, John Marter. Upon my mentioning his distinctive accent, he said that he was from "the South"- South Africa, that is. He and his wife have lived all over the world, and have been in Siloam Springs for the past three years. He told me that since July 2008, the DLC has served 143 students. 12% of those are ABE (Adult Basic Education) students and 88% are ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

Everyone at the Dogwood Literacy Council was very friendly and welcoming, and it seems like a wonderful place for a person looking to volunteer their time and really impact others in a positive way. For more information, you can reach them at 524-4009, or

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Local Flair Art Gallery

It was a gorgeous spring afternoon, but the beauty contained in the Local Flair Art Gallery was also a sight to behold. Opened in February of this year by Christina Drake, Local Flair is an elegant venue for Siloam Springs artists to show and sell their artwork. There were numerous artists represented, like the well-known Charles Peer and Todd Williams. Some of my favorite pieces were by Eileen Dineley Baatz and Joel Armstrong. It was an amazing experience to see such a wealth of talent represented by our town. Christina has been a long-time supporter of the arts in our community, as well as an advocate for the downtown's renaissance. I am thrilled to see her realize her dream of opening an art gallery, and it is a wonderful opportunity for artists and art lovers alike.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Cafe on Broadway

I was in the mood to catch up with some friends, and my favorite spot on Main Street to relax, chat, and enjoy marvelous food is the Cafe on Broadway. Let's just say that if you haven't experienced it yet, stop everything, right now, and get yourself down there. I'll wait.....

You're back! Wasn't it great?

It's just the kind of classic small town cafe that is often romanticized in movies. There are lots of "regulars", who sometimes say, "I'll have the usual," and the staff knows what that means. I am fighting the urge to go on and on about it, but I'll make sure to devote a separate post just to the cafe itself.

So anyway, there I was, strolling down University Street on a gorgeous Friday morning, on my way to the cafe. I get a little giddy about cafe visits, I must say. It's just that to me, the cafe is the heart of historic downtown Siloam Springs. It's always bustling, you're sure to see people you know, and of course, the food is amazing. (My personal favorites: the cran-walnut salad, the monte cristo panini, and the divine lemon-blueberry scones.)

The former mayor, "Moose" Van Pouke and his regular coffee group were just leaving when I arrived, so I availed myself of the quiet back room they had just vacated. I did indeed see several people I knew on the way through, and I stopped to chat. When my friends arrived, we compared our orders: a chocolate chocolate chip muffin, a slice of turtle pie, and my apricot oat square, and we decided that the winning item was the turtle pie. It was incredible, made right on the premises by expert baker Shelby. I was pretty happy with my apricot oat square (also made by Shelby) and cherry mocha, however. You really can't go wrong!

We whiled away a blissful morning enjoying our snacks, sharing stories, and keeping our toddlers entertained. Topics of conversation ranged from must-read books, to sibling rivalry, to house paint. One member of the group had brought a handmade item she is going to be selling at the cafe- reusable cloth coffee collars. They are amazing! She made them from a variety of different colorful fabrics, and they sell for $5. I heard later in the day that all twelve sold out, so I am hoping that she'll make more. It's a fun way to be stylish and eco-friendly at the same time.

After the visit, I strolled for a few blocks down Broadway. I saw Amanda Orcutt, owner of the new shop Amandromeda, which I am looking forward to visiting soon. Kelly from the Balloon Closet was also out and about. The Baby Habit, in its new location, looks great, and I can't wait to take a closer look.

All in all, it was a lovely morning. The kind that warms my heart and makes me so glad to be living in Siloam Springs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dogwood Literacy Council Open House

I had planned to attend the open house and sidewalk supper that had been advertised in the paper, but signs on the door stated that the event has been rescheduled for Thursday, April 9th. Hopefully, we'll have some warmer weather by then!