By Barry Zander
Music, a cavern, more music, mountains, down-home culture and lots more music. Today we’re in Mountain View, Arkansas, in the heart of the scenic Ozark Mountains. While so many places have lots of reasons to be on “My Favorite Place List,” Mountain View is special. It lays claim to being the “Folk Music Capital of the World.” I’ll say more about that in a minute. It’s nestled among the Ozark Mountains’ heavily forested, verdant hillsides. Maybe not better than Idaho or Colorado, but combined with the other qualities of the area, they form a beautiful backdrop for the enchanting village.
I love being among the locals. I can’t recall a person I’ve met who wasn’t warm and genuine, friendly and welcoming. They are part of the fabric that makes it a place where we feel at home.
Picture yourself sitting in a cane-bottom rocker alongside the courthouse square. You’re listening to a young lady kneeling on the grass, picking a folksong on her guitar. Along comes a man with a dulcimer to join her, and then an autoharp player, and a lanky gent with a post sticking out of a galvanized washtub, his vibrato string bass. Before long, there are 10 folks joining in to play “Ring of Fire.”
The scene is repeated on the porch of an ice cream shop, at an emporium, and toward the back of the Courthouse Square, another group pops up with a harmonica, banjo, accordion and more. That’s why the Ozark Folk Center is nearby, introducing visitors to instrument making and a culture that needs to be preserved. Here, folk music and bluegrass festivals go on practically year-round (except this year, of course). We can’t wait to get back.
Ever been to a pickin’ shed? In Mountain View, there are several pickin’ sheds, including at the local RV parks. Self-trained veteran musicians arrive throughout the day joining in randomly to play gospel and country songs, sometimes singing, mostly strumming. They are folks, some in their 30s and some in their 90s, living to play these old familiar tunes, keeping the genre alive.
Our first time there was just to see the caverns (Blanchard Springs Caverns is my favorite cave to tour), but a two-day stay lasted a week. When we were invited back to attend the Folk Music Festival the following year, we deemed it important enough to draw us cross-country from the West Coast. It was worth the drive.
You can get a good perspective on more that this little town offers on TripAdvisor. Give it a visit!