In 1948, radio star Ralph Edwards, host of the popular show Truth or Consequences, awarded a two-week stay to a newlywed couple featured on this radio show.
Marge and Howard Forehan from Santa Ana, California were the newlyweds that won that two-week vacation at our beloved 1905 Basin Park Hotel, located right here in the heart of downtown Eureka Springs.
In the true spirit of that fun radio show there was a stipulation with their award. The Forehans were required to experience their honeymoon together in its entirety without wearing any shoes.
Based on the children’s parlor game, the players, usually from the general public, had to tell a truth otherwise host Ralph Edward would award them with a consequence.
When Marge and Howard refused to tell a truth they were given their consequence and they arrived barefoot to spend their Honeymoon for two-weeks in the Bridal Suite, Basin Park Hotel, Eureka Springs. It is rumored that at they showed some elation at first when Mr. Edwards awarded them this honeymoon package as they thought that it was not much of a consequence at all but that was short-lived until Ralph explained to the young couple that they had to be barefoot from the time they left California until they returned home.
Good sports, these two lovebirds took to the experience and turned those two weeks into a honeymoon they would never forget. Little did they know but the fine folks of Eureka Springs, would never forget this honeymoon couple either. Not only were seen by everyone trekking barefoot up and down the streets of our little city very much to the amusement of all the locals, the Forehans endeared themselves so much to the good people of Eureka Springs they were given the key to the city and as a result . . .
Welcome To The Barefoot Ball
To celebrate this civic event so that the Mayor could properly present the Forehans with the key to the city, the authorities of Eureka Springs got together and hosted The First Annual Barefoot Ball in the grand ballroom of The Basin Park Hotel that year in 1948. With the exception of 2020, the year that halted activity on earth, the Barefoot Ball has been an Ozark tradition and has since become part of our annual Ozark Folk Festival.
On Thursday, November 11, 2021, to kick off Folk Festival weekend, we had the pleasure of attending this 74 year-old tradition and it was a true highlight.
Headlining the event, Arkansauce, took to the stage and very easily captured the spirit of the Ozark hills strumming their strings. Riddled with improvisational guitar, banjo, and mandolin leads, these sounds are paired with powerful harmonies and heart-felt songwriting, all held together by the deep foot-stompin’ bass. For the first time in my life, I think I truly understood what it means to "groove."
This unique quartet from right here in Arkansas is beyond cool. They're cool AND groovy. Often described as a genre-hopping, four-piece string band that bends the rules and blurs the lines between bluegrass, newgrass, folk, and americana, with notes of country, blues, and funk Arkansas did not disappoint and the dancefoor was pack with many toe-tappin' bare feet. There were lots of happy feet in the barefoot ballroom.
An Arkansauce show is most always sold-out and this was no exception.
I'm not sure if it was their loyal fan following, many of whom came to see them, but this barefoot crowd danced the night away, and knew all the words to their unique hard-driving sounds. The historic The Barefoot Ball, 2021 played to a sold-out, shoe-free crowd. Thank you Arkansauce!
Over seven decades later The Barefoot Ball is still going strong in the same location, right here in hillbilly country, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The origin of the term “hill billy” describes exiled protestants of 17th century who populated the rural hilly countrysides of North America. At the time, Billy referred to King William of Orange, who was the protestant king of Britain.
Over the years, music evolved of course and the ball went from square dancing to ‘hillbilly” music. In the 1940's, '50's, and '60's, things swung toward big band sounds and Dixieland music until eventually the sounds returned to the favored original sounds of hillbilly country which tends to highlight acoustic fiddle, dulcimer, banjo, accordion and guitar.
At the second Barefoot Ball, it is said that there were 750 pairs of shoes sitting outside the ballroom entrance. There was also a period in the 1960's when the hippie movement was en vogue that the annual event also became associated with a men's beard-growing contest.
According to “A History Of Folk Music Festivals in the United States” by Ronald D. Cohen, the first “Folk Festival and Homelands Exhibit” was held in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1932.
The Original Ozark Folk Festival is America’s longest continuously running folk festival! We are proud that for 74 years straight, year after year, our small city has produced a world-class folk festival here in historic Eureka Springs, Arkansas. As they held their first festival before ours, only a handful of folk festivals are older.
The first folk festival in Eureka Springs was held on March 15, 1934, preceding the first National Folk Festival, held in St. Louis, Missouri, by 45 days.
Performers from the Eureka Springs festival were invited to perform at that first National Folk Festival.
So there you have it, to celebrate the couple’s accomplishment, Joe Parkhill, owner and manager of the hotel at the time, held the first Barefoot Ball on June 25, 1948. All the attendees checked their shoes at the door, and had a “sock hop” dance, where Marge was named “Queen of the Ball." Since then, the Barefoot Ball has become one of the many traditions that make the Original Ozarks Folk Festival such a unique event.❤️
Credits to Phil Clarkin Photography, The Eureka Springs Historical Museum, The Ozark Folk Festival, Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas.com