Being greeted by a gate attendant in a raccoon skin hat, fake rubber teeth and torn overalls followed immediately by seeing a man in full Civil War era garb is a great indication for what to expect when you enter the Maramec Springs Park grounds for the annual Old Iron Works Days. Held on the 14 and 15 of October, the event drew crowds from all around and gave each person a different taste of life in the past.

Maramec Springs Park is an 1800 acre area just south of St. James which features a stunning, crystal clear river that runs through it. The river is stocked with rainbow and black trout daily, so anyone with the proper permits and licenses can fish here, which many of the Old Iron Works Day’s attendants did. It was not uncommon to see someone with a funnel cake in one hand and their fishing rod in another while watching the different presentations being held at the event.

When driving through St. James to reach the beautiful park you can’t help but notice the bustle of the community as the main road becomes littered with garage-sale type tents and driveways packed with clothing, antique furniture and even fall produce like gourds. The townspeople of St. James were clearly making use of the traffic going to the Old Iron Works Days, but it felt like an extension of the park event in itself. Spend a little time and money on the outside, go inside the park and spend the rest of the time there. It felt like  perfectly executed coordination of the events played off of each other quite nicely.

Three main areas around Maramec Spring Park held the main event of the day; the demonstrators and vendors. Each tent, ranging from corn husk dolls to pottery and blacksmithing, all held a specific niche that could only be found in each of their tents. This means that no matter how much, or how little, of the event you could see there would be nothing repeated in the campground.

The St. James Lions Club and the St. James Sports Club were the main food distributors of the event, specializing in ham and beans meals and hamburgers respectively. Funnel cake, pork rinds and kettle corn also seemed to be packed into every hand that wandered the event, or packed into every stroller for easy toting.

 With the idea of new experiences in mind, the Old Iron Works Days was held primarily in three different areas to make for ease of access for event goers. The  first lot area held basket weaving, beekeeping, blacksmithing, cornhusk doll making, crosscut sawing event for families, kettle corn making, stained glass artistry, storytelling, and weaving. This area also held the main stage of entertainment featuring bluegrass band ‘Jimmie Allison and the Ozark Rounders’, performance team ‘Ozark Spirit Cloggers’ and ‘The Sterlings’, another bluegrass band. Music from the stage could be heard through the campground, and children and adults alike danced to their favorite tunes they requested of the performers.

The second neck of the event was even more packed than the first. This area, also home to the park’s museum, featured even more presenters. This included: antique tool showcasing, applehead doll making, a master herbalist, painted dolls, pottery, quilting, a rope making event for families, soap making, spinning and wool dyeing, wheat weaving and woodworking. This area also housed the ‘Back Porch Players’, a musical group specializing in Civil War era music.

To round the day out at last you come to the third and final leg of the journal. This area had demonstrations from a broom maker, a Civil War display to view, a crochet rag rug making, a demonstration of making rye coiled baskets, a tinsmith, twinning, walking stick carving, and a wood carver.  Here you could stock up once more on pork rinds before making your way across the wooden bridge that crossed over the beautiful, sparkling river.

The event was overall a huge success. The crowd was enthusiastic, with not just adult participation but even children wanting to know more about the ways of the past. Allowing hands-on events for the children, such as the sawing and rope making, was a surefire way to make families and kids feel like their day was a success. The event itself was beautifully orchestrated, and members of the community seemed to have a sense of pride for their gem that is Maramec Spring Park. By giving the event goers a view into the past it allows a sense of exploration and appreciation for what had to be done to survive only a few centuries ago. In the day and age we live in where meals come in boxes and some never have to touch a farm animal, offering an event like the Old Iron Works Days is an emotional and learning experience that brings you closer with your past.