By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
NEOSHO, Mo. —
The organizers of a festival dedicated to historical entertainment have tried every year to introduce a new feature, from an archery contest to a mountain man camp.
Though talent shows are a current trend, Barnyard Days organizer Steve Roark has an angle that roots his competition in the past. Several musicians will perform using only a single microphone to broadcast their music.
“Silver Dollar City is where we saw this first, and we knew that it would be a good fit with people here,” Roark said. “Our tradition is to step back into the past, and this goes back to the days when we didn’t have complicated sound systems.”
The Single Mic Showdown is the centerpiece of this year’s festival, running from today until Sunday. Twelve acts will sing on Saturday; four finalists will compete on Sunday for up to $500.
The rules are simple: The musicians can sing or do whatever they want. But the only allowed amplification of their sound will come from a single, stationary microphone at the center of the stage. That means musicians will move toward and away from the microphone in order to feature different parts.
The acts include eight soloists and four groups. Those groups will have to move cleverly in order to ensure that their songs sound they way they intended, Roark said.
“It adds a significant amount of choreography,” Roark said. “This hearkens back to old radio programs where the performers move to the mic.”
The contest will begin at 9 a.m. and last throughout the day. Performers will get 30 minutes to sing a minimum of five songs, which means that sets will feature a variety of music, from country to folk, gospel to Americana, Roark said.
The long sets are so judges can get a better idea of the musicians’ talent and audience interaction.
“A number of acts have said they appreciated the long sets,” Roark said. “Some competitions give the acts one song, but we wanted to have a little better taste of their musical abilities.”
In addition to the judges, attendees can vote for their favorites. Each day of the competition will feature a people’s choice award, where people will donate cash in toward their favorite act.
The winner is the act that raises the most. That act will split the entire pot with the Breast Cancer Foundation for the Ozarks. A number of things featured at Barnyard Days will raise money for the foundation, from a hay bale maze to train rides. The event features more than 150 exhibitors, crafters, artists and entertainers.
Other attractions include a petting zoo, antique tractor show and haunted barn on the 1,100-acre Circle R Ranch.
Roark said the festival’s features are based on taking a step into the past. Most of them feature no electricity or complicated mechanics -- except for a paintball range.
“Our tradition is to feature down-home fun that a lot of people haven’t been exposed to,” Roark said. “We don’t allow inflatables or things like that. But we’ll dunk for apples, and have a skillet toss.”
Many of the proceeds will be donated to the foundation, of which Roark is a volunteer. The foundation has increased its services to the Joplin area, and it’s time to pay back with more events, such as the inaugural Pink Ribbon Gala, held in July, Roark said.
The group provides client services to patients with breast cancer, from preventive measures such as mammograms to assisting patients with basic needs. The group spent more than $112,000 on patients in 2011 -- $43,982 of that was for patients in Jasper County.
Want to go?
Barnyard Days will run until Sunday at the Circle R Ranch, located on Iris Road east of U.S. Highway 71.
The festival is open noon to 6 p.m. today, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The Single Mic Showdown will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday; finalists will perform at about noon Sunday.
Tickets: $6. Multi-day passes are available, parking is free. Admission to select features at the festival: $1.
Coupons and directions are available at the festival’s website, barnyarddays.com.