It’s fall festival time. But don’t think all festivals are created equal if you’re looking for art or fine crafts.

There are plenty of community festivals that include arts and crafts vendors. But it frequently means that a booth with quality, handcrafted goods sits next to one selling mass-produced Iron Maiden T-shirts and martial arts weapons. It happened to me in the first community festival I entered, selling my handmade jewelry.

That’s the difference between festivals that include some arts and crafts vendors and those that concentrate on attracting quality art and fine crafts, frequently juried for acceptance into the festival.

For those of you wanting the latter, here’s a rundown of the area festivals that are good bets:

• Joplin Arts Fest kicks off the art festival season on Friday, Sept. 20, and Saturday, Sept. 21, at Mercy Park, 26th Street and McClelland Boulevard.

The fifth annual festival juried in 42 artists from eight states. They’re coming from as far away as Indianapolis, Indiana; Casper, Wyoming; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Irving, Texas. In addition to the fine art, there will be performances by jazz, marimba, folk, indie and rock bands.

Friday’s festivities will run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday’s from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to artwork and hourly music performances, there will also be children’s art activities.

Both days there will be food trucks serving everything from snow cones and kettle corn to Cajun and oriental fusion. New this year will be coffee, tea and related sweets served up by a local coffee shop.

The festival will include a visit by the traveling Missouri Bicentennial Paint for a Cause, a project to paint a mural in observance of the state’s 2021 bicentennial. Those attending arts fest will have the chance to help with painting the mural.

When the 12-by-30-foot aluminum mural is eventually completed it will be constructed of 15 panels that have been painted during travels to 15 cities, including Joplin.

• Festivals in October will begin with the 51st annual Neosho Fall Festival, set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, primarily on the downtown square. A festival Fine Arts Gallery will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Neosho Civic Center, 109 W. Main St.

In addition to artwork at the Civic Center, the square will play host to Arts Alley, featuring regional artists, art demonstrations and live music, and History Alley, which will have regional crafters, homesteading exhibits and more live music.

This year’s festival will feature 150 exhibitors. In addition to the arts and fine crafts offerings there will be a farmer’s market, coaster car race, horse drawn wagon rides and, of course, food trucks.

• One of the area’s largest festivals, Apple Butter Makin’ Days in Mount Vernon, will feature 420 juried exhibitors, include a huge selection offering art and fine crafts. In addition to the exhibitors, there will be a parade, wiener dog races, a pet parade and a car show. This year, the KidZone will feature a White Tiger Discovery Exhibit.

The 53rd annual festival is set for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 12, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, on the courthouse square.

• Three festivals — Carthage’s Maple Leaf Festival, the War Eagle Fair and the Bella Visit Arts and Crafts Festival — are scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 18.

The Maple Leaf Festival, always an area favorite, has activities running throughout the month, but its largest concentration, including its arts and crafts show, will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, on the Carthage square. The traditional Maple Leaf parade — one of the largest parades in the area — will be held at 9 a.m. that day.

One of the notable features of this festival is its annual Plein Air Paint-Out, in which artists fan out across town, painting their interpretations of everything from Victorian homes and local landmarks to fall foliage and flowers. The paint-out runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, and Thursday, Oct. 17, followed by a show and sale of the art from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cherry’s Art Emporium, 311 S. Main St.

The War Eagle Fair, running since 1954, is set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, through Saturday, Oct. 19, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20. The fair is held on War Eagle Mill grounds on County Road 98, southeast of Rogers, Arkansas.

This festival, which attracts upwards of 150,000 people annually, will include more than 250 juried art and fine crafts exhibitors.

The 51st annual Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival will offer art and fine crafts by 200 juried artists from 30 states. It’s set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, through Saturday, Oct. 19, in Bella Vista, south of the intersection of highways 279 and 340.

Contact Marta Churchwell with column ideas and comments at

Marta is an arts columnist for The Joplin Globe.

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