NEOSHO, Mo. — An annual festival celebrating arts and crafts will be held this weekend in Neosho.

Set for Saturday at the downtown square, the Neosho Fall Festival features almost 150 vendors from crafters to food makers. The event will also include History Alley, a Soap Box Derby, live music and other performances, inflatables, chalk art and a car show.

One of the vendors features the return of a group that ended up causing controversy during last year’s event. The Ozark Mountain Proud Boys, a local chapter of the national organization, has registered for the event.

City Manager David Kennedy said police and public safety will be at normal levels for a festival, with special attention on public safety and maintaining a family-friendly event. Organized by the city, the festival is also supported by the Neosho Arts Council and the Newton County Historical Society.

Brought into the national spotlight by then-President Donald Trump during a presidential debate, the national Proud Boys group is a conservative organization that describes its members as “Western chauvanists” — the men-only group champions Western culture and American innovation.

While Proud Boys national founder Gavin McInnes denies affiliations with far-right groups that overtly espouse racist views, the group has been labeled as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

During last year’s fall festival, the city took a number of complaints about the group appearing. But because there were no applicable ordinances preventing the appearance, city officials did not intervene. The group’s presence drew protesters from Joplin for Justice, a Joplin-based organization that organizes protests and events about racial equality in law enforcement and government.

There were no instances of violence or other disturbances during last year’s event. During a city council meeting in June, police Chief Jason Baird said that members of the group kept to themselves, while attendees engaged with the protesters.

In the aftermath, event organizers sought to return an arts-and-crafts focus to the event in hopes of preventing such displays. But that direction was halted by the Neosho City Council in June, when it opened up the event to all vendors, including political and religious ones.

Other political groups in the festival include Newton County Republicans and the League of Women Voters.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the square. For more information, call 417-451-8050.

 

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Joe Hadsall is the digital editor for The Joplin Globe. He has been the editor of the former Nixa News-Enterprise and has worked for the Christian County Headliner News and 417 Magazine.