NEOSHO, Mo. – An annual festival celebrating arts and crafts will be held this weekend in Neosho.
Scheduled for Saturday in the downtown plaza, the Neosho Fall Festival features nearly 150 vendors, from artisans to food manufacturers. The event will also feature History Alley, a soapbox derby, live music and other performances, inflatables, chalk art and a car show.
One of the sellers features the return of a group that ended up causing controversy at last year’s event. The Ozark Mountain Proud Boys, a local chapter of the national organization, registered for the event.
City Manager David Kennedy said police and public safety will be at normal levels for a festival, with special attention to public safety and maintaining a family event. Organized by the city, the festival is also supported by the Neosho Arts Council and the Newton County Historical Society.
Put in the spotlight by then President Donald Trump during a presidential debate, the national group Proud Boys is a conservative organization that describes its members as “Western chauvanists” – the male-only group defends culture Western and American innovation.
While national founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, denies any affiliation with far-right groups that openly espouse racist views, the group has been labeled a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center .
During last year’s fall festival, the city received a number of complaints about the group’s appearance. But because there were no applicable ordinances preventing the apparition, city officials did not intervene. The group’s presence drew protesters from Joplin for Justice, a Joplin-based organization that organizes protests and events on racial equality in law enforcement and government.
There were no instances of violence or other unrest during the event last year. At a city council meeting in June, Police Chief Jason Baird said members of the group were left alone, while attendees spoke to protesters.
In the aftermath, event organizers sought to re-emphasize arts and crafts in the hope of preventing such exhibitions. But that direction was cut short by Neosho City Council in June, when it opened the event to all vendors, including political and religious.
Other political groups at 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. in the square. For more information, call 417-451-8050.