A word of caution: you might lose yourself in a good conversation while traveling through Alpena, Arkansas. It may not be the biggest or most recognizable town in the Ozarks, but on our travels through Northern Arkansas, we discovered that it may be the friendliest.
Last month, Ryan and I took the scenic route on our way to Eureka Springs. We ended up in Alpena during the Old Alpena Pass Crafts and Antiques Show. We pulled over immediately when we saw a long row of vendors selling soaps, jewelry, and homemade desserts. Across the street there were several stores that would turn out to have very friendly and talkative store owners. Everyone was very welcoming, and we could sense that this was a tight-knit community. The crafts show being hosted that weekend was part of a fundraiser to build a new community playground. Alpena is also part of Ozark Byways which is a regional revitalization project of the Rural Community Alliance. RCA is a non-profit organization that aims to help rural schools and communities "survive and thrive" in the Arkansas Ozarks. "The Winding Road" is the route that can be followed around northern Arkansas to get an off-the-beaten-path experience.
After looking through the vendor booths, we meandered across the street to an art gallery. Alpena Chainsaw Art is a shop full of chainsaw carvings, wall hangings, concrete statues, and handmade walking sticks. Ryan and I enjoyed seeing those statues of who we assumed was Momo, Missouri's own Bigfoot, posed in mid-stride near the road. Along with this local legend, there were several carvings of morel mushrooms, bears, and eagles. Kay Jackson is the chainsaw-wielding woodcarver who works outside next door to her shop. People strolling by can stop and watch her turn tree trunks and blocks of wood into detailed works of art. Alpena Chainsaw Art is one of several unique shops along Alpena's main drag. As we made our way down Main Street, we were greeted by store owners welcoming us to look around.
There are several events coming up this Fall in Alpena that would be worth checking out. September 23-24 is the Ozark Byways Buy-Days which is a region wide yard and sidewalk sale. Individuals and businesses that are part of the Ozark Byways are all welcome to participate. October 8 will be the Smokin' in the Pass BBQ Cookoff and November 24 is the Gallop for the Gravy 5K Run. Last year the proceeds went toward Rural Community Alliance and Children's Charity Ministry.
Learning about the local things going on in this small community solidified my belief that the Ozarks region is the perfect place to take a drive and get lost. Ryan and I find something new and interesting every time we do.