Eureka Springs History
advertisement for Barefoot Ball
Advertisement from the June 24,
1948 edition of the Eureka Springs
Times Echo

The Barefoot Ball

Q:   What is the Barefoot Ball?
A:    It's a ball generally held in the Fall of the year. It has evolved over the years with only one thing remaining the same - you check your shoes at the door!

Q:   When did it start?
A:    In 1948. It was inspired by Ralph Edward's "Truth or Consequences" radio show. On June 6, newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Howard Forehans of Santa Ana, California were on the show. For their consequence they were awarded a two week stay at the Basin Park Hotel - and they were to be barefoot from the time they left California until they returned. They were picked up in Siloam Springs by Joe Parkhill and brought to the Bridal Suite on the second floor of the hotel.

Good sports, they could be seen trekking barefoot up and down the streets of Eureka Springs, and Joe Parkhill decided to have a ball in their honor. The first ball was on June 26,1948, with a radio hook-up to the radio show. The Forehans were also given the keys to the city.

Q:   Was the ball an annual event after that?
A:    The second Barefoot Ball was also held in June and 750 pairs of shoes were checked. It was a tradition after a few years and became closely associated with the Ozark Folk Festival. It was then held in the fall with a beard-growing contest a part of the festivities.

Q:   Was there one year that stands out?
A:   Yes, 1972. That particular year the ball was at the Auditorium and a fight broke out. Eventually the police threatened to use tear gas to stop the fighting and when the fight continued a tear gas canister was thrown. Someone grabbed the canister and threw it into the vent with the circulation fan in it and everyone bailed out the doors and windows! Naturally, the ball hasn't been the same since!

Q:   Is it still held?
A:    It was usually sponsored by the Jaycees and, in the years since 1972, there have been many attempts to revive it. It has been held at either the Auditorium or Basin Park Hotel except for a couple of years in the rnid-1970's when it was held at the Crescent Hotel.

Q:   What kind of music do they have at the Barefoot Ball?
A:   Originally it was "hillbilly" music and there was square dancing. There were many squares, each with its own caller. The newlyweds at the first Barefoot Ball had never square-danced and had to learn the "new" dance! In the late 1950's the "big band sound" was heard along with Dixieland music, and the Crescent Hotel had a country music band in the 1970's. Dixieland sounds could be heard at the balls in the mid-1980's at Basin Park Hotel, and in the 1980's at Basin Park Hotel, and in the early 1990's, the Auditorium Commission returned to the early theme of traditional Ozark Folk Music with fiddle, dulcimer, banjo, accordion and guitars -- all acoustic.

Kindly provided by Susan Schaefer. All Rights Reserved. Information presented here is used with the permission of the author.