Thursday, July 29, 2010

#32 Sunflower Festival - Clarksville, MO - July 25, 2010

#32 Sunflower Festival - Clarksville, MO - July 25, 2010

You really have to hate life in order to dislike sunflowers. How could anyone not smile a little just looking at them. I got lost in their beauty, and spiraled into song...Then I realized something was missing. I quickly noticed there really wasn't a festival going on. There were no people, no tents and worse of all, no delicious food. But that was going to change, because according to the Internet a nearby restaurant was offering special sunflower creations.

You'll notice that nothing on this plate even resembles a sunflower. This unnamed restaurant advertised sunflower treats on the web, and when I arrived the hostess promised said sunflower treats. It wasn't until I was seated that I was told the sunflower treats would not be available. A single tear dripped down my face. My sunny disposition would not be shaken, and I ordered this Catfish Banh Mi. I hope loyal reader Bucky will regale us of this Vietnamese inspired sandwich. Maybe my taste buds were soiled with sunflower disappointment, but it didn't taste nearly as good as it looked.

I went by the sunflowers again to regain my festive mood and ventured into town. This is my new buddy Ralph who is the artisan at a local wooden chair shop. Ralph is an interesting guy and a delight to speak with (and makes damn fine chairs as well). Apparently he was a bad biker from LA until he decided to join the police department in LA. The way he tells it, local Clarksville police harassed him while he stopped on a ride into town and he stayed simply because they said he wasn't welcome. My kind of guy. He was injured and immobile, so for some reason he took a class in chair making taught by a master craftsmen. 10 years later, he is loving life slowly carving chairs with a view of the Mississippi from his shop. And yes, he is also the town Santa in the Winter.

Clarksville, MO is a town of artisans, most of whom are happy to share their craft. It is hard to see, but this artist rolled, blew and spun glass into this celebration shot glass in about 10 minutes right in front of us. Apparently a celebration shot glass' opening is on the bottom, and thus can only be used when in someones hand. Hence, a celebration shot glass. This shot glass is of their "dude" theme, which has a man with his hands in the air on top of the glass. See below for a video.

The funny thing was that there really wasn't a huge sunflower display. In fact, the flowers I have pictured above were growing in a large garden by someones house. Everyone in town was even telling me that the best ones in town were in front of the post office. The flowers pictured to the left here are actually growing directly in front of my residence. Maybe I didn't have to drive all the way to Clarksville.

But I would have missed out on the journey. The sign on the left says you can touch the Mississippi, and I did. Loyal readers will know that I love the Mississippi River. It embodies Americana and always reminds me of one of my
favorite soulful optimism songs of all-time. Ralph tells me that in the Wintertime it is common to see 40-50 Bald Eagles patrolling these very banks.

Video of the Week: I've seen glass blowing demonstrations before, but I was really impressed with this guy at the Glass Works in Clarksville. The shop had 8 theater seats poised in front of this window for an excellent viewing point. It was hot outside, but I would think it was actually much hotter inside somewhere where glass was melting. The video also includes the owner explaining the process.

I have had some bad luck with festivals as of late, and Clarksville, MO is a great example. I actually arrived at this festival last week, only to be told the festival was this week. I arrived expecting sunflower inspirations spilling over the banks of the Mississippi. Instead of a food festival, this is more about showcasing the local artisans. Each shop has certain hours for demonstration, and you can walk to each. Yet there is no posted schedule, and nothing is set in stone. (I did a lot of research and couldn't even find out what date it was on). Although it wasn't what I was expecting, it was still fun and meeting people who are proud to show off their craft is always refreshing.

I know what your first thought must have been when you read that I went to Clarksville (at least if you are old enough to remember the Monkees). Here you go. I used to love their silly antics on their show. Now that I got that out of my system, I didn't actually learn a lot about sunflowers here. That doesn't stop FFF from learning though.

This site has more than anyone should know about sunflowers. Did you know that sunflowers may pre-date corn as a cultivated crop, and the plant's journey goes from North America to Europe and back while being manipulated by man at every step (of course). Maybe you are a visual learner. Then you can join Sunny Sunseed in an educational coloring book. Or maybe you just want to grow your own sunflowers. I know what you're thinking, but Riz how do I achieve World Peace in a hippyish way using sunflowers? Well here you go too. If you would like nature to actually fight back then here you go, sadly it made me laugh but may not be to a small child.

The journey was definitely better than the destination on this trip. Talking with the local artisans, along with the scenic drive, was actually a lot of fun. So I didn't get some crazy sunflower food item, what I did get was a relaxing day popping sunflower seeds along the Mighty Mississippi. Sure beats the Home Depot. I also found out that sunflowers move throughout the day, always facing the sun (I'm not sure why the name wasn't a dead give away). Something about that just sounds really optimistic, and I left this festival with a smile on my face.


  1. Nice blog. Thanks for the shout out. The pic of the sandwich indeed looks good. Too bad it didn't taste as good as it looked.

    What's up with not a lot of sunflowers?

    Nice shout out for the Monkees as well. I think I am missing my CD of them from years ago...

  2. Good post yet again. Sure sounds like the experience beat the Pike County festival from last week. I couldn't post a comment to that one, but if I could I was gonna say that the tombstone-looking sign about that fair probably means it's better days are far behind it.

    So you had to go twice now to see the Sunflower Fest and they still didn't have a real festival? Did anyone even have an explanation for why it was called that? The Clarksville website claims it's a time for artists to come paint sunflowers there. But I guess you didn't even see that much.

    Hope there's Walleye at the next one!

  3. Thanks Bucky and Imron! The sunflower festival seems to be designed to bring people in to town and visit the shops. It has potential if it would just advertise itself for what it is. Bucky - I have no idea where your cd may have gone. Imron- Good one about the "tombstone".