Some festivals tug at your heartstrings. Cow Days did that for my friend Janna Seiz and I. We attended Cow Days on a hosted trip to Pulaski County in mid-September. We were expecting to arrive at a fair grounds or a park. Much too our surprise we found downtown Dixon blocked off. The festival was in full swing right in the heart of town. A friendly Dixon officer helped guide us to a parking spot.
At the festival we met with Cindy Major at the Chamber of Commerce Tent. With music playing, vendors chilling and kids running around, Cindy pointed out that Cow Days is more than just a fun summer event. It is a way to raise proceeds for a variety of non-profits, sports and more.
“The silent auction helps funds Cow Days,” Cindy added.
This year Cow Days had a fun theme, it was “Cowvengers”. The picture of a superhero type cowboy cow was comical and fun.
History of Cow Days
There is a bit of history behind this event. According to The Tradition of Cow Days,the event was a way to lessen the hardships of the Great Depression. “Area merchants, for a few months in 1929 and 1930, began a promotional program to attract customers to the city. The drawing card was the award of a live, healthy adult cow to some lucky winner.”
The event brought people to town. Merchants made special efforts offering merchandise at reduced prices. Held the first Saturday of each month, Dixon’s Cow Days was known as “the” community event for the south-central Missouri area. Dancing, cow-trading, in-town dining, window shopping, parades, attracted thousands. During the 1980’s, the event was reinstated. Today, at Cow Days, there is still a raffle drawing for a free cow! There are booths with vendors. There is a queen contest and much more!
The Story & Low Down on Dixon!
Van Beydler, a former Dixon resident showed us Cow Days through his eyes. We got the star treatment seeing just how important this event is to the local community and to Pulaski County. I wrote an article about what the town was like,” Van said. “Next year will be 150 years for our town.”
Van showed Janna and I buildings currently in town, and some that are no longer there. Van said Dixon used to be a Rail Road town and joked about an event when anyone who didn’t have a beard was arrested and thrown into the local jail.
He remembered the movie Nashville Rebel with Waylon Jennings playing in the local movie house and recalled Waylon coming to town to play. “He performed when my dad had the local IGA. When he got done, he signed my poster.”
Van said there was a huge crowd and he reached over and signed his poster, honoring a kid rather than the big group of fans. Later on, Van again had a chance to hear Waylon and meet him in person when working as a radio DJ for KJPW radio in Waynesville.
Van also told us a story about the his father’s store. He said his dad used the basement of a former bank building next door for storage of items like flour. “There was a giant safe in the bank. Van used to find silver dimes on the dirt floor.”
As we walked past buildings and vendors, Van brought the buildings and town to life. Growing up here with his family working and being a part of the town it was easy to see his love for the memories of what it was and what it is. ” Wainwright Sundries was here long ago became Clarks Drug Sundries where they had a soda fountain and flat iron griddle. They had a special called the Treat: Chocolate, then vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, ice cream, chocolate, ice cream, chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate, then crushed nuts. It was served in coca cola glasses.”
Van paused for a silent moment after describing it. If we could have tried it we would have made a beeline to Clark Drug Sundries right then and there! He shared stories about the 1920’s movie theater that burned in the 1980’s, the basketball team that won state and a young player named John Brown that went on to play for the Atlanta Hawks. Van pointed out a Quonset hut that probably came originally from Fort Leonard Wood that used to be the Theater of Tomorrow and now is a Weather Service. The building once belonged to his family. “Dad bought the building and remodeled it. The stage is still there. The curtains caught on fire once during a show. We lived upstairs for a while. It was the last place I lived before I moved out to work at the radio station.”
Van is a 4th generation Dixon native. “My great grandpa was Sam Riddle who owned the land where they named the Riddle Bridge after the family,” Van said.
There were several vendors at Cow Days but I got a chance to meet a few! It is always fascinating to hear how people got started in their business. Van serving as tour guide introduced us to several artisans.
Larry and Joanne Rollins of Rollins Rustic’s started out according to Joanne with Larry’s woodworking and barbed wire hobby. “He was always busy. He used barbed wire and made me stars. Then he made me a sign with our name on it. Our daughter posted it on Facebook. Then people wanted to know about them. We’ve been selling them for four years now.”
Vendor Chelsey Doyle is also a singer. “Now I sing mostly in church,” Chelsey said.
Van added that her dad is the best drummer around. Chelsey’s and her husband Dustin have a business called Dandelion Farms. “I started selling with grandma when I was little. After I had a baby, I started making bibs. Then I had a little girl and expanded. I started making bonnets before bows. We live by the Amish and I wanted something a little more trendy. Now I sew all the time.
Landon Hance was busy at a fish fry and Van introduced us to this fry maestro. “We are making catfish and homemade fries and homemade fries and hush puppies.”
Landon said that they are part of a non-profit group called DYRA, Dixon Youth Recreation Association which profits youth baseball and softball. “We raise money for the kids,” Landon said.
Janna and I were very tempted because it looked so good. If we were not already set to dine at the Homeplate Bar & Grill, we probably would have succumb to at least a hush puppy or two! You know you are in a small town when later when we dined at the Homeplate Grill, Landon’s wife Kim, waited on us!
At Cow Days, we also saw some awesome looking grilled brats and BBQ as well. “The hickory pit BBQ also sells at the Snackette here in town,” Van said.
I love that name, Snackette. That’s what I need late at night, a snackette! Another Dixon item that Van mentioned famous in Dixon is a Juicy Burger, “It is a loose meat hamburger like a Sloppy Joe.”
Anyone that went away hungry from the Cow Day festival it was their own fault.
We heard music when we first arrived at Cow Days. If we didn’t already have evening plans, we would have hunkered down to hear more later on. What I heard I liked, good old fashioned country music that was just my style.
Next year Cow Days should be huge with Dixon’s 150 year anniversary.
We had a great time at this year’s event, but don’t just take my word for it. Plan to attend this Pulaski County Missouri event on your own. You might even take home your very own cow!