A Surprise Among Crafters

Byrnes Mill Festival, Rural Jefferson County, Missouri

On my way to the festival on a sunny morning, my eye caught activity off the right side of a curving road. Another Life Nugget had presented itself. I braked and came to a noisy stop on loose gravel. A man and woman, probably spouses, and a few youngsters were clearing brush from a neglected cemetery of very old gravestones.

These people are members of St. John’s Catholic Church located on old Highway 21 in Imperial. Shy and seeming to not want attention for their labors, they continued working as the man spoke with me. This plot of land, with graves dated in the 1800s, lies between two sections of St. John’s Cemetery and was once owned by the Bohemian Society. The Church has now incorporated this section into the Cemetery proper.

It was a delight to see these people of giving spirit, looking not for accolades, simply serving. And sharing this selfless task with children and being role models for them teaches hands-on connection to their community and its past. I will be revisiting this site again.

Citizens Serving

Uplifted, I took to the road again. When I arrived at the Byrnes Mill Park, I was struck by the atmosphere of this little celebration. It was quaint and quiet, homey and small. No flashy fanfare, sound speakers, or decorations; no formal walkways, just people meeting on a natural grassy slope.


But what struck my eye before investigating the fair was perhaps another Nugget. I saw a structure down the hill on the banks of the Big River that seemed to be cut in half – the top half gone. A nearby person said it might be the remnants of an old mill. An old mill? I recently covered a festival at the Licking Mill. I took pictures of this ruin and will add this info to my file for future research. Can anyone in my audience venture a guess as to what this structure was once used?

What was this?

Foundation is concrete - What are the three "posts" inside?











Booths at the fair sported a variety of handmade products. There were eight inch square “Fairy pillows”; rocks and minerals, some made into jewelry; dream catchers; bird feeders; wood lawn decorations and home preserves, cheeses and fresh cobblers.

But I came to see the Alpacas and there they were – Daisy (light tan), Princess (white), Isabella and her baby Blue Boy.

The Girls

Alpacas require special care. They are subject to Meningeal worm which paralyzes them and leads to a suffering decline. White tailed deer are carriers of a parasite, called a slug, in their stool. If alpacas eat the affected grass they become infected. Preventive is a monthly injection of Dectamax. The cost is minimal, about twenty-five cents per animal, yet many owners neglect this treatment. The feet of alpacas consist of two toes in front of a rear pad. The nails must be trimmed regularly.

In Peru and Bolivia, where their mortality rate is higher, you will see more products made from the animal pelts. Alpacas are valuable for their fleece (fiber) which provides more warmth at lighter weight than wool.

If you own alpacas, you don’t have to search out their waste to clean their living areas. They are considerate animals and deposit their “beans” into a community dung pile. Their waste is sold and is good for gardens as it contains no nitrogen. Thus, it is not necessary to compost the waste before application to the soil.

Alpacas are gentle animals and do not attack or rear up and kick people. It is healthy for them to breed and produce on a regular basis with only a two week rest period between impregnations. Gestation is one year.

Owners can enter their animals in competitions where they are judged on their structure and fleece characteristics such as density and crimp, the tighter the crimp, the more elastic the fiber. Award winning animals improves the price for studding or selling.

To me, though, they are objects of affection. They are soft to the touch and are fun to watch as they interact with other “pen pals”. And their tickle-y tongue makes me giggle when I hand feed them.

Cuddly Cuties

These alpacas are from Big River Alpacas in Fletcher, Missouri. Monies raised benefit the efforts to find new therapies for autism. The facility is open for education and holds annual Alpaca Farm Days usually the last weekend in September. There are hand spinner and knitter demonstrations, goat cart rides, opportunity to feed the animals, food and other festivities. Donations are appreciated and many products are available for purchase.

Soft and warm socks, Realistic hand puppets

Alpaca fiber











Another attraction was angora rabbits – oh, so gorgeous – long-eared, long-haired makes them look husky, yet they have small, delicate bones and are fragile animals. Their owner uses a spinning wheel and makes angora products. Mostly though, she just plain loves her animals and showers them with gentle affection.

Spinning wheel used to make angora thread

There were two music groups at today’s festival – Banjo Ben’s Family Bluegrass Band and Miss Crystal and the Codgers (string music). Check YouTube for future videos. The music provides a delightful and peaceful change of pace.

Banjo Ben's Family Bluegrass Band

And if you want to make this kind of music, Brekens Designs can supply custom made instruments and other products.

Hand Made Musical Instruments

The Byrnes Mill Police had a booth manned by friendly, approachable officers. On display were Beanie Babies, gun locks, and children’s coloring books, stuffed bears and more provided free to all.

On the park grounds is a preserved, two story cabin. Inside is a depiction of an era long gone. It is dark inside, candle lit and furnished in the style of the time – very educational and instructive. The cabin will have an Open House on November 5, 1-4pm, and will be decorated for Christmas in the 1800s with homemade gifts, refreshments and Santa.

The word festival is defined as an occasion which can include cultural performances and exhibitions. The Byrnes Mill Festival provided this, and was a low-keyed, pleasant, and peaceful event with opportunity to learn new things.

Please participate in your local events and generate business in your community. Not only are these events enjoyable, they are very educational and lead you into new avenues. Follow through and visit the home sites of the exhibitors. It won’t be long and I’ll be dropping in on the Big River Alpaca farm and meeting with the angora rabbit woman to discover even more.

Have fun learning!

NOTICE:  Follow my Events page for new additions to the schedule. If you are interested in booking any of the above mentioned exhibits that do not have a website, contact me for their information.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. abbyplambeck
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 21:39:12

    I adore very old cemeteries, and am glad to hear that one near you is being cared for so well! I agree, it’s a wonderful thing to include our children in respecting past generations.


    • annettecrey
      Oct 11, 2011 @ 21:39:12

      Yes, I agree. And I will post an article in the future about all the cemeteries, and their related stories, I have come across in all of my adventures. Thanks for reading!


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