In 1954, Mr. George Stevens, a crossbow enthusiast, historian, and founder of Stevens Crossbow Company, set about to create a special organization dedicated to showcasing the rich history and tradition that has developed over the centuries involving the crossbow. With this goal in mind, he started the American Crossbow Association, or A.C.A. After much study of the crossbow federations of the European countries, he decided that this organization should be unlike any group in operation in the United States at that time. It should, he decided, provide all the pagentry and ceremony of the tournaments of old in Europe, as well as highlight the fine skills of the Association members.
The site of Withrow Springs State Park was chosen for the first National Championship Tournament, with a portion of the park being set aside as a permanent crossbow range. Targets were built, paths were cleared, and the day of the tournament approached.
Mr. Stevens wanted something special, so he again turned to the history books and an idea took hold. Could he and the members of the community and the A.C.A. manage to bring to life a grand pageant like that of Medieval Europe? He had to try. So he arranged for jousting, music, costume, feasting, and processions. The combination was wildly successful. The community flocked to the event, with such notable sponsors as Tyson Foods lending their support. Thus the first annual A.C.A. National Championship Tournament became the first Medieval / Renaissance Festival in the United States.
The festival grew over the years, as did the pageant, until the social turmoil of the mid-1960's caused the organizers of the tournament to begin scaling back on the pageantry and concentrating more on making the tournament a more straight-forward event. For years, the tournament continued to be the premier crossbow shooting event in the country, but it was lacking just a little something.
In 1997, festival director and then A.C.A Vice President Dan Flood contacted the State Parks department. With the help of Bill Dillon, he began the preparations to return the tournament to it's traditional splendor. With the support of sponsors such as Coca-Cola and the assistance of the community of Huntsville and the Department of Parks and Tourism of Arkansas, the event was an unqualified success. The 1997 festival drew more than 12,000 visitors from all surrounding states and from all age groups, with the festival staff giving special attention to the thousands of schoolchildren who visited that first Friday.
The 1998 Withrow Festival was even more successful. A huge number of patrons descended on Withrow, some coming from as far away as Texas to enjoy the color, splendor and pageantry of our three-day event! New that year were the First Annual Ozark Highland Games; an expanded Crossbow Tournament, with both modern and medieval divisions; a "craft village" set in the woods, offering a wide selection of handmade, handcrafted items; and more rides, more activities and entertainments, including a new "climbing wall". Noble Cause, a nationally-recognized tournament and jousting organization based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also provided knightly jousting and horsemanship demonstrations, the "Human Chess Match" and the entire Royal Court of Their Majesties, Robert the Bruce and his queen, Elizabeth.
This year, Noble Cause will return to Withrow, bringing with them all the splendor and pageantry of the Royal Tournament. In addition, there will be demonstrations by the Society for Creative Anachronism involving armored combat as well as the more gentler arts. There will also be demonstrations of medieval activities such as metalsmithing, glasswork, pottery, baking, armour making, leatherwork, falconry, and more. Music of various cultures, from Highland Scot to Middle Eastern, dancing, singing, plays, wandering minstrels and more will be present. Medieval foods such as leg of turkey, roast pig, and handmade breads will be available, as well as other more modern fare. Games of skill, rides, and other interactive activities will all be there for your personal enjoyment. So join us this year as we celebrate our most successful festival ever... and plan to stay a while. There will be much to enjoy!
The 1997 Withrow Renaissance Festival - being a brief photo essay by Ryleh the Wanderer, with his "first day" impressions of this wond'rous Faire!
ROBERT THE BRUCE - was a Scottish "George Washington", fighting a protracted war of independence against English invaders during the early 14th Century. Here you'll find a short biography of this famous Scottish freedom fighter as well as links to other "Bruce" sites on the Web for further research.
Video Archive of Withrow Festivals, Past - with videoclips of past Festivals, beginning with the 1957 season. Now see the Ring tournament, the "Crossbowettes", the Opening Ceremonies and more in actual historical footage taken by on-the-scene cameramen at the time!