Queen of the Prairies festival branches into performing arts

September 21, 2012

In its second year, the Queen of the Prairies Festival of the Arts is expanding from primarily a visual arts festival to one that embraces the performing arts as well. In addition to painters and sculptors displaying their wares and chalk artists beautifying downtown Sedalia, Saturday’s event will include local actors portraying historical figures, Texas performer R.J. Vandygriff, Spofest spoken-word readings and country music chart-climber Tyler Farr.

Admission is free to all. The complete schedule can be found at and

Historic Celebrity Bingo, all day, downtown

Local actors will dress up as historical figures and be stationed throughout the festival at appropriate locations — for example, Sedalia founder George R. Smith at the Pettis County Courthouse and Homer Bothwell at the Hotel Bothwell.

The bingo game is a blend of education and fun, said Madge Gressley, of the Liberty Center.

“They’ll be in costumes and have a script,” Gressley said. “People will have a card with different characters and questions on the back. They’ll go around and find the docent with their questions to be answered, then bring the card back to the hospitality tent. They’ll be directed to a businesses downtown, which will have a small gift. Hopefully, people will learn about history and get people in the doors of merchants downtown.”

“The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet!,” 11 a.m., corner of Fifth Street and Ohio Avenue

When looking for performing artists, Gressley and other organizers also sought to zero in on the theme embodied by the name of the festival.

“The theme is Queen of the Prairies — basically, it’s about our country and western heritage from the time of the railroads,” Gressley said.

R.J. Vandygriff, a Texan whose acting credits include “Walker, Texas Ranger,” will perform his acclaimed one-man musical comedy.

“Terri (Ballard, of the Liberty Center) was looking at different performers and he fit with the western theme. He’s going to put on an hour-and-a-half show,” Gressley said.

Check out clips of Vandygriff’s work at

Spofest, 1 to 3 p.m., Liberty Center lobby, 111 W. Fifth St.

At this Spofest event, the headliner is not a poet, but rather a writer — in this case, Sedalia children’s author Vicki Grove. Founder James Bryant said this isn’t a case of Spofest branching in a new direction; it’s a case of finally having the diversity it was always supposed to have.

“When we first started, I guess we focused on poets because that’s the only people we could get,” Bryant said. “And not until recently have we been able to pique the interest of non-poets. I guess Vicki’s main genre is writing, but that’s the beauty of this medium. Even though she’s a writer, she’s flexible enough to go to another form, which is the spoken word.”

Grove’s work focuses on universal teen struggles, set in a Midwest farming community.

“I picture my reader as being a young person with an open heart, trying to find the way to live as a decent and compassionate human being in a complicated yet beautiful world,” she said in a press release.

Saturday’s Spofest lineup, by random chance, will be mostly women.

“It’s predominantly going to be a female lineup with the exception of Steve Dotson,” Bryant said. “I’m going to have to make a gibe at Steve.”

Bryant said the Liberty Center makes a good partner for Spofest, and he hopes to do more shows at that venue in the future (although the next show will be Halloween-themed readings on Oct. 21 at the End Zone Bar & Grill).

“I’d like to have a permanent home for Spofest, and I think the lobby would be a great place because there’s a bar upstairs, and the environment is very conducive to a poetry-reading atmosphere, with couches and chairs,” Bryant said.

For more information, visit

Tyler Farr, 6:30 p.m., corner of Fifth Street and Ohio Avenue

The Garden City-born and raised country singer, now based in Nashville, Tenn., will cap off the day’s festivities. Rated a “New Artist to Watch” by Country Weekly and Roughstock, Farr is currently pushing the single “Hello Goodbye,” the follow-up to “Hot Mess,” which reached No. 49 on the Billboard Country chart. Both songs will be on his upcoming sophomore album, the follow-up to 2010’s “Camouflage.”

The son of Patricia’s Mexican & More restaurant owner Gary Farr, Tyler was busy recording a music video this week.

Opening for more than 200 shows for country rapper Colt Ford gave a boost to Farr’s career in recent years.

“My life has done a 180 in the past few years,” Farr said in a news release. “I went from having nothing to being able to make a solid living doing what I love to do — to be on the road and on a tour bus year-round. I became (Ford’s) road vocalist and opened shows for him. I learned what my crowd is, what they like and what gets them going.”

To watch his music videos, check out