Montgomery County News, Arkansas -

“Forged in Fire” judges, competitors to participate in inaugural James Black’s Bowie Heritage Festival

WASHINGTON, Ark. – “Forged in Fire” judges and participants will be on hand at the Inaugural James Black’s Bowie Heritage Festival to be held at Old Washington State Park Saturday, April 23, from  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The city of Washington Arkansas in partnership with the University of Arkansas Hope Texarkana Foundation and Historic Washington State Park, will host the Inaugural James Black’s Bowie Heritage Festival in April.

The festival will celebrate James Black, the bladesmith who forged the first Bowie Knife for Jim Bowie in Washington and promote a variety of Arkansas heritage crafts and trades.

Special guests at the festival will include History Channel’s Forged in Fire judge and edged weapons combat specialist Doug Marcaida and Forged in Fire judge and Mastersmith James Neilson. Marcaida and Neilson will judge a Bowie Knife cutting competition, facilitate a workshop and conduct demonstrations.

Three former Forged in Fire champions will participate in the festival: Ricardo Vilar of Nashville, Shawn Ellis of Mountain View, and Allen Newberry of Lowell. Many other reputable bladesmiths will also be on hand, showcasing their knives and telling the stories behind each blade. Re-enactors will narrate the story of Jim Bowie’s travels and the importance of the Bowie Knife.

Folk artisans will contribute to the festival by displaying and selling heritage crafts. Exhibits and workshops, period music, a knife show, and a knife cutting competition organized by National Living Treasure and Mastersmith Jerry Fisk and former Forged in Fire champion Ricardo Vilar, both of Nashville, Arkansas, will also be features of the festival. Resident Mastersmith at the Historic Arkansas Museum, Lin Rhea, will exhibit and demonstrate his bladesmith skills at the festival.

In addition to showing their handmade crafts, knife makers and craft vendors will teach techniques and discuss the educational value of their trades. Several Arkansas “Living Treasures” will attend with their art and be recognized for their contributions to Arkansas traditional folk arts or crafts.

  1. R. Cook, an Arkansas “Living Treasure” from Nashville, will tell how bladesmithing became a part of his life.

Visitors can learn how to forge a blade at the James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades, where the legend of the Bowie Knife lives on.

Guests will also experience the unique atmosphere of a historically preserved community.

There will be a dedicated kids’ corner where children can learn about heritage crafts and take home a free wooden replica Bowie knife.

A variety of food vendors will also be part of the festival.

Other festival partners include the Washington Fire Auxiliary, Arkansas Department of Heritage and Washington Tourism.

(To participate, applications are available for heritage art crafters and bladesmiths from Mona Still at 870-648-5084 or Dolly Henley at 870-703-4826


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